Sri Lankan fears for his family’s safety
A Sri Lankan restaurant worker in Bermuda said yesterday he feared for his family’s safety in the wake of a string of Easter Day bomb attacks that killed at least 321 people in the country’s capital city of Colombo.
Joseph Ariyawansa said his wife and two adult sons, as well as other family members, escaped injury in the attacks, which targeted churches and hotels packed with people celebrating Easter, although they lived just a mile away from the carnage.
Mr Ariyawansa added his family now feared to go out, in case of further attacks by an offshoot of terrorist group Islamic State.
He said: “People go to church for help. They never expect this thing would happen to them.
“Families are now suffering. Some families, the entire family is gone. Children have no parents. We are still questioning why this happened to us.”
Mr Ariyawansa, 53, added: “The whole country is in a bad situation. My family is in danger. They can’t go out.”
He said people now avoided public spaces because they feared more attacks.
Mr Ariyawansa added: “It’s really sad. Because of the security and things happening, I wish I could be with them.”
He said he visited his family last summer and expected to visit again this year.
Mr Ariyawansa added he and his family were Catholic and had worshipped at St Sebastian’s Catholic Church, one of the bombed churches.
He added: “I have been to that church many times. Whenever I go on vacation, I go there.”
He said: “These churches are very helpful in the community. Every ethnic group goes there.”
Mr Ariyawansa said when he heard of the attacks he feared for his brother, who is a regular attender at 8.30am Mass at St Sebastian’s.
“When I called him, he said he was OK, but he was helping people to the hospital.”
Mr Ariyawansa said he knew his wife and sons were not at St Sebastian’s because they attended mass in their home parish at 6am.
He also had a friend who attended Mass at one of the churches, but escaped death or injury because they left just before the bombs went off.
Mr Ariyawansa said: “They wanted to go somewhere, so they left a few minutes before the attack.”
He added the attacks had devastated Sri Lankans, who had enjoyed peace for about ten years after three decades of violence.
He said the attacks appeared to be a co-ordinated assault on Christians, particularly Catholics, although one of the bombed churches was Protestant.
He explained that many Catholics would have gone to Mass on Easter Sunday and gone to hotels for breakfast afterwards.
Mr Ariyawansa added: “Catholics have been very peaceful people. We haven’t had any issues with any religion.”
He said people had asked: “Why Sri Lanka? Why Catholics?”
Mr Ariyawansa added he wished he could have his family in Bermuda with him.
He said: “I wish I could bring them here, but I can’t.”,