The Prince of Wales has spoken of his horror at the terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka over Easter this year, calling them “utterly barbaric”.
He told a congregation at Emmanuel Christian Fellowship in East London that the attacks were an “assault on religious freedom everywhere”, the Press Association reports.
Over 250 people were killed in the suicide bombings in April, which targeted Saint Anthony’s Shrine, Colombo, Saint Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, and Zion Church, Batticaloa. The victims included many children who had been attending Sunday school.
He said: “I’ve come here to stand with this community in remembrance of all those who were killed or whose lives were changed forever in the utterly barbaric attack on churches in Sri Lanka this past Easter day.
“The appalling loss of life made Sunday the 21st of April the single worst day of violence targeting Christians in the modern era.
“There are no words that can heal the wounds that you and your fellow Christians have endured, but I did so want you all to know just how much I, and so many people in this country, mind about what you’ve suffered and how much we have been thinking of you all.”
He went on to call the attacks “an assault on religious freedom everywhere and against all of us who prize tolerance over division, and love over hate”.
Relatives and friends of the victims were among those in attendance at this week’s advent service at Emmanuel, a Tamil church.
Kamiston Jogathilaraja, who is originally from Sri Lanka but now lives in East Ham, spoke of forgiving the attackers despite losing six members of his extended family and four friends in the attack at Saint Anthony’s Shrine.
The 27-year-old said: “Jesus told us to forgive those who do wrong to you and show the other cheek, but even though we did it and are Christians, sometimes it’s hard – because we are human – just to forgive.”
Speaking of a cousin he lost in the bombing, he added: “Every time I see my cousin’s wife, whose got a three-month-old baby, crying in front of my cousin’s picture it’s very hard – but at the end of the day we are forgiving, we are just moving on as a nation.”
The Prince of Wales, who greeted individual members of the congregation over a cup of tea after the service, spoke of how inspired he had been by the response of those affected.
“To see people grieving together across community, ethnicity and religious denomination and standing together in quiet defiance of those who would divide us, gives me confidence that compassion and community will always prevail,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)