Horror in Sri Lanka: Fear, Struggle, and the Hunger for Hope
Sri Lanka native and RZIM speaker Max Jeganathan writes a reflection on the Easter Sunday bombings killing around 300 and wounding 500, according to recent reports.
Funeral ribbons hang across a road leading to St. Anthony's Shrine on April 23. Photo: Getty Images.
I walked slowly onto the stage at the hotel ballroom on Colombo’s beachfront. It was July 5, 2018. It had been 35 years – almost to the day – since I had last set foot in the country of my birth, Sri Lanka, once referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” I was back to give a talk on justice and forgiveness as part of RZIM’s Executive Business Conference.
In the 1980s, my family and tens of thousands more fled Sri Lanka amidst the genocide perpetrated against Sri Lankan Tamils. Back then, violence was ethnically targeted. By contrast, last Sunday’s attacks across Sri Lanka bear all the hallmarks of religious motivation. As Shakespeare wrote “When sorrows come they come not as single spies, but in battalions.”1
Sri Lanka continues to scramble for peace after decades of war. Religious diversity remains an unavoidable reality with which it continues to struggle. Last year alone saw 86 separate incidents of violence, discrimination, or threats against Christians in Sri Lanka.
Ravi Zacharias wrote earlier this week that this attack signified hate overcoming love. He is right. In civilized society, there is no room for any ideology driven by hatred of those who peacefully disagree with it. We need to build societies of civility and authenticity in which people can seek truth without fearing for their lives. Sri Lanka is no exception.
Last Sunday’s attacks confirm the most undeniable reality of existence: the ubiquity of human brokenness. Through tears, I read the unfolding reports of Sunday’s massacre. I saw the same things that drove my family out of Sri Lanka all those years ago: fear of the other, the need for redemption, the hunger for hope, the struggle for identity, the longing for belonging.
There are only two events in history through which these desires can be satisfied. Fittingly, they are the same two events which so many of last Sunday’s victims came to commemorate: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Each victim was a victim of hatred. As we scramble for love to overcome, we find it in the ultimate victim of hatred – Jesus Christ; a man who prayed for his murderers while they were killing him; a Savior who defeated our greatest enemy, death itself; and a God who offers us the only brand of sacrificial love that can heal, redeem, and restore.
As I sat back down after giving that talk last July, I quietly considered Sri Lanka’s road ahead: the need for rebuilding and renewal. I never would have foreseen last Sunday’s horrors. However, my prescription has not changed. Sri Lanka’s future – as does the future of all nations – rests on its capacity to rediscover a sense of common morality and its willingness to infuse it with a common humanity. Both can be found in the heart of a loving God who made us in his image. The “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” is a dark place this week. But there is a light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot comprehend. With the unstoppable love of Jesus Christ, all things are possible.
(1) Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V.