Death Toll Rises Following Easter Sri Lanka Church Attacks

SRI LANKA – As Easter celebrations were taking place across Sri Lanka in particular within the cities of Colombo and Negombo – where the largest Christian communities exist – a series of bomb attacks on churches and exclusive hotels brought terror to revellers and tourists. Early reports focused on eight explosions but by the end of the day the final count was 10 in which over 290 people were killed and at least a further 500 injured. The government has blamed a little-known local jihadist group, National Thowheed Jamath, although no-one has yet admitted carrying out the attacks.

In the early hours of Easter Day (21st April 2019) at approximately 8.30am (3am GMT) while churches were in the midst of celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a spate of terrorist attacks across the country ripped through buildings in several locations and a familiar pattern soon emerged. Churches and high-end hotels were being targeted, in what seems to be an extremist agenda against foreigners and the Christian ‘others’ within Sri Lanka.

The majority of the planned attacks occurred at roughly the same time, targets included:

  • St. Sebastian’s Church Negombo
  • St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo,
  • Evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa
  • Cinnamon Grand, Colombo
  • Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo
  • The Kingsbury. Colombo

Later in the afternoon around 2.15 pm (8.45am GMT), a guest house near Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia was attacked and also a private house in Mahawila Gardens,in Dematagoda, while local police officers conducted a house raid.

Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community appeared to be the main target of the seemingly coordinated attacks. Christianity is a minority religion in Sri Lanka, accounting for less than 10% of the total population of 21.4 million. Sri Lanka is home to about 1.5 million Christians or about 7% of the population, according to the 2012 census. The vast majority are Roman Catholic.

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census. It is the religion of the country’s Sinhalese majority. It is given primary place in the country’s laws and is singled out in the constitution. Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively. It is estimated that 82% of Sri Lankan Christians are Catholic.

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