Faith

Sri Lanka Churches Remain Closed, Christian Persecution Cannot Be Denied in Easter Terror

Dead bodies of victims lie inside St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Chamila Karunarathne)

Last week on Easter Sunday, orchestrated terrorist bombings killed at least 359 people and wounded at least 500 more. The Sri Lankan Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath organized the attacks, and Christians report that churches are still closed as the first Sunday after Easter approaches. The terrorism targeted Christians’ “freedom to believe,” and it is still reverberating in the South Asian country.

“These attacks took place on the single most important day in the Christian calendar. Churches were at their fullest. We mourn the loss of our children, whose Sunday school services were targeted. The attacked hotels were not only visited by tourist but hosted Easter breakfasts and brunches for Easter Vigil attendees,” Yogarajah Godfrey, general secretary of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance Sri Lanka, said in a statement.

“We struggle to respond to the needs of the survivors. We feel shocked and numb as we pray for a return to normal life. Our churches remain closed because we are afraid of further attacks and violence,” Godfrey added. “This evil was not an attack against the western world but against Christianity and its believers. It was made against our freedom to believe.”

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith,” Tehmina Arora, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International, of which Godfrey is an ally, declared. “The plight of the Christian community in Sri Lanka is indescribable. We urge the local authorities to stand by them and grant them specific protection so they can continue to practice their faith freely and safely without fearing for their lives.”

“It is time that the international community recognizes the reality of Christian persecution worldwide,” Arora declared.

ADF International faulted many international leaders for a lackluster response to the terror attacks. Even Muslim reformers like Maajid Nawaz noted that former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Hillary Clinton refused to use the words “Christian” and “terrorism” in their condemnations of the Easter church bombings. The Washington Post focused on condemning “far-right” European leaders for suggesting that Christianity was under attack in the bombings.

“These attacks were aimed at Christians. Not expressing this is a betrayal of the victims and hinders their recovery,” Paul Coleman, ADF International’s executive director, said in a statement. “According to recent statistics, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and is specifically under threat in Asia. It is time that the international community recognizes this and provides solutions rather than remaining silent.”

“We cannot let Western silence on Christian persecution expose those who live in constant fear of violence simply because they choose to live out their faith. Christians in Sri Lanka and beyond need more than meek condolences,” Coleman concluded.

Indeed, this horrific terror attack should open the eyes of Clinton, Obama, and The Washington Post to the very real persecution Christians face across the globe. Yet it seems an animus against Christians leads many to deny the obvious, and that does real harm to the Christians in danger across the world.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.