Sri Lanka’s minister of housing, construction, and cultural affairs, Sajith Premadasa, announced yesterday, April 22, that his government will reconstruct the 175-year-old St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, which was severely damaged in the Easter Sunday attacks.
More than 320 people were killed and at least 500 injured in a series of bombings that targeted churches and luxury hotels in Colombo and around the country. Two other churches, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and the Zion Church in Batticaloa, were also targeted. The reconstruction will occur under the supervision of Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo.
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization based in Connecticut, has pledged $100,000 for “the rebuilding and repair of [the] Christian community in the aftermath of this act of terrorism.”
The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks today, naming the bombers as “Islamic State fighters.” The organization released a video showing eight men, presumably the attackers, pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Sri Lankan authorities identified Mohammed Zaharan, the leader of the local group that carried out the attacks, in the video. The authorities say the bombings might have been in retaliation for the killing of 50 people last month in the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.
The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that it didn’t act upon “prior information” it had received on the intentions of local groups to launch the attacks. President Maithripala Sirisena announced a shakeup in the country’s security forces, primarily the dismissal of high ranking officials due to their failure to prevent the attacks. “I must be truthful and admit that there were lapses on the part of defense officials,” Sirisena said in a televised address. Today, the United States government announced that the FBI will be joining the investigation.
Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country. Buddhists amount to 70 percent of the country’s 22 million population, while Christians make up 7.6 percent and Muslims make up 9.7 percent.