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19 October 2020

Sri Lanka bombing victims still wait for justice 18 months after attack

On Wednesday 21 October, it will be 18 months to the day since coordinated bomb attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka claimed more than 250 lives. The investigations to bring those responsible to justice are still ongoing. Please pray for our Christian family who are still healing from this traumatic event.  

When churches were targeted in the devastating suicide-bomber attacks in Sri Lanka last year, Open Doors partners were among the first on the scene, to be present and comfort our grieving church family. Since then, your prayers and support have helped to provide practical aid, trauma care and financial aid to help cover medical expenses for those injured and affected in the blasts.

Pastor Kumaran and his family

Thank you for standing with families like Pastor Kumaran's - his son, Malkiya, was killed in the attacks

What happened on Easter Sunday 2019? 

The attacks were carried out by a local Islamic extremist group – the leader of which was one of the suicide bombers. Over the past year and a half, many government officials, police officers and politicians have been called before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to testify about the events surrounding 21 April 2019. Below are some of the key findings from the investigation so far: 

Security officials failed to heed warnings about the attacks 

After the attacks, information emerged that security officials had been warned of a possible attack by foreign intelligence agencies. A letter circulated through social media showing that they had received specific information – including several names of the suspected attackers and their targets. Yet, even with this information, the security officials in charge had failed to take decisive action to warn the public.  

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Lucien Priyalal (now retired) testified before the PCoI, bringing to light critical information on the attacks. According to him, on 10 April 2019 he had received a letter from the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara, which mentioned that a possible terror attack may be carried out. The letter even named certain churches which could be targets. 

Despite this foreknowledge, steps were not taken to secure these churches, and the public was not warned. After the attack took place, some ministers were even reported to have instructed their security officials not to reveal that they had prior information about the attacks. 

Violent attacks like this in Sri Lanka are unusual – but it is increasing. These attacks, combined with increasing pressure on Christians from Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, mean that Sri Lanka has risen 16 places on the World Watch List in one year alone: from number 46 in 2019 to number 30 in 2020. 

What’s it like to be a Christian in Sri Lanka? 

The President and Prime Minister have denied knowledge of these warnings 

Both the then President Maithripala Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe denied having any knowledge of the attacks before they took place. 

However, DIG Nilantha Jayawardana revealed during his statement given to the PCoI that the State Intelligence Services (SIS) had tried to contact the former President’s official residence six times before the attack. 

Arrests have taken place, but the investigation is ongoing 

In April 2020, the brother of Parliament Minister Rishad Bathuideen was arrested under suspicion of having supported the bombers and for meeting one of them at a hotel in Colombo prior to the attacks.  

A few months later, the minister’s brother was released, with the police saying that there was no evidence to prove his involvement in the incident. This triggered debate in parliament and a silent protest by some of the families that were affected by the attacks. Several other suspects who had been arrested were also released. 

In June 2020, the police announced that they were very close to concluding the investigations on the Easter Attacks. By then, about 200 suspects were in police custody. 

As of now, the public is yet to be informed of any definite persons responsible and the investigations have not yet reached their conclusion. Families that lost loved ones and suffered injuries are demanding that justice be served for the dead. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, expressed his concerns during a recent press conference saying, “Those who are affected physically and mentally wait for justice to be meted out, but it is unfortunate that the investigation is not going the way it should.”

Our God is a God of love – and He is also a God of justice, who hears the cries of suffering and injustice. Thanks to your prayers and support, God is bringing comfort and healing to His people in Sri Lanka – but waiting for answers as to why this happened is still very difficult for them.  

Please pray that justice would be done for the victims and their families, and that God would continue to comfort and heal them.  

Please pray
  • For the families that were affected, that God would continue to give them peace and comfort as they rebuild their lives
  • That the PCoI and other officials in charge will be given wisdom and guidance to aid in their investigation
  • That those responsible will be identified soon and justice be served.
Sri Lanka

Find out more about what life is like for Christians in Sri Lanka on our World Watch List page.

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