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Inside St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, where dozens died. Photo from St Sebastian's Church Facebook page.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) released a statement today (April 22, 2019) decrying the Sri Lanka bombings that occured on Easter Sunday yesterday.

In its statement, NCCS wrote that it “strongly condemn[s] these cruel and unconscionable acts of terror”, as it prays for the country that “peace, goodwill and solidarity will prevail in that land”.

The body added that it “deplore[s] all forms of violence committed against religious adherents, especially when they are engaged in their acts of worship,” pointing also to the recent Christchurch mosque attacks in March 2019.

It also highlighted the need for Singaporeans not to take the harmony among the various religious communities here for granted, and to always be on alert for people “use violence in their attempt to sow discord between the followers of the different faiths”.

Pastor Christina Ong, the pastor in charge of the 80-strong Sri Lankan fellowship at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Singapore, said that she was crying at the Easter service on Sunday as she led the Sri Lankan members to “kneel and ask God for mercy and healing upon Sri Lanka”. 

She said that the congregation is grieving as some of the members’ family, relatives and friends were affected by the bomb blasts, and some of them lost close ones.

The members are trying to contact their family but the ongoing social media shutdown has made communication difficult. “Please continue to pray for us,” she said.

One Sri Lankan living in Singapore said that he hopes the horrific event will not destabilise a country that has maintained peace over the past 10 years.

“Let this just be a one-off incident,” Sanjeewa Roshan, a facilities staff at Hope Church who has been living in Singapore for 17 years said. “I declare God’s hand on the country that this will not continue.” His family was not affected by the bombings as they live away from the affected towns.

Reverend Samuel Gift Stephen the chairman of the Alliance of Indian Ministries, a 109-churches strong network which represents the South Asian Christian Diaspora in Singapore, said that he was “filled with horror, shock and dismay” at what happened. 

“May the Lord’s comfort and healing be upon those who have suffered loss and injury and restore peace to this beautiful nation,” he added.

Devastating aftermath

Sunday’s attack killed at least 290 people and injured more than 500 people in a series of eight explosions across Sri Lanka.

Bombs were detonated at three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district during their Easter services. 

The first blast ripped through St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo at around 8.45am local time (11.15am Singapore time), followed quickly by a second explosion in St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a town about 40km north of the capital. Three other luxury hotels in Colombo – The Kingsbury, Shangri-La Hotel and the Cinnamon Grand Hotel – were rocked simultaneously.

Twenty minutes later, another explosion occurred at the Zion Church on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka in Batticaloa.

NCCS says that it “strongly condemn[s] these cruel and unconscionable acts of terror”.

Photographs of the churches showed bodies lying on the floor, blood-stained walls and the interior ripped apart by the bombs. 

Two more explosions were reported hours later, the seventh near a zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and one more during a police raid at the residential district of Dematagoda in Colombo. 

No attackers have been identified yet, but at least 24 suspects in connection with the attacks have been arrested, Sri Lankan police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said. The cause of the blasts is still under investigation. 

The Easter Sunday tragedy was Sri Lanka’s deadliest since the 26-year-long civil war between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers ended in 2009.

Reactions in Sri Lanka

On its Facebook page, St Sebastian’s Church made an appeal for help from the public together with photos showing the aftermath in the Catholic church. 

The pastor of Zion Church Reverend Roshan Mahasen posted a video on Facebook with a caption asking for the “Dear Lord [to] continue to comfort us all in this difficult time”. 

Citing Romans 12:12 in a statement, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) condemned the attacks, and said it was “deeply distressed and deplores the Easter Sunday (21 April) explosions”. 

The body called on the public and the Christian community in Sri Lanka “to remain calm and refrain from being misled by rumours during this time of crisis”.

“Finally, while offering our prayers and support to all those affected, the NCEASL calls on the national and global Church to pray for those grieving the loss of loved ones and those injured in these unfortunate series of attacks,” the alliance added.

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Salt&Light

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