It was minutes after the Rev. Father delivered a speech about the importance of helping people during difficult times that the suicide bomber triggered the bomb at the St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo, killing scores and injuring many. Taking a cue from a recent incident in Trincomalee, where an injured youth was seen on CCTV desperately seeking help from bystanders who ignored him, Rev. Father at the Sebastian’s Church preached to the gathering that people have only other people, when in need.
The inhumane attack at the Katuwapitiya Sebastian’s Church has scattered the wooden pews inside the building and blasted window glass panels, hurling debris across the courtyard. Most of those who died were regulars at the Sunday 8 am Mass.
As with any religion, worshipping together brings so much peace. People in Negombo now feel that they would find themselves hesitating before they step across the threshold of the church. “My hands tremble as I take a deep breath to calm myself before I enter the church,” a witness of the attack, one of the regulars at the church’s (Sebastian’s) 8 am Sunday Mass
told the Daily Mirror.
- Apart from caring for the affected, there is a need to preserve social peace
- It is necessary for the Govt. to take all steps to identify the perpetrators and bring them to book
No words can describe the sorrow and pain that the people, who have lost their loved ones, in Negombo feel these days. A father was crying right outside the gate of the church looking for his 15-year-old son who is still missing since the bomb blast. He has visited all the mortuaries in the nearby hospitals to locate the whereabouts of his son. He is devastated because he failed to see the body of his beloved son. Like him, there are many others who have lost their relatives and friends.
People are shocked. It’s the worst nightmare of their lives. After hearing the devastating news, scores of people have visited the church from across the country extending support to the affected. “These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others. Our thoughts are with those victims who we now know have died, the people who have been injured and their loved ones. We continue to do all we can to support them,” a person from Moratuwa said.
Assistant Parish Priest of the church Rev.Fr. Shameera Rodrigo, speaking to the Daily Mirror said that there hasn’t been any kind of violence or threats to the people living in Negombo. Even during the civil war, Negombo wasn’t the target of such coordinated attacks. “At times like this, prayer is one way in which we can pour out our grief to God, but also we can also go to God to reinstate our hope that we live in a world for which Jesus died and rose again,” he said.
Political violence and terrorist attacks are not new to Sri Lanka though this is undoubtedly the most coordinated single attack to take place in the country to date.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, renowned Sociologist Prof. Siri Hettige, who has spoken much on communal issues in Sri Lanka, said that the nature of this attack should open the eyes of everybody as this sort of violence cannot be repeated without totally disrupting the normal functioning of Sri Lankan society.
He was of the view that the continuation of such violence can be disastrous for a country that is beset with too many not so easily resolvable issues such as unprecedented political instability and uncertainty, massive indebtedness and challenges emanating from climate change.
Although the country is experiencing the need during this hour to restore law and order and establish national security, people cannot consider this simply as a national security issue alone. “The leaders should not ignore the fact that this incident is connected to what has happened over a long period of time. Persisting or even deteriorating inter-community relations have been a prominent fact that only the most ignorant and the most opportunistic people could ignore,” he said.
He emphasised that leaders of all communities need to reach an agreement on the urgent need to work together to come up with a national policy framework to bring about national unity in a highly divided society.
Airing his perspective about the attacks and the current situation of the country, National Peace Council’s (NPC) Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera said that apart from caring for the victims and their families, there is a need to preserve social peace and inter-religious coexistence that prevails within the country.
He said that there could also be attempts by political actors to utilise the disaffection of the general population with the government for their own benefit.
“The challenge of governance, and to the security forces, is to act within the framework of the laws and human rights norms and also prevent acts of terrorism. It is necessary for the Government to take all steps to identify the perpetrators and bring them to book,” Perera said.
In the longer-run there would also remain the long unfulfilled task of identifying and implementing the necessary political reforms that make every individual and community have faith in the fact that the Sri Lankan State would be equitable and just to them. This is the message that the Government needs to take to the people.