In the first terrorist attack on so large a scale in Sri Lanka since the civil war against Tamil separatists ended in that country in 2009, over 200 people were killed in eight coordinated bomb attacks on churches and hotels in and around Colombo. The toll continued to rise at the time of writing. The violence targeted Christians on the morning of Easter Sunday, the most holy day on the Christian calendar, and took place at three churches, four hotels and a private home in Colombo and the towns of Negombo and Batticaloa. The Sri Lankan government has acted swiftly, with a curfew put into place in Colombo till at least Monday morning following a meeting of the country’s security council. Social media sites including Facebook and Instagram were blocked across the country to prevent fake news being spread further. Action has been swift on all fronts, with Sri Lanka’s security forces once more at war against violence. Operations are reported to have begun across the country, with several arrests already being reported.
The re-immersion of violence is terrible news for Sri Lanka, a country that has been able to maintain almost complete peace since the end of the civil war. It is now a major tourist destination and the targeting of top-end hotels with 35 foreigners reported to be among those who died, will undoubtedly damage the industry. But these are only a small portion of Sri Lanka’s woes. The strike has reignited fears of sectarian rift within a country made up of 70 percent Buddhists but with small populations of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. There is as yet no clarity on why the attacks were carried out or who may be behind them, although the country’s security forces had warned that all personnel should remain on alert around 10 days ago. For now, schools and colleges have been closed down till the middle of the week.
With people once again queuing up at hospitals to donate blood and condolences pouring in from around the world, the challenge for Sri Lanka will be how to best combat a potentially dangerous situation. The swift reaction from the prime minister and the security apparatus suggests it is determined to do so. Horror has been widespread across the country, with scenes of terrible carnage reported from the sites of the blast. These were sights Sri Lankans were once accustomed to seeing. Most had hoped they would never witness them again. The events of Easter Sunday mean this hope has not been met. We hope the prayers for peace and tranquility in a country that has seen so much violence in the past and seems determined to fight it once again will be answered.