Christian Forgiveness as Sri Lanka laments

An interview with Mayukha Perera, Managing Director of Back to the Bible in Sri Lanka

On Easter Sunday, April 21, 253 people were killed when three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka were the target of suicide bombers. Christian Courier writer Candice Goodchild interviewed Mayukha Perera, Managing Director of Back to the Bible in Sri Lanka, about his experience.

Christian Courier: Where were you on Easter, when the attacks occurred?  
Perera:
I was at home in Colombo, a couple of miles away from the first bomb and the hotels that were bombed. My wife had gone to church but I was at home with the flu. 

Even though bombs had been something we experienced during our civil war, this was different after 10 years of peace. We had never experienced simultaneous bombings in six different locations. There were many questions. Much uncertainty. Concern about the possibility of mob violence.
 
CC: What was it like as a Christian in Sri Lanka before the attacks, and how it has changed?
Perera:
Because the targets included places of Christian worship, many people assume the attacks were acts of Christian persecution. I do not believe this. We are familiar with persecution, and it exists, but this attack, though it had many “Christian” victims, was not – in my opinion – one that targeted Christians because of our faith. I believe the terrorists wanted maximum impact, and the largest crowds were gathered in these Roman Catholic churches. Similarly, the hotels were full, and bombing the dining room of these large hotels would do maximum damage.

But things did change for Christians. The Christ-like response of the church, Christian leaders and followers alike, has been noticed by everyone across the country. Where they may have expected anger and talk of vengeance and even mobs getting onto the street, Christians have been forgiving and conciliatory. In fact, Christians had a calming influence on others who would have been happy to take matters into their own hands. 

There has been a new level of respect for Christians, and thereby a curiosity about the gospel and Jesus because of this widely observed response.
 
CC:  How can the church in Sri Lanka work to prevent anger and distrust between Muslims and Christians? 
Perera:
People are hurting, some are angry. Some are even willing to take to the streets and cause trouble. But the clear and united Christian voice has been for restraint, forgiveness and reconciliation. The church has spoken up to ensure that innocent Muslims are not blamed for the actions of a few who bear the name. 

The church has reached out to the Muslim community and spoken on their behalf. There has been a history of alignment between Christian and Muslims because both groups have faced persecution. Just the day before the bombs, the Methodist church conducted a silent protest against some attacks faced by one of their churches and several prominent Muslim leaders stood with them. So we need to do more of the same.

CC: How can we pray for you?  
Perera:
Pray for God’s comfort for those bereaved and for strength and recovery for those injured and those who are caring for them. Pray for the ongoing witness of the church. There’s openness towards Christians and curiosity about what makes us different. We need to graciously continue to share the love of God and the good news about Jesus with our countrymen.

Pray that extremist forces from whatever religious or political background will not be able to use this situation to spread discord and suspicion.

Pray that the political leaders will be faithful to the trust placed on them and be committed to working together for the common good instead of for petty selfish political gain. 

Back to the Bible is a missional organization that utilizes media and technology to reach, lead, strengthen and equip the people of Sri Lanka and its surrounding regions with the Gospel and love of Christ.

  • Candice is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Bracebridge, Ontario with her husband and three children. Get in touch with Candice by emailing moc.liamg@yram.yerdua.ecidnac.

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