An Open Doors team has made its way to Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, to be with victims of the bomb attack on the Zion church.
“I’m going there to meet with pastors and pray with them,” says local co-worker, Sunil*. Sunil and his team will listen to them, pray with them, and learn what their immediate needs are.
Although the government curfew made travel difficult, the team was able to reach Batticaloa.
“Police officers were present at every funeral as well as at the cemetery,” said Liyoni*, another co-worker. “Every shop and bank in the area had closed as the townspeople stood in solidarity with the mourning Christians. People were seen putting up black and white flags along the streets.”
'Rushing from one funeral to the next'
The Open Doors coworkers attended the funeral of a Sunday School teacher and her 13-year-old nephew.
“Many had gathered to pay their respects, at the funerals, one of which we were able to attend. The boy’s parents were both present but the teacher’s husband is still at the hospital recovering from his injuries. Many people were rushing from one funeral to the next.”
The funeral of two bomb victims in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday
After this they intend to head for Colombo, scene of some of the other attacks.
“Over the next few days we will be visiting the funerals of the people who lost their lives during the attacks on the Catholic churches,” said Liyoni.
He made a call and the bomb went off
When the team arrived in Batticaloa early Monday morning, they quickly discovered more details about the attack.
Liyoni, reported that the suicide bomber had not originally intended to bomb the Zion Church.
“The best-known church in the area is a Catholic church that is located right on the main road,” she says. “He’d gone to this church but their mass had been held the night before."
He asked what other churches were holding services and someone told him about the nearby Zion Church.
“Once he was at the Zion Church, he had acted as though he was waiting for someone," said Liyoni. "When asked, he had stated that he was waiting for his sick mother and had inquired what time the healing service would start.”
Several people - including the pastor’s wife - spoke to him that morning. One man recalls that he was sweating profusely. Several people even urged him to go inside the church and take a seat and to take his backpack off.
“Since Batticaloa was an area that was severely affected by the civil war, people are still very vigilant,” says Liyoni. “Thinking his behaviour suspicious, a young man had been sent to speak to him. The man was reluctant to go inside and had said he needs to make a phone call first.”
He made a call on his phone. And, according to an eyewitness, that was the moment the bomb went off.
'WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?'
“At the time of the explosion the service had only just begun,” Liyoni says. “Most of the casualties were children as they had been coming down after Sunday School (which had just ended) to have their breakfast. Since the man was near the parking area when the bomb detonated, most of the damage had been caused by the motorcycles that blew up as a result of the bomb.”
The incident has shaken Sri Lanka.
“I never thought such a tragedy would befall us,” says Sunil. “People are shocked. The question on everyone’s lips is, ‘Why did this happen?’ People were confused. They didn’t understand why churches were being targeted. At first they thought it was a direct attack by a Buddhist extremist group since most persecution in Sri Lanka comes from them. But then there were also attacks on hotels. We were all very confused.”
“Please pray for physical, psychological and spiritual healing,” says Liyoni. “Pray for God’s strength and comfort upon those affected.
“Thank you very much for your love and prayer support.”
You can give to Open Doors work in Sri Lanka: £51 could enable local teams in Sri Lanka to provide rapid relief for believers who have been impacted by persecution.
* Names changed for security reasons
Prayer Guide: PRAY WITH THE CHURCH IN SRI LANKA
We have created a free, downloadable guide to help individuals, churches and groups pray for Christians in Sri Lanka at this time. It contains information, prayer points, meditations and reflections to help you pray.
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