Several Christian groups in Sri Lanka criticized Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for failing to speak about the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in his speech at a global interfaith forum in Italy this week.
“Our prime minister spoke well of the need to reject extremism in all its forms, but unfortunately he did not say a single word about the victims of the Easter attacks,” said Father Rohan Silva, director of the Center for Society and Religion in Sri Lanka.
In his speech on Sunday at the G20 Interfaith Dialogue in Bologna, Italy, Rajapaksa called for reconciliation, unity and solidarity, saying these are “a critical need of our time.”
“Conflicts and escalating tensions are all too evident around us,” he said.
“Peace and stability come from healthy relationships with all who live in our countries, including those with whom we have deep disagreements,” said Rajapaksa.
He said extremist ideology and the violence associated with it represent one of the most serious challenges in the world today
The prime minister described the 9/11 attack in the United States 20 years ago as “a reminder of the need for eternal vigilance against all forms of terrorist action, whoever be the offenders and whatever be their professed aims and purposes.”
Critics, however, said that Rajapaksa, who was appointed in 2019 by his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, failed to highlight the real problems of religious coexistence in the country.
“To declare one thing and do another is hypocrisy,” said Herman Kumara, head of Negombo’s National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, in an interview with AsiaNews.
”While we talk about ethnic and religious diversity at the conference, what our premier does at home is the opposite,” said the activist.
He said the administration of Rajapaksa did nothing to address the previous administrations’ move to promote “Buddhist supremacy” in the country.
“If you really want peace, something should be done against the hate speech of Buddhist monks,” said Kumara.
In his speech on Sunday, Rajapaksa said it is the “duty of politicians and educators, through the curricula, to emphasize what all religions have in common, the areas of consensus rather than the points that they reflect the differences.”
Several Sri Lankan expatriates held a demonstration outside the venue of the interfaith meeting in Bologna on Sunday to demand for a thorough investigation into the 2019 bombings.
Various groups in Sri Lanka, including Catholic Church leaders, have been blaming Sri Lankan authorities for failing to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 260 people and injured over 500 others.
In October 2020, five of seven suspects arrested in connection with the attacks were released by the government because of lack of evidence.