By Tina Edward Gunawardhana
Two days after the audacious and atrocious bombings that exploded across Sri Lanka killing over 300 people and maiming and injuring in excess of 400 innocent people, actor and writer Stephen Fry best describes the vile acts of men when he says on his Twitter feed “One of our old names for Sri Lanka, Ceylon, puts me in mind of the hymn we used to sing at school: “What tho' the spicy breezes Blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle; Though every prospect pleases, And only man is vile?” In the light of today’s horrors, how true. Man is vile indeed.”
There is no doubt about the fact that the few who carried out the horrendous terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka are indeed vile people. While buildings were physically ripped apart so were the hearts, minds and souls of the Sri Lankan people who were recovering after a 30-year war which saw many thousands killed. Almost on the eve of the tenth anniversary of relative peace in Sri Lanka, violence reared its ugly head when suspected Islamic extremists detonated a string of bombs in churches and hotels which brought widespread disbelief to the vast majority of Sri Lankans and indeed the world.
Like innocent lambs being slaughtered, the faithful parishioners kneeling in prayer in churches on Easter Sunday no less, were massacred in cold blood by suspected suicide bombers. In the three luxury hotels where the affluent had gathered with foreigners more suicide bombers exploded themselves in the most macabre style causing death and destruction. As the tragedy unfolded first on on Whats app, Twitter and Facebook and then on mainstream media, people were aghast.
A sense of total disbelief and shock engulfed the nation. Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists were not spared, they were all slaughtered by a group of people blinded by their misguided faith. International media allude to a collusion between a Sri Lankan extremist group and the global fanatics. Investigations over time will yield the answers as to who actually planned and executed this dastardly attack and who helped who. It is also prudent to keep our emotions in check and learn from our past when Black July of 1983 opened the gates of hell which saw us endure a thirty-year war.
Despite all this tragedy and destruction the milk of human kindness flowed freely when people gathered en masse at blood donation centers to donate blood while people from all over the world called to check on their friends some of whom were not even known personally but were Instagram followers or Facebook friends. Such is the abundant kindness of humanity.
Our people’s grief is palpable and the emotions raw. While we grieve for those who died, those who are injured and those who are facing uncertain times let us not forget that we Sri Lankans have the spirit of resilience in our DNA. We are a courageous lot who can rise above this. If we cast aside our racial and religious differences and stand as one we can overcome the enemy. The need of the hour is unity and togetherness along with a strong political leadership. Now more than ever we need our international friends to stand shoulder to shoulder with Sri Lanka. While we appreciate the global gestures of solidarity of switching off lights at the Eiffel Tower and observing minutes of silence in football stadia across the world, the acid test remains as to how the international community will view Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. We need our industries especially the tourism sector to grow and the economy to prosper. That can only happen if the global community continue to visit Sri Lanka.What we need more than anything is the global confidence in us. A tall order given the current situation, but please don't pass us by. We are after all a serendipitous nation.