Christians end Holy Week shaken after coordinated attacks at three churches and three hotels across the island nation.
The joy of Easter quickly turned into terror and grief for Christians in Sri Lanka this morning, where bombers conducted coordinated attacks on at least three churches and three high-end hotels, killing more than 200 people.
The government has urged citizens to resist speculating whether radicalized Muslims are to blame for the violence, which mostly took place in or around the capital city of Colombo. Experts say if the bombings end up being religiously motivated, they represent the bloodiest sectarian attacks in decades in the island nation, located southeast of India, where civil war ended in 2009.
At Zion Church, rows of Easter lilies remained in front of a sanctuary as victims fled the blast, leaving behind hymnals, Bibles, and debris across the floor. Initial reports indicated that 25 worshipers had been killed and another 27 injured at Zion—according to its website, a charismatic church belonging to the Fellowship of Free Churches of Sri Lanka and located on the opposite side of the island in Batticaloa.
Other attacks took place at two Catholic churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade and St. Sebastian’s Church in Katana, and three hotels in Colombo, all around 8:45 a.m. local time.
St. Sebastian, where initial reports indicated that 50 worshipers had been killed, posted a brief plea on Facebook inviting the community to “come and help” after the bombing, along with photos of rows of disheveled pews covered in roof tiles, the church’s ceiling blown out, and blood splattered on the walls.
“We are dismayed by this turn of events,” Prabodith Mihindukulasuriya, a faculty member at Colombo Theological Seminary, told CT. “After 10 years of carefree existence, we are …