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Bishop’s defiance as terrorists kill more than 200 in Easter Day church bombings

Posted on: April 21, 2019 2:07 PM
Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka today (21 April)
Photo Credit: Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters

The Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Ceylon, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has defiantly expressed his faith in God as terrorists attacked Churches in Sri Lanka. On Sunday afternoon, London time, the death-toll stood at 207, with hundreds more injured. “If God gives me permission to live, I shall live. If he gives me permission to die, I shall die,” he told the Archbishop of Canterbury in a telephone call this morning.

Bishop Dhiloraj was just beginning the Prayer of Consecration during an Easter Eucharist service at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour at Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo, when the police arrived and warned him to leave. “You must come with us, they are about to come and kill you.” But the bishop refused to move until he had finished the Prayer of Consecration.

A total of eight explosions have occurred in Sri Lanka today. Three of them targeted Roman Catholic churches: St Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa. Three more targeted hotels in Colombo: the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La Hotel, and the Kingsbury. Another bomb exploded near Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. An eight explosion occurred when a suspected detonated a bomb as police raided a house in Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda.

Officials say that seven people have been arrested. The Country has been placed on curfew.

“I am terribly shocked and deeply saddened by the barbarous acts of violence brought on innocent worshippers at Easter Sunday services”, Bishop Dhiloraj said in a statement. “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.

“We call on the government to institute quick action to investigate thoroughly these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice. To ensure the safety of places of religious worship and to prevent any individuals or group taking the law into their hands or provoking acts of intimidation or violence against any community or group.

“I call on all Sri Lankans to be mindful at this time and to act with patience and understanding. The motives of those twisted and warped minds that planned and executed such appalling acts could very well be to destabilise the country and to cause damage to the unity and harmony of our nation.

“I pray that these persons, whoever they may be, will be awakened to the awfulness of their crime and will be moved to repentance.”

And he concluded with a prayer of hope: “may the Peace of the Risen Christ, who on the cross prayed for forgiveness, be with you all.”

In a statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “Those affected by the appalling and despicable attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka will be in the prayers of millions marking Easter Sunday around the world. 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 Sunday sermon at Canterbury Cathedral this morning. “Left to ourselves, we define ourselves against others. We unite ourselves by finding an enemy. We reassure ourselves with a pride that demeans others,” he said. “Such are the age-old ways of gaining and guarding power. They treat proper difference and diversity, such as we are seeing with our hard pressed and unjustly vilified political leaders, as threats. They use words like treason or naivety.”

He said that this fear led to the rulers of the time terrifying Pilate “into the unjust execution of Jesus, and then to attack the new Christian church in Jerusalem”; and that hate “paved the road for Hitler to attack the Jews of Europe.”

He continued: “Every event, such as the fire at Notre Dame, is used by someone to stir hatred with lies, last week, by certain conspiracy groups, lies against Muslims, who have suffered so much in New Zealand.

“Pride denies our need of God and says we are sufficient to ourselves, that the will to power is indeed our vocation.

“The will to power leads to the murder of innocents in Sri Lanka, the utterly despicable destruction that, on this holiest of days, seeks to challenge the reality of the risen Christ, to say that darkness will conquer, that our choice is surrender or death.”

“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 Justin has expressed condolences to Bishop Dhiloraj and to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.