By Caroline Vimla & Inamul Haq
Easter Sunday, a significant religious celebration among Christians, fell on 21 April 2019. While in other parts of the world, Christians attended Easter Vigils as well as Sunday Easter Service ending the 40 days of Lent, the joyous event turned into a carnage in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. A series of bomb attacks on three churches and three hotels left 253 dead to date and hundreds injured. According to a source in the UN, among the ones perished were 45 children, including an 18-month-old baby. Given the fact that the locations where the bombs were detonated are predominantly Christian populated areas, the target was obvious: the minority Christian community, namely Catholics.
As news of the horror from the aftermath of the attacks emerged, local and international outrage poured in. Together with it, questions were raised. The first significant question is: Who was responsible for the violent attacks? Under severe pressure, Sri Lanka initially named National Towheedth Jama’ath (NTJ), a local Islamist group, as the chief suspect for the violence with some form of support from international organisations. However, two days after the bloody Easter Sunday, ISIS claimed responsibility and released details of the attacks including names of the seven suicide bombers involved in the attacks and their photos. The second pertinent question: While the secret agents of Sri Lanka intelligence were warned of possible attacks days prior to the actual incident, why were they grossly ignored? Lack of communication and a feud between the top two leaders of the country could be a plausible reason for inaction on the part of the government. Undermining and comprising national security, Sri Lanka failed to protect the 7% minority Christians. This, in turn, gives rise to the third question: Who is responsible for the heinous attacks – the perpetrators or the party that were warned yet chose to neglect it?
This article attempts to draw a parallel comparison on similar attacks around the globe on minorities and the perpetrators involved in them. As of 2011 census, 70.2% of Sri Lankans are made up of Theravada Buddhists, 12.6% Hindus, 9.7% Muslims (mainly Sunni) and 7.4% Christians (6.1% Roman Catholic and 1.3% other Christians). Why are minorities always the target of violent attacks around the world? In India, Muslims and Dalits are attacked; in Pakistan and Bangladesh Hindus and Christians are targeted. In Christian majority and Jewish majority countries, Muslims are targeted. Hence, there seems to be a direct link between religions and terror attacks. Despite such a glaring link involving various religions, global politics point its finger on a single community when it comes to terrorism – Muslims. In 2019, the world witnessed three major terrorist attacks right from the month of February. The first attack was carried out in Indian-occupied-Kashmir on 14 February by Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist organisation in which 49 soldiers of Central Reserve police forces (CRPF) got killed and 60 others were injured. The attack was carried out by a local Kashmiri militant. However, instead of investigating the security lapse, the Indian authorities established a Nazi-like rule in Kashmir. In the rest of India, Kashmiri students were thrown out, beaten and threatened with dire consequences. Thousands were detained and tortured based on suspicion by using the power of AFSPA. Organisations like Jamaat-e-Islami and JKLF were banned, some senior Hurriyat leaders were detained under PSA and were shifted to different jails of India. Schools run by Jamaat-e-Islami were closed and the highway was banned from being used by civilians. Overall, a regime of terror was created in Kashmir; even India waged a war against Pakistan by resorting to airstrikes. After one month, another terrorist attack was carried out in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March by a white supremacist. The attack which was live streamed on the Internet by the perpetrator left 50 Muslims dead and countless injured. The attack was condemned by all Christian communities around the world and they stood in solidarity with Muslims. However, the incident was celebrated by the right-wing in India as a ‘revenge’ for Pulwama. While the world was still reeling under the massacres in New Zealand, the third attack took place in Sri Lanka.
All these ghastly massacres leave us with one relevant question to ponder upon: Have religions produced fundamentalists in the form of terrorists or has terrorism emerged as a form of religion on its own? Whatever the answer to the question above may be, the fact remains that every one of such violent attacks causes immense grief, pain and suffering, and as such, they are to be regarded as nothing lesser than a crime against humanity. Terrorism has no religion.
Caroline Vimla is a Malaysian citizen and works as lecturer. Besides, she works for human and animal rights in both Malaysia and Kashmir.
Inamul Haq, Research Candidate, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Hatred and Mass Violence: Lessons from History”, edited by Navras J. Aafreedi, Presidency University, Kolkata, India.