The Sri Lanka bombings two years on

Debbie second from the right(Photo: Open Doors International)

Two years ago on 21 April, Christians in Sri Lanka were celebrating Easter Sunday when the country was rocked by some of the deadliest attacks on Christian targets in years. Official sources reported 267 deaths, with at least 500 people wounded.

The six initial blasts perpetrated by Islamist suicide bombers occurred in St Anthony's Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, Zion Church in Batticaloa, and at three luxury hotels.

In the attack on Zion Church, Debbie, a local girl, lost both parents and her eyesight. Rebekah, Debbie's aunt, suffered serious burns all over her body and had to undergo numerous operations. Open Doors' local partners recently visited Debbie and her family.

Two years on, Rebekah is still receiving treatment for her burns.(Photo: Open Doors International)

The first time the team met Debbie shortly after the attack, she could not walk properly as she was still recovering from her injuries and was dependent on her aunts and grandparents to take her around the house. Two years on, Debbie is now able to manage well on her own inside the house. She even made a paper boat for the team to see.

Rebekah was at the church bookshop with Debbie's mother, when the blast shattered the building. She is waiting to undergo more surgeries which have been postponed because of the coronavirus situation in the country. Due to her burns, Rebekah is still unable to move the fingers on her left hand.

"The doctors said my fingers will not work as well as they used to, but I will be able to move them a bit more after the surgery than I can now," she said. Her injuries have confined her to her house for a long time now.

Open Doors' local partners have been caring for the Easter bombings' victims through pastoral care visits, delivering care packages, providing practical support, such as replacing motorbikes that were destroyed in the attack, and helping those whose livelihoods were affected to restart their businesses or start new ones.

The investigation into the Easter bombings has caused recrimination amongst the Sri Lankan authorities. The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCOI), set up to investigate the attacks, completed the investigation and submitted their final report to the then-president of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, in February. The report condemned the State Intelligence Service and its former head, Nilantha Jayawardena, for the failure to prevent the bombings. The President appointed another committee to study the facts and recommendations in the report.

Mr Jayawardena, however, testified before the commission that when he received the news of a possible attack, he informed the President. Some members of the opposition started calling for the arrest of Maithripala Sirisena, who as the President was also the Minister of Public Security at the time of the attack.

Many people have criticised the PCOI report saying that it is more focused on finding out how the attacks could have been prevented rather than who was responsible for them, and the authorities are yet to take an action.

Julia Bicknell, who has followed the case and who analyses the Open Doors World Watch List, says: "It quickly came out, after the bombs, that there was a breakdown in communications between the President's and the Prime Minister's office due to political infighting, which meant the PM did not know of credible warnings.

"This report's publication had been delayed several times and now another committee has been formed. Meanwhile the victims' families continue to seek justice, as well as healing."

Open Doors UK & Ireland is a Christian charity that supports persecuted Christian across the world. They work with local partners to distribute Bibles and other Christian resources, as well as providing support and vocational training to affected communities.