Pai- Seeing the news about the coordinated attacks in southwestern and eastern Sri Lanka has me back to thinking about the weeks I’ve just spent traveling the whole length of the once war-torn Indian Ocean island nation. It’s been a long decade since the 26-year long civil war ended between the SLAF and the LTTE. I got the feeling that this gorgeous country, while at peace, was a ticking time bomb of unresolved issues. Communal strains are barely beneath surface. After decades of war and terror, people I spoke with didn’t try terribly hard to mask their contempt for the other. Conflicting for me was how incredibly welcoming people were to me personally. From Unawatuna to Kandy to Jaffna, people were and are absolutely lovely to a curious outsider in their midst.
At the time of this brief posting, the death toll is reportedly 138 killed and hundreds injured. I can speculate on what group may have been behind this monstrous act of religious violence but need to hold off until more facts come in. Christians, and Catholics in particular, are a visible minority in Sri Lanka with plenty of churches dotting the landscape from south to north amidst dagobas (Buddhist temples), mosques, and Shaiva and Shakti Hindu temples. That a trio of churches and a trio of hotels were attacked on the holy day suggests a fairly intricate level of coordination across a sizable geography coupled with a relgio-political motive. Tragically, this is nothing we haven’t seen before in an era where for a highly motivated, radicalised fringe, the whole world is a battlefield. Nothing is sacred. At the time of this posting, there has not been a claim of responsibility.