Catholics in Sri Lanka marked what they described as “Black Sunday” to dramatize their call for justice for victims of the 2019 Easter terror bombings that killed at least 260 people.
The faithful attended Mass dressed in black on March 7 while church bells tolled and prayers were said at 8:45 a.m., the time when the bombs exploded on April 21, 2019.
At least 171 Catholics died when explosions occurred in two Catholic churches. Bombs were also set off in a Protestant church and at three top hotels targeting locals and foreigners.
The bomb explosions were blamed on two local Islamic extremist groups that had pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.
An Associated Press report said a presidential inquiry commission has already handed its final report to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The president has shared parts of the report with Catholic and Buddhist religious leaders, but Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said the report failed to find out those accused of carrying out the bombings.
The report had concentrated more on the failures of the then-government in preventing the attacks despite early warnings, said the prelate.
“No one who wants to promote hatred and religious strife will receive our support,” said Cardinal Ranjith.
“We believe there should be unity and brotherhood among different ethnic and religious groups all over the world,” added the prelate in a statement on March 7.
“I request anyone inclined to create conflict on account of religion to give up that idea,” he said.
The cardinal cited the statement of Pope Francis during his visit to Iraq over the weekend when the pontiff called on religious leaders to “think about unity and brotherhood, not about creating strife.”
People who attended Mass on March 7 at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a predominantly Catholic area north of Colombo, held placards outside the church in a silent “Black Sunday” protest.
“The main purpose of this is to show the people and our rulers that justice has not happened for the victims of the Easter attacks,” said Auxiliary Bishop Maxwell Silva.
There are 2.1 million Catholics in Sri Lanka which has a total population of 21.8 million.