May 27, 2019
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Sri Lanka holds Memorial Mass for victims of Easter Sunday bombings

By Chathuri Dissanayake

Colombo, May 12 (efe-epa).- Catholics in Sri Lanka's capital celebrated Sunday mass for the first time since the Easter Sunday bombings which brought the country to a standstill and claimed more than 250 lives and injured at least 400 people.

The religious services were held under heavy security with armed guards standing outside churches for protection.

Ten-year-old Ipsiba Nisam walked into Dolarosa Church for the Sunday mass hoping to sing with the choir, like she always did at St. Anthony’s before a blast destroyed her church.

The young chorister was in the crowded church when an Islamic militant blew himself leaving Ipsiba temporarily deaf in one ear.

“Now I am better,” she says with a smile, adding that she plans to sing with today’s choir.

She enjoys singing, Isibha says with a shy smile.

Coming from an interfaith family, Isibha usually goes to church with her mother and sister. Today she came with her little brother, as her mother and sister were still not well enough to attend the service.

Despite the harrowing experience, she went through, she was glad to be back in church.

Churches in many parts of the country held mass for the first time today after security concerns compelled Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to announce the cancellation of services for two weeks following the deadly Easter Sunday.

Sunday services unfolded amid tight security with armed forces being deployed to ensure safety for churchgoers.

Armed guards and police officers stood outside every church while separate security teams made up of parish members and police checked the identities of those who entered.

In many churches, bags were not allowed inside.

Yet some didn’t feel safe enough to come to church, a place they once considered safe.

“It was our safe place, during the times of insurrections in the past, during the time of war, we always ran to the church for protection, the terrorists then didn’t attack churches, but this time they attacked the very place we run for safety,” says a tearful Chani Salgado who is still in shock after her family experienced the horror of the Easter Sunday bombs.

Despite her fears, Salgado came to Dolarosa Church, her parish church for the Sunday service.

But her 13-year-old son doesn’t want to come to church yet, she says.

Refusing to come to church, her worried son has given her strict instructions on what to do “if something happens.”

“I am constantly telling him what to do if something happens in school, I keep telling him don’t look for anyone, come out of the school, today before I left church he told me the same thing. He told me, ‘Ammi (Mom) if something happens don’t look for others, they will find their way, you come out, ok’. It broke my heart,” Salgado said as teardrops stream down her face.

Father Anthony Fernando Marcelliar held a service to a full church.

His parishioners were "down" that mass was not held for two weeks due to security concerns.

Although the government has assured the safety of its people and promised to take action against those who have neglected their duties in taking the necessary steps that could have prevented the attack, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith on Saturday said he was far from satisfied.

“Those who are responsible for neglecting their responsibility should be sent home,” he said, reiterating that the attacks could have been avoided if timely action had been taken.

Cardinal Ranjith, addressing the Memorial Service held in St. Lucia’s Cathedral for the victims of St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, said that both the officials and politicians who were responsible for the attack should be punished.

“They cannot wash their hands of the incidents. It is our responsibility to ensure they too are punished. Those who cannot fulfill their responsibilities are not suitable for the leadership of our country,” he said.

At the memorial, B. J. Gomez held the picture of his only son Burlington Gomez and his family killed by the blast.

“I can’t bear it,” says Gomez who buried his second nephew last Thursday. They are still unable to find the body of his eldest nephew.

Unable to understand what has come over his family, a tearful Gomez holds the tattered funeral notice of his son’s family in his wrist wondering why such a fate befell the innocent.

“They were so religious and were at the church early in the morning. So how could this happen?” he asks unable to come to terms with the situation. EFE-EPA


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