Bermudian just misses Sri Lanka terror
A Bermudian missionary in Sri Lanka escaped death by minutes when Easter Day bombs exploded in the capital Colombo, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
Delbert Pearman said a decision not to take part in a football match near the targeted Shangri La Hotel may have saved his life. He said: “Three of the blasts took place along the route I had just run.
“If I had stopped and played soccer, I would have gotten caught in the Shangri-La Hotel blast because we use the shadow of that hotel to keep the blistering sun off us during the game.”
Mr Pearman added he had also walked past St Anthony’s Catholic Church in the city just minutes before a blast tore through the building.
The former treasurer of Bermuda’s Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and wife Curdell are missionaries in Sri Lanka, where the death toll from a string of bomb attacks is thought to total more than 250 people.
He said yesterday that an “eerie quiet” had taken hold in Colombo in the wake of the bombings, which terror group Islamic State claimed as their work.
Mr Pearman, now president of Sri Lanka’s SDA mission, added: “Tensions are high as grief gives way to rage.
“Since it has been determined that the violent acts were carried out by Islamic extremists, innocent Muslims around the country are being harassed.”
Mr Pearman said: “With so much talk going on, it is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Security is very tight because it is believed that there are still perpetrators waiting to strike again.”
The Sri Lankan Government’s clampdown on social-media hampered efforts to reach the Pearmans yesterday.
Mr Pearman said authorities in the country feared that the violence was “not over with yet”.
Mr Pearman, who began his latest term in Sri Lanka in October, said he would not quit the country despite almost falling victim to the string of explosions after he set out jogging on Sunday morning.
Mr Pearman said he was “no stranger to ethnic and religious tension”, because he had worked in “many troubled spots around the world”.
The couple lived in Sri Lanka 20 years ago at the height of the country’s bitter civil war.
The Pearmans also lived throughout the Middle East during the second Gulf War and in Ethiopia during domestic tensions between ethnic groups between 2005 and 2008.
He said: “What was different about this one is that it came unexpectedly.
“In other places, one knew where the trouble spots were, but not in this case.
“Twenty years ago, during an uprising, people would run to church for protection, because they were considered sacred, even by the perpetrators, and there was a respect for foreigners.
“On Sunday, the churches and foreigners became the target.”
Mr Pearman said his church had “a small following” in Sri Lanka with about 3,200 worshippers in a nation of 22 million.
He added one of his office colleagues had lost seven relatives in a church blast in the coastal city of Batticaloa.
He said: “The odds are in my favour — one person to 22 million. Despite the carnage, the Adventist church is still making advances, and our courage is strong.”
Mr Pearman said he had written letters of condolence on behalf of the church to the Sri Lankan president and prime minister.
He said: “I invite Bermuda to pray for Sri Lanka, and the many Sri Lankan families that have residence in Bermuda.
“Also, let’s not forget to pray for Bermuda, and the tensions it faces.”
A special memorial mass and a prayer for peace in Sri Lanka will be held at 6pm at St Theresa’s Cathedral in Hamilton on Sunday.