. . . Children for First Holy Communion Martyred Too
By Jeffrey Gettleman and Dharisha Bastians
NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka — The little room, like much of Sri Lanka, could hold no more grief.
All day Monday, through the steamy heat, mourners quietly stepped inside and paused in front of a sealed coffin containing what was left of Sneha Savindi Fernando.
Sneha was 11 years old and standing in line for communion at Easter Mass on Sunday when she alongside many other children for First Holy Communion, were blown apart.
“Why did you leave me?” her grandmother cried, sitting in front of the coffin and rubbing its sides, the anguish tight in her hands. “There are so many bad people in the world. Why kill the innocents?”
It was a question all of Sri Lanka was asking.
The day after suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks on half a dozen hotels and churches across this island nation, Sri Lanka remained in shock. The death toll continued to climb, with the authorities saying the attacks had killed at least 310 people.
Security officers on Monday outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the capital, where another bomber struck.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times
According to Catholic News Service reports, at 8:45 a.m., explosions were detonated during Easter Mass at churches in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, and in Negombo, a city 20 miles to its north. At the same time, a bomb exploded at a service at the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaolo, on Sri Lanka’s east coast.
St. Anthony’s Shrine was the Catholic church targeted in Colombo, and St. Sebastian’s is the Catholic parish in Negombo.
Pews were shattered by the blast at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, and floors and ceilings were covered in blood. The shrine is the most well-known Church in Sri Lanka, and is designated the country’s national shrine. The first chapel on the Church property was built during Sri Lanka’s Dutch colonial period, when Catholicism was mostly forbidden on the island.
There were also explosions Sunday morning at three luxury hotels in Colombo, and explosions outside a zoo and a private home Sunday afternoon.
Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, called on Sri Lankans to remain “united and strong” in the face of “cowardly attacks on our people today.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but a police spokesman said seven people have been arrested in connection with them, according to the AP. Some reports suggested that an additional six suspects were later arrested.
Just 10 days before the attack, a top police official had warned the country’s security services that a local, little-known Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, was planning suicide attacks against churches, but no action was taken against the group, which a government official, Rauff Hakeem, the minister of city planning, called a “colossal failure on the part of the intelligence services.”
But the question of blame was overshadowed by the sobbing and the shuffling of feet in Maha Hunupitiya, a Roman Catholic neighborhood near St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a city about 20 miles north of Colombo, the capital.
The suicide bomber’s blast was so powerful that it blew off much of the church’s roof. Heavy clay tiles rained down on worshipers, and dozens were killed. Maha Hunupitiya is now a neighborhood of the dead.
White funeral flags fluttered everywhere. Mourners flowed down roads barely wide enough for one car, lined by profusions of pink and white bougainvillea. Their blank faces were a mirror of what so much of this country is feeling.
School Run prays for the happy repose all the dead especially the school children involved, and condoles with the grieving families.
The matyred Srilankan Holy Communion Children lying-in-state in Colombo