Catholics urged to remember the lives of persecuted Christians this Easter

08 Apr 2020

By Theresia Titus

People inside one of the Catholic churches attacked on Easter Sunday last year in Sri Lanka, killing more than 200 and injuring hundreds. Photo: Open Doors Australia.

On Easter Sunday last year, more than 250 were killed and at least 450 were injured in vicious bombings at three Christian churches, four hotels, and a housing complex in Sri Lanka.

Two of the churches are the Shrine of St Anthony in Colombo and St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, both of which are Catholic places of worship.

A total of 115 people, including 27 children died in the St Sebastian’s Church while attending their Easter Sunday Mass.

Remembering the lives of Christians lost last year in Sri Lanka and in many other attacks on churches in the past years, Open Doors Australia – an organisation dedicated for persecuted Churches all over the world – has invited Catholics across Australia to support their mission through their campaign called “One with Them”.

A blood-stained statue of Christ is seen after a bombing at St Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019. Photo: Reuters/CNS.

Murray Noble, Persecution Researcher and Writer at Open Doors Australia , told The Record that it was important for Catholics in Australia to continue their support for persecuted Christians, especially during Easter when some Christians are subject to terrorist attacks.

“In those two Catholic Churches [attacked in Sri Lanka last year], we saw at least 168 members of their congregation died [sic]. But we can’t stop persecutions as it is always going to exist,” Mr Noble said.

“We expect persecution to happen where the church is thriving [and] I think we need to do more for the Catholic Church throughout the world who are facing persecution, especially at Easter.”

Sri Lankan families impacted by the bombing attacks receiving care packages in the aftermath. Photo: Open Doors Australia.

Mr Noble explained though the causation of church attacks vary, it is clear that religious extremism has been the cause almost all the attacks on churches globally, especially in Sri Lanka last year.

“The bombings in Sri Lanka were the result of Islamic extremism,” he claimed.

“In the [past] five years we have seen four major attacks, last year was in Sri Lanka, in 2017 we saw an attack in Egypt, in 2016 there was an attack in Pakistan, and it was in Kenya in 2015. All of those major attacks were due to Islamic extremism.

“In fact in Sri Lanka, before the 2019 attacks, the majority of churches attacks were because of Hindu extremism,” he added.

Mr Noble said this year was “very different” because of COVID-19 as many celebrate Easter at homes rather than gathered in one place, which would impact the probability of churches being attacked.

However, despite social distancing applied in various counties all over the world, Mr Noble said extremist attacks were still prone to happen.

“There is a potential for an attack to happen again this year, although it may look a little different if it does because of the impact of COVID-19,” he explained.

“The reality is, it’s very hard for governments to prevent attacks; however, by capturing and bringing into justice those who orchestrated the attack – which Sri Lankan government did 11 months after the attack has happened – the government is making a strong statement that Christians in these risky countries are safe to meet in peace without a threat.

“Generally there is freedom for people to meet in churches but in some countries, it’s not easy to do so and so the more the government say Christians should be allowed to gather, the more the general population will come along and side with Christians in times of extremism.”

For more information about the “One with Them” campaign and Open Doors Australia, visit: