Government response to the novel coronavirus pandemic forced Christians in Sri Lanka to celebrate Easter Sunday at home last weekend, as the holiday market one year since a series of jihadist suicide bombings killed and dismembered 253 people in six different locations in the southeast Asian nation.
According to The Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka is currently under a nationwide quarantine order until at least April 20, resulting in the nation’s second consecutive Easter observed in a time of tragedy.
At the time of this writing, Sri Lanka has confirmed 218 coronavirus cases with a reported seven deaths.
Under the quarantine order, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned Sri Lankans not to participate in congregational Easter services as well as memorials for the lives lost in the tragic bombing. In the event that the lockdown is lifted, Breitbart reports, a memorial will be planned.
“At this moment when the country is faced with a grave challenge to the health of the people, the government expects the Christian community to stay at home in accordance with the advice of the Government and health officials and pay obeisance to Jesus Christ,” President Rajapaksa said in a statement on Sunday, according to Breitbart. “I wish that you, your family, and the entire society would be able to absolve yourselves from sins by faithfully recalling the message of Jesus.”
Last Easter, six suicide bombers struck three churches and three hotels serving Eastern brunch meals at their most crowded times, reportedly in retaliation for the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings the previous month.
In the churches, eyewitnesses noted that the bombers made sure to detonate their explosives at the back of the sanctuary where parents with young children typically sit in order to make a quick exit if child becomes fussy and interrupts the service. The hotel bombers followed a similar strategy, detonating near restaurants serving traditional Easter brunches that attract large families and Christian tourists.
“The Easter festival reminds us that, even when the world is in turmoil, our Lord is with us. At the same time, we must not forget the catastrophe that occurred on Easter Sunday last year,” Father Dilusha Chamara of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, another of the three targeted churches, said, according to Breitbart. “The memory of our departed brothers and sisters lives within us and we will be invoking blessings in all of them at the Kochchikade shrine. I pray that all people will feel the true joy of Easter within their homes.”
Pastor Kumaran, of the Zion Church in Batticaloa, recently recalled to Open Doors the experience of watching members of his church fleeing the building, carrying parts of bodies, some of them on fire themselves, and finding out that his 12-year-old son had died in the blast.
“I saw dead bodies. People were carrying the bodies. I saw my co-workers, believers. They were screaming, crying. Blood was all over the place,” he said.
On this first anniversary of the heinous attacks, Kumaran, a former Hindu, said that the experience only emboldened him to share the gospel.
“What happened on April 21, 2019, is we gave our loved ones for this country. Through that, we expect to receive souls from elsewhere,” Kumaran said. “We have hope that God will give us Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists. Pray for our vision to reach 20,000 new souls in Sri Lanka. We want to reach villages for Christ.”
Saints, while many of us are likewise compelled to honor the Lord’s Day from within our own homes, let us not forget those in nations across the world who must also meet in secret to preserve their own lives.
Persecuted Christians are our brothers and sisters. May we continue to lift them up before the throne of God, and may we too be counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name! (Acts 5:41)
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