Pastor of church bombed in Sri Lanka forgives attackers

A woman prays at a cemetery, as victims of a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday are being buried, in Negombo, April 24, 2019(Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

The pastor of an evangelical church bombed in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday has offered forgiveness to the attackers. 

Pastor Roshan Mahesen, of Zion Church in Batticaloa, said the congregation was "hurt" and "angry" about the devastating suicide bombings which struck two other churches and several luxury hotels, killing hundreds. 

However, he said it was important to forgive the attackers "no matter what". 

"We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you, no matter what you have done to us, we love you, because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," he said in a video message posted to Facebook

"Jesus Christ on the Cross, he said father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. We also, who follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we say, for the Lord forgive these people."

In the video, shared by Sri Lankan Christian ministry 'The Life', Pastor Roshan went on thank people around the world who had sent messages of condolences to the church. 

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, every word you speak brings such comfort and strength. We will stand and continue what the lord has purposed in our life and we are ready and we will continue to fulfil the mission the Lord has given us," he said. 

Pastor Chrishanthy Sathiyaraj, Life founder and Evangelical Alliance council member, urged people to respond with forgiveness and not hate to the attacks. 

"These atrocious attacks have shocked the world, the violence has impacted my friends and family and many in the Sri Lankan community in the UK know people who have died," he said. 

"If only we can hear Pastor Roshan's words and respond with forgiveness instead of hate. Jesus Christ calls us to love even those who persecute us, and what is more powerful than to choose to love in circumstances such as these. Let's forgive, stand together and build the kingdom of God. Don't give up."

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, stood side by side with Sri Lankans at a prayer gathering earlier this week following the attacks.

He said he was praying for the Christian community in Sri Lanka.

"I am mourning with my Sri Lankan brothers and sisters in Christ as they bury loved ones, as church communities are shaken by the violence inflicted on them and as others live in fear that the same might strike them," he said. 

"Pastor Roshan offers love and forgiveness that can only come from knowing that we are forgiven by Jesus. I will continue to pray for him and all the believers in Sri Lanka, that they will know hope in Jesus that overcomes all fear."