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Sri Lankan attacks 'appalling': Dr Freier

Church leaders around the world condemn Easter bombings in Sri Lanka

Archbishop Philip Freier and the Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Ceylon, Dhiloraj Canagasabey

By Stephen Cauchi

April 30 2019 

Anglicans around the world continue to grieve  over the Easter bombings at Sri Lankan churches and hotels on 21 April, with Archbishop Philip Freier labelling the attacks in his May TMA column as “appalling”, “tragic” and “reprehensible”.

In the column, Dr Freier mentioned his familiarity with Sri Lanka after several visits in recent years to assist the Anglican Church with governance issues.

“The Christian Churches have been exemplars of reconciliation in the 10 years since the long civil war concluded,” he said. “This makes the actions of the suicide bombers and those who planned the attacks so reprehensible.

“How tragic that apparently there were intelligence reports warning about the likelihood of these very events and that they were somehow not acted on.

“These will be important matters for the political leadership of Sri Lanka to be accountable for over the weeks and months ahead.”

More than 250 people were killed and at least 500 injured in a series of coordinated suicide bombings at three churches, four hotels and a housing complex. Islamic terrorists are suspected.

More than 100 were killed at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and more than 50 at the Shrine of St Anthony in Colombo – both Catholic churches. A bomb blast at the third church, the Protestant evangelical Zion Church on the other side of the island at Batticaloa, killed 28.

A number of Anglican churches throughout the Melbourne diocese hosted prayer services following the bombings, including St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Ceylon, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, was conducting an Easter service at Colombo’s Anglican cathedral when the attack happened. Police interrupted the service and warned him to leave.

In a statement, Bishop Dhiloraj said he was “terribly shocked and deeply saddened by the barbarous acts of violence brought on innocent worshippers at Easter Sunday services”. “The Church of Ceylon unreservedly condemns these cowardly and cruel acts of terrorism and conveys our deep condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives and have been hurt.

“We wish all those who have been injured full recovery. We pray for them and their families, that God’s comforting presence will continue to be with them through this tragic experience.”

Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury referred to the attacks as “appalling and despicable”. “On this holy day, let us stand with the people of Sri Lanka in prayer, condolence and solidarity as we reject all violence, all hatred and all division.”

He referred to the atrocity in his Easter Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, noting that “left to ourselves, we define ourselves against others. We unite ourselves by finding an enemy”.

“Such are the age-old ways of gaining and guarding power. They treat proper difference and diversity ... as threats.”

In Jesus’ day, this led to the rulers terrifying Pilate “into the unjust execution of Jesus, and then to attack the new Christian church in Jerusalem”. More recently, it “paved the road for Hitler to attack the Jews of Europe”.

“Jesus chose to defy this darkness and he is risen indeed, so that death and evil know that their end is marked, promised and assured. Yet still evil rises in these times between the resurrection and the judgement, exercising the will to power, the seeking of an enemy.

“Such was the prophecy of Jesus when he said to his disciples that as he suffered they would suffer, but that he has overcome.”

Archbishop Welby expressed condolences to Bishop Dhiloraj and to Colombo’s Roman Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.