Terrorism & Islam
“When I see them, my agony increases”
The Easter Sunday bomb blast in Sri Lanka claimed the life of more than 200 people. Hundreds more were injured. The incident caused deep sorrow among several and led to suspicions and conflicts among communities in the country. The Catamaran met some of the victims of Negombo’s St. Sebastian church, where communities have dwelled peacefully for many years. We wanted to ascertain the general mood of the people and their thoughts in the aftermath of the tragedy. Here are some of the responses we received:
CATAMARAN: Tell us about the personal impact of the attacks?
Santhini: My mother is not with me today. Half of our neighbors are gone too. The government has committed a sin. Politicians had prior knowledge but they failed to protect us. What harm have we done to deserve this? Why are we in this situation? Why is compassion absent in our politicians?
Rosika: Both my Mom and Dad were killed. The suicide bomber detonated the bomb at my father’s feet. We found their bodies, hugging each other. We are yet to recover from this trauma of the loss. If the government had taken proper action my parents would have still be alive today. What sin have we committed to deserve this suffering?
Jude: My mother-in-law (70) and my sister’s 8-month-old baby died in the blast. My sister and both her young daughters were injured. I think we cannot recover from this grief. It has become a great distress, causing pain and anger. Who is responsible for this? We have lost our hope for the future. Any intention to earn money for the future and sharing it with other people is lost. No matter what the government’s financial aid is, money cannot compensate for victims’ lives. We are people who enjoy, share and live happily with others. Christ’s Resurrection Day is a day of great joy for us. Wherever you see, the pain of loss, it is unbearable.
CATAMARAN: Your neighbours are multicultural people; how do you view the relationship with the current state of mind?
Santhini: We used to see the horror of war on television years ago. But when we experienced this in person, there are no words to describe it. When we see someone carrying a bag on the street, we get frightened. We are unable to distinguish between a terrorist and an ordinary person. The murderers also came dressed like normal people; they had families, wives and children…. so now all innocent people can be looked at as extremists. Our government has created this situation. Terrorists must be punished immediately. We cannot punish all Muslim brothers for the blunder of politicians and extremists.
Rosika: We’ve grown without showing any difference. We will continue to be like that. No one will benefit by creating divisions between communities. Wrongdoers must be punished, not innocent people.
Jude: On neighbors are from other ethnicities. In the past we used to buy from the shops of our Muslim Brothers. Today, when I look at them my agony gets compounded. But we cannot hate innocent Muslim brothers and sisters for the acts of terrorists. We expect love from them, not hostility. But it is the government that has to take full responsibility for this. The political rivalry between the president and the prime minister claimed lives innocent people.
Religious leaders in the area had this to say:
Yattawatta Gnanarama Thero (Head of Negombo Angurugaramulla Bodhiraja Ramaya): I was in the Vihara when the attack took place. Everyone in our government should be held responsible for this incident. Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims all live in Negombo. All of them lived in harmony. But now all the people live in disgust and fear. Once again, the government should take steps to eliminate tension and the mistrust between the communities and restore peace among them. Politicians should not act aiming at election results. The government should ensure the safety of the people of all ethnicities. They must ensure that such terrific incidents do not take place in the future. The Muslims of this area live in fear. In the past, the Muslim people were very much friendly with us. When I go to the area where they live, they respect me with due honor. But on the day this incident occurred, they fear stricken when I was walking through the area. The government must take action to eradicate the fear and mistrust that now exists among the people. In the aftermath of the Digana incident in Kandy, I went to the people and assured the safety of the Muslim community that there should be no problem. But because of the conspiracies by some others these people have to live in fear. We will never act against Muslims. But Muslims fear that they will be attacked. To overcome this fear, the government must take careful and rightful approach. We do not need to live creating tension between communities.
Moulavi Sabri: We have been living in this area for many years, in solidarity with Buddhists, Christians, Tamils and others. Negombo is a beautiful and peaceful area inhabited by people of all ethnicities. We vehemently condemn this terrorist attack. Islam teaches us to protect other religions and other communities. This attack was carried out by a group claiming to be Muslims. I assure you that this has nothing to do with Islam. We are not encouraging extremism. Now, as Muslims, everyone is worried. No one should be allowed to engage in extremist activities in the name of religion. This country must go towards peace, development and prosperity. The government must take stern action against those who drag this country to its ruin. As Muslims, we are ready to do our utmost to help build harmony and peace between ethnicities and religions in the country.
Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjit: There is nothing of higher value in this world than human life. We cannot live alone in this world. There must be others to live with us. The life of one cannot be destroyed in the name of God. The attacks on our relatives are really disturbing. They are treachery and injustice committed to the entire human race. Every human being born in the world is equal. So no one can give death or distress to another. Even the youth who carried out this attack may not know why they did it. And no one should blame innocent Muslim civilians for this incident. Despite claims that the president has appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate the terrorist attack there is no clarity on that. We have no doubts that this inquiry committee will also fail, as did the previous president-appointed inquiry committees. If the government does not act responsibly in finding the facts we will have to get down to the road. If possible, they must combine all the parties to form a government to find solutions.