Statement by women’s rights organizations on the violence on Easter Sunday 2019

Image: Ada Derana

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We condemn the bloody attacks in Negombo, Colombo and Batticaloa, in churches and hotels, on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday. We send our deepest condolences to those grieving the loss of their loved ones, friends and colleagues. We commit to upholding the values of peace and coexistence on the island.

On Easter Sunday, observed by those the world over as a holy day which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ and hailed as a day of peace, there were brutal attacks in Negombo, Colombo and Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. Eight explosions primarily targeted Christian churches where devotees had gathered for Easter services. These Churches were located deeply within communities of faith, and were places of worship to diverse ethnic communities, including many from low-income groups. The Church at Kochchikade was furthermore a sacred shrine revered by all communities on the island. The attacks also targeted major luxury hotels in the city of Colombo. They were set off in a coordinated sequence, killing over 200 and injuring hundreds more.

We are profoundly saddened by this brutal attack and the losses which resulted from it; our thoughts at this time are with the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives in these attacks, and the communities directly and indirectly affected by the violence.

We are deeply grateful to all those who have come forward to assist the survivors, and to communities who are now calling for peace and co-existence and are working to prevent any reprisals. However, we are concerned by reported reprisals, in some localities, against members of the Muslim community, and call on all Sri Lankans to work diligently to affirm our commitment to multi-ethnicity, pluralism and co-existence in this country. We must not let it be destroyed by religious or political manipulation.

We assert every Sri Lankan’s right to practice and observe any religion of their choosing, and to worship peacefully at religious sites of worship. We affirm that we are all bearers of the rights to religion and culture, which include the right to express one’s beliefs and values in private and in public, in a peaceful manner.

Sri Lanka’s painful history of violence and conflict, which included the brutal civil war of over 30 years and two insurrections, cost us many, many lives. In the last ten years, since the military end to the armed conflict in 2009, many community-based groups and collectives across all ethnic and religious identity groups have worked hard to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, and to recover from the deep wounds caused by war. Though it has not been a smooth road, many have tried to rebuild trust and to move forward on the road to accountability and justice.

The violence on Easter Sunday will have an immense negative impact on all our efforts as civilians belonging to all communities, to find paths towards peaceful coexistence and equality. We condemn the inaction and sometimes, tolerance, with which religious bigotry has been treated in the past, both by state and non-state actors. We strongly condemn the gross negligence that led to the disregard of community and other warnings, which allowed for the carnage on Easter Sunday.

We appeal to the state to prioritize the human rights and the needs of all citizens and communities, while they formulate their responses to this crisis at this time. We urge the state to ensure that no community is singled out, marginalized or have their rights violated as a result of security operations. We urge the state to seek solutions beyond the expansion of executive powers, and military and security apparatus, which could open doors to abuses of power which lead to human rights violations.

We appeal to all communities and civilians to remain calm, and to show solidarity to each other in this time of need. We must not sink into suspicion, hatred or violence, and we must work together to ensure we do not enter into another war or ethnic or religious conflagration.

  1. Women and Media Collective
  2. Women’s Resource Centre
  3. Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group
  4. Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
  5. DaBindu Collective, Katunayaka
  6. Savisthri National Women’s Movement
  7. Praja Diriya Padanama, Puttalam
  8. Centre for Social Concerns
  9. The Social Architects
  11. Sramabimani Kendraya
  12. Women’s Action Network
  13. Mannar Women’s Development Federation
  14. Viluthu Centre for Human Resource Development
  15. Action Network for Migrant Workers
  16. Women’s Development Centre, Badulla
  17. Rural Women’s Front, Galle
  18. Women’s Centre, Ja Ela
  19. Uva Wellassa Govi Kaantha Sanvidhanaya, Monaragala
  20. Women’s Education and Research Centre
  21. Sri Lanka Women’s NGO Forum
  22. Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
  23. Mothers and Daughters of Lanka Organization