Sri Lanka Easter attack: Women’s ministry leader Dianna Hobbs offers prayers and words of comfort
Article By Associated Press // Amy Bertinelli // EEW Magazine
Empowering Everyday Women Ministries founder, Dianna Hobbs, is offering prayers, as well as words of support, comfort and encouragement after extremist attacks killed more than 200 people and injured hundreds more in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
“We are praying for the victims, victims’ families, loved ones, and the entire country of Sri Lanka after this horrific and devastating attack against Christians, tourists, and citizens,” said the nonprofit leader, 42, as the nation is reeling from the devastating news that eight bomb blasts rocked churches and luxury hotels in or near Sri Lanka’s capital.
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists and said seven suspects were arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility. He said most of the blasts were believed to have been suicide attacks. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said at least 207 people were killed and 450 wounded.
“Despite the attacks, we will not allow extremism and hatred to put a damper on our faith,” said Hobbs, an award-winning philanthropist and activist.
The explosions at three churches and three hotels is being called the deadliest outbreak of violence the South Asian island country has seen since a bloody civil war ended a decade ago. The blasts collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests. People were seen carrying the wounded out of blood-spattered pews. Witnesses described powerful booms, followed by scenes of smoke, blood, broken glass, alarms going off and victims screaming.
“We will stand strong and unify in love, knowing that our hope, at all times—both good and bad—is in Christ, the Risen Savior, whom we celebrate on Easter Sunday and every day,” added Hobbs — despite the celebratory mood of the holy day being changed to grief by alarming tragedy.
A spokesperson from Empowering Everyday Women’s ministry team says they are sending up intercessory prayers and sending forth inquiries about what can be done to help.
The three hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, are frequented by foreign tourists. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the bodies of at least 27 foreigners were recovered and included people from Britain, the U.S., India, Portugal and Turkey. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said several American citizens were among the dead.
“People were being dragged out,” said Bhanuka Harischandra, of Colombo, a 24-year-old founder of a tech marketing company who was going to the city’s Shangri-La Hotel for a meeting when it was bombed. “People didn’t know what was going on. It was panic mode.”
He added, “There was blood everywhere.”
Sri Lanka, situated off the southern tip of India, is about 70 percent Buddhist, with the rest of the population Muslim, Hindu or Christian. While there have been scattered incidents of anti-Christian harassment in recent years, there has been nothing on the scale of what happened Sunday.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could trigger instability in Sri Lanka, a country of about 21 million people, and vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to take action against those responsible. The government imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The scale of the bloodshed recalled the worst days of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, in which the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from the Buddhist-majority country. During the war, the Tigers and other rebels carried out a multitude of bombings. The Tamils are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.
Six nearly simultaneous blasts took place in the morning in Colombo at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a Catholic church — and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels. After a lull of a few hours, two more explosions occurred at St. Sebastian Catholic church in Negombo, a mostly Catholic town north of Colombo, and at the Protestant Zion church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
“Though violence and evil is rife in a fallen world, our hope is in Christ, who is able to give us joy and bring hope, and healing, despite the troubles we face,” said Hobbs.
Associated Press writers Sheila Norman-Culp and Gregory Katz in London; Sarah DiLorenzo in New York; Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow; Nicole Winfield at the Vatican; Adam Schreck in Bangkok; and Emily Schmall in New Delhi contributed to this report.