Easter Sunday is the holiest day for observant Christians worldwide. It is the day followers of Jesus Christ celebrate his resurrection, and many believers choose to be baptized or receive their first communion on the special day. It is the day on which Christians celebrate the central tenets of our faith, which is why the coordinated suicide bombings on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka that targeted minority Christians at four churches as well as foreigners at four hotels shocked that island nation and the world.
The terrorists targeted Christian places of worship and hotels frequented by foreigners in the capital city of Colombo and the cities of Negombo and Batticaloa. As of this writing, more than two hundred people are confirmed to have lost their lives, including 45 children, with hundreds more wounded. Counted among the victims are citizens of the U.S., Bangladesh, China, India, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Spain, Turkey, Australia, and the U.K.
The Islamic State has taken credit for these unspeakable atrocities, while the Sri Lankan government says it believes a local Muslim militant group, National Thowheed Jamath, is responsible. In either case, the attacks show that radical Islamic terrorism continues to threaten innocent people, and it must continue to be condemned and combatted worldwide. In a gesture of interfaith solidarity, flags of mourning were draped from the Grand Mosque in Negombo, one of the Sri Lankan towns where a church was targeted by bombers.
President Trump expressed condolences and pledged U.S. support for Sri Lanka in bringing the perpetrators to justice in a call with the country’s prime minister.
While minorities of many religions face persecution or are targeted for hateful attacks, as evinced by horrific attacks against Muslims in New Zealand, the Sri Lanka bombings illustrate the growing persecution faced specifically by Christians around the globe. The Christian organization Open Doors tracks oppression and reported in its 2019 World Watch List that one in three Christians in Asia now faces high levels of persecution. The report found that 245 million Christians face high levels of persecution this year, an increase over 215 million in 2018.
President Trump’s administration has made addressing the growing persecution of Christians a priority. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence said while addressing the In Defense of Christians Conference, “the United States of America will always stand with those who suffer for their faith, and we will always support them in the hour of their need.” The Trump administration has acted on that promise by reinvigorating the Office of International Religious Freedom at the U.S. State Department.
Amidst such terrible loss in Sri Lanka, the words of Christ in Matthew 5:11 stand out as a comfort: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” We pray for the victims of persecution everywhere, and we remember Christians and all innocents who lost their lives on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.