Jesuits in Sri Lanka condemn terror attacks and call for non-violence

May 2, 2019 — In a statement released on April 23, Rev. Fr. Dexter Gray, SJ, Sri Lanka’s Jesuit provincial, expressed his sorrow and denounced the « cowardly » Easter bombings, which killed over 350 people and injured many others.  

According to Fr. Gray, there is "no point in attacking the Christians who are themselves a minority and subject to anti-christian actions, especially at the local level where new Christian churches are subjected to frequent harassment."

In the video, he also called Christians to "find the will and the way to end such violence." "For our Christian brethen our appeal is this: Jesus did not accuse or curse those who were inflicting cruel pain on him. From the cross, he only prayed that they may be forgiven for what they were doing. He knew that although the soldiers who where doing violence did represent a particular group or community," he added.

Watch the video below and a transcript after.

Statement by Rev. Fr. Dexter Gray, SJ

It is with sadness and helplessness caused by the tragedy on Easter Sunday that bought mourning and weeping to those who went to the churches for Easter services and to other places to enjoy the company of one another in Sri Lanka.

I share this message in disappointment and pain. I wish to express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community destroyed by an explosion when gathered in prayer, and to all the victims succumbed to that insane violence.

We condemn all acts of terrorism. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people where in churches and at hotels is dehumanizing. These cowardly attacks, which must be condemned unconditionally, have shown how vulnerable this country still is to terror attacks. The question to ask in this case why did suicide bombers want to give up their lives to attack Christians, in a country in which the Christians are themselves a small minority of about 6% of the population.

Even if the Islamic militants feel that Sri Lanka has done badly by the muslims, there would be no point in attacking the Christians who are themselves a minority and subject to anti-christian actions, especially at the local level where new Christian churches are subjected to frequent harassment.

Christian-Muslim relations are generally good as they join hands in common causes that affect them as minorities. The generally localized level of inter-religious conflict is too low to translate into the type of effort to launch the ferocious assault that took place on Easter Sunday.

At St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, situated in a heavily populated Catholic neighbourhood north of Colombo known as "the little Rome", which is just a few kilometres away from the Provincial house of the Jesuits where more than 160 people were killed, hundreds are severely injured, some are in the death bed and it is a matter of time for them to go to the Lord.

Soon as the bomb exploded, I visited. It was deeply saddening to see the church with bodies on the ground, blood on the pews, and a destroyed roof of the church. The victims include close relatives of the Jesuits. This parish had given many vocations to the Society in the recent past. We reject all forms of extremism and stand for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely. Collectively we must find the will and the way to end such violence.

For our Christian brethen our appeal is this: Jesus did not accuse or curse those who were inflicting cruel pain on him. From the cross, he only prayed that they may be forgiven for what they were doing. He knew that although the soldiers who where doing violence did represent a particular group or community. They were not representing an all-agreed agenda of a vast people who were members of that community. Jesus cursed neither that small group nor the community they hailed from.

As Easter people, this is an important proposition that must guide our responses in the outcome of the suffering inflicted upon the body of Christ. Let us be imitators of Christ in this testing and tempting times.

This is a difficult time. It is difficult to contain our emotions as the loss we are suffering is so huge and we don’t know where to rest our heads for consolation and to find an answer to why things happened they way they did. Where was God? Where was the risen Christ on that Easter Sunday? Where was the miracle worker St. Anthony when Kochchikade was bombed? Where was the soldier turned hero of the faith of St. Sebastian when Katuwapitiya was bombed?

These are questions that have no convincing answers. But we shall all pray that peace may return to our land. « Peace be with you! » , was Jesus’ message after his Resurrection. Unfortunately, as they were hearing this same words dreadful violence was visited upon some Christians. But we should not lose hope that he can grant us peace even in the midst of this faith and national crisis, because he said the peace he gives is not the kind of peace the world gives!





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