AS a Catholic and a British-Sri Lankan I was horrified by the news that my ancestral home city of Colombo had been struck by a wave of senseless attacks on Easter Sunday.
At first the constant early-hour phone calls at my parents’ barely woke me – I just assumed it was Sri Lankan relatives calling to wish us a Happy Easter as they do every year.
Reuters Hundreds of people were killed across Sri Lanka by suicide bombers on Easter Sunday
But when I eventually did get up a few hours later, I was met with a string of terrifying news alerts and messages from friends in the UK checking to see if my relatives were safe.
In truth, with family scattered throughout Negombo and Colombo where two of the three targeted churches were located, I had no idea.
Although I later found out that my family were not directly affected by the atrocious attacks, the scenes of utter devastation were a chilling reminder of Sri Lanka’s turbulent recent history.
As many as 45 children are among the 321 killed by the ISIS-inspired monsters who targeted tourists and Sri Lanka’s Christian minority, which makes up just 7% of the country’s population.
High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Manisha Gunasekera, said “This is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country, and the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday”.
This statement couldn’t be more true.
These mindless acts were in part carried out to disrupt Sri Lanka’s fragile peace – as well as undermine its long-held traditions of tolerance and diversity.
A Buddhist-majority country, Sri Lanka proudly wears its appreciation of diversity in its national flag – with green representing Islam and orange signifying Hinduism.
And the people themselves are no different.
Among the population of 21.2 million you’ll meet an abundance of friendly and welcoming faces.
From locals selling exotic fruit and veg to the ever-helpful Tuc Tuc drivers – Sri Lanka feels like a home from home for millions all over the world.
Sri Lanka must not allow these attacks to force us backwards”
However, next month will mark the 10th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war – a conflict that claimed up to 80,000 lives.
Worn down by more than 25 years of violence between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels, the people of Sri Lanka have only recently started getting used to peace.
While sporadic violence has occurred over the past decade, Sri Lanka has largely transformed itself into a top tourist destination, even earning the title of Best Place in the World to Visit 2019 by Lonely Planet.
This is a future Sri Lankans must not allow terrorists to steal away.
One friend has already had to cancel her Sri Lankan holiday this week and I fear that with Westerners caught in the crossfire for the first time visitor numbers will be affected.
Writing about the weekend’s devastation, Sulochana Ramiah Mohan, Deputy Editor of Ceylon Today, said it brought back memories of the country’s troubled past.
Not only are foreigners now scared to visit, but locals themselves are just as frightened to step outside of their homes, she claimed.
Sri Lanka must not allow these attacks to force us backwards after fighting so hard to achieve peace.
We cannot allow cruel and barbaric actions to infringe our rights, freedoms and progress.
It’s for this reason I will keep travelling regularly to Sri Lanka and will continue visiting the churches that fell victim to these monstrous acts.
My parents will soon attend an event at Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel – just one month on from when a suicide bomber detonated his device there.
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To allow the attacks to dictate our actions is to create a state of paralysis across the world.
Messages of support from the Queen, the Pope and people from many different religions and backgrounds reflect the way the world has come together in mourning.
These global reactions and the way people at the scene rushed to help shows that all hope is far from lost.
Our reaction to the attacks must be to respond with nothing but peace, dignity and to carry on as normal.
To retaliate with violence would only undermine the core values that separate Sri Lanka from the monsters who carried out the attack.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country.
Rather than letting these vile attacks shatter that foundation – Sri Lanka’s bright future is dependent on it remaining so.
Photo/Chamila Karunarathne Inside St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo following the bomb blast on Easter Sunday
AFP or licensors For years the nation has welcomed people from all walks of life, backgrounds, cultures and religions
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