COLOMBO – Hundreds of worshipers and families of Easter bombing victims on Tuesday gathered outside the scaffolded St. Anthony’s church in Colombo for a memorial service to mark one month of the attack that claimed over 250 lives in Sri Lanka.
St. Anthony’s was one of the targets of suicide bombers who shook the island in a series of April 21 simultaneous attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels claimed by the Islamic State terror network.
Life has almost returned to normal in Sri Lanka a month since the devastating attacks hit the island that broke a decade of peace after the state’s victory in the country’s 25-year civil war against Tamil guerrillas.
The Tuesday’s gathering of survivors and families of the victims outside the St. Anthony’s church for a tearful memorial was yet another step towards the resumption of normality.
The shrine, frequented by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is still under repairs after the attack which destroyed its roof and the facade.
The memorial was held outside of the church under a close guard, with security forces carrying out body checks on attendees and armed guards and sniffer dogs patrolling the area.
The families who lost their loved ones in the attacks are yet to gain their sense of normalcy.
“I couldn’t go close to St. Anthony’s where my brother Burlington and his family lost their lives at the resurrection mass. Instead, I went to the cemetery,” said Bernie Gomez with tears of grief.
Her brother Burlington Gomez and his family were killed in the attack.
While the bodies of Burlington Gomez, his wife and two younger children were found, the eldest child Bevon, 9, is still missing.
The grieving Gomez visited her brother’s grave after preparing his favorite meal, similar to the one they were to have on Easter Sunday family brunch.
“My brother is in heaven I know, but I can’t go to St. Anthony’s church anymore,” she said.
Her son Joshua is still waiting for his cousin, Bevon Gomez, to come home from hospital.
“My son believes his cousin will come back after nurses take care of him,” said Bernie. She doesn’t have the courage to tell him the truth.
Joshua is yet to restart his second term at his school, a private catholic institute that has not reopened its primary section yet.
Majority Christian schools reopened this week amid tight security fearing repeat attacks.
Sri Lanka’s military leadership in statements assured of security and urged parents to send their children to school.
Investigators have said that majority of those in the terror network responsible for the Easter Sunday Bombs have either been arrested or have died in suicide blasts during military actions against them.