Vice President Mike Pence is calling Sunday’s Sri Lankan terrorist attack that resulted in at least 290 deaths and 500 injuries an “attack on Christianity” and religious freedom.
The coordinated attacks on Easter Sunday took place around 8:45 a.m. local time and involved eight bombings on churches and hotels. Among the dead were more than 102 worshipers at St. Sebastian’s Church, a Catholic church in Negombo. Some 1,000 people were attending the Easter service.
“You can see pieces of flesh thrown all over the walls and on the sanctuary and even outside of the church,” Father Edmond Tillekeratne, social communications director for the Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka, told CNN.
Sri Lanka is an island nation off the coast of India. It is a predominantly Buddhist country, with Christians comprising only about 7-8 percent of the population.
“@POTUS and I are monitoring the horrific attacks on those celebrating Easter in Sri Lanka. Our hearts & prayers are with the victims & their families,” Pence tweeted. “This atrocity is an attack on Christianity & religious freedom everywhere. No one should ever be in fear in a house of worship.”
Pence’s comment was posted several hours after Trump posted his own tweet, saying, “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!”
Terrorists also bombed St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic shrine, and Zion Church, an evangelical congregation, killing at least 52 and 38 respectively, according to International Christian Concern. Three luxury hotels also were targeted.
Sri Lanka’s president declared a national emergency, allowing police to arrest and interrogate suspects without a court order, the BBC reported. Officials believe the attacks involved foreign help.
“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Sri Lanka cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”
William Stark, regional manager for International Christian Concern, said Sri Lanka’s authorities “too often” have “tolerated instances of discrimination and intolerance against Christians and other religious minorities.”
“This must come to an end,” Stark said. “Authorities must investigate who was behind these deadly attacks and bring them to justice.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.