On Easter Sunday 2019, suicide bombers launched a series of coordinated attacks on churches and hotels across Sri Lanka. Over 250 people were killed, and some 500 more were injured.
The attacks destabilised already tense ethno-religious relations in the country, with intolerance and violence towards Muslims particularly increasing in their wake.
Today, CSW remembers all those who lost their lives to these senseless killings. We stand with those who continue to mourn the loss of their friends, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and loved ones. We also remember those for whom the road to recovery in the two years since has been long and arduous, some of whose stories are shared below. Their names have been changed for security reasons.
Mrs A is a mother of two and a Sunday school teacher at Zion church in Batticaloa. She was present on the day of the bombings, where she was struck by multiple shards of shrapnel, including at least seven which entered her head. She also suffered severe damage to her vertebrate in the attack.
Following the attack Mrs A underwent several surgeries, and spent two weeks in a coma. When she recovered, she found that she was completely paralysed on the right-hand side of her body due to injuries she had sustained when she fell during the terrorist attack.
While there have been some improvements in the years since, Mrs A remains unable to stand and walk on her own. She is also unable to talk, and has no memory of the Easter Sunday incident.
Martha, a young girl, was having breakfast with her family at Zion church when it was attacked. Her mother was killed instantly, while her father passed away in hospital a few days later as a result of his injuries. Martha spent 52 days in hospital, during which she underwent several operations to remove shrapnel from her head and stomach.
The attack left Martha blind, although doctors believe that one of her eyes could be operated on to restore some of her sight.
Fortunately, Martha has come a long way on her road to recovery. She is now able to be physically active, and is learning Braille with the help of a special instructor to aid in her education in the long run.
Ms K was with her family at St. Anthony’s Church in Kochikade when it was attacked. Her husband and young child managed escape injury, but Ms K sustained serious injuries to her leg.
She told a local monitoring group: “The Easter Sunday explosion cause a pole to fall on my leg. It damaged the leg so badly that I couldn’t walk. As a mother I was unable to look after my child or help out at home.”
K was forced to undergo surgery that left her bedridden for months, however after treatment and a lengthy period of recovery she is now walking again.
Commit to a future free of religious intolerance
We would like to thank Mrs A, Martha and Ms K for sharing their experiences with us. They join the hundreds of others whose lives were forever altered by the Easter Sunday bombings.
Today, as we mourn the victims of this egregious attack, we must renew our commitment to combatting religious intolerance and promoting societies in which people of all religions and beliefs are free to practice these without fear of harassment, intimidation or violence.
Featured image: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters