COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (BP) — As Sri Lanka continues to mourn at least 359 people who died in Easter attacks against Christians, a Southern Baptist seminary professor has called believers to consider the “conflict of ideas” behind the bombings.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the April 21 suicide bombings, according to media reports, and Sri Lankan authorities have arrested 60 people in relation to the attacks.
“Though the media doesn’t want to talk about the conflict of ideas that is back behind all this, I think we need to talk about it,” said Mike Edens, distinguished professor of theology and missions at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
A suspected leader of the coordinated suicide bombings at churches and hotels appears in a video that has surfaced, along with seven of his followers, swearing allegiance to the Islamic State, The Washington Post reported. The Islamic State also has issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, which injured 500 people in addition to the slain.
Sri Lankan officials have attributed the bombings to a local Islamist group, the National Thowheed Jamaath, according to media reports. The government said it is seeking to determine whether the perpetrators had ties to the Islamic State.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the Easter bombings may have come in retaliation for attacks last month in which an avowed white supremacist killed 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand, The Post reported.
Edens, who has ministered widely among Muslims abroad, said, “We need to be horrified and very strident in our opposition to the perpetrators of both” the Sri Lanka and New Zealand massacres. “Both of them, in seeking to suppress a religious expression, are destroying the image of God in the innocent individuals … in the mosques and in the churches.”
Focusing on the Sri Lanka attackers, Edens said “a group of people have been benighted by a false religion and are convinced that their job is to inhibit access … to the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
American Christians, “who have been blessed” with religious freedom, “need to be in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters of whatever denominational background they are in as they suffer around the world,” Edens said.
Near St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, where about 100 people were killed in a suicide bombing, a mass burial service mourned the dead today (April 24), The New York Times reported.
An article posted on the International Mission Board’s website stated, “We may not know the perpetrators or motivations of Sunday’s attacks any time soon. But they stand as a grim reminder of the need for the gospel in a broken world.
“The juxtaposition of such deadly actions against Christ’s utter defeat of death — on Resurrection Day, no less — is palpable,” wrote the IMB’s Caroline Anderson, a media specialist serving in Southeast Asia. “We Christians felt the pang of death, and we continue to grieve with brothers and sisters whose lives are at stake for the sake of the gospel each day.”
The nine suicide bombers who allegedly carried out the attacks are all Sri Lankans and mostly from educated, middleclass backgrounds, The Times reported.
Edens lamented that the attackers missed the help and healing the Gospel could have brought them.
“The Savior comes, and He transforms lives and renews broken life and gives us eternal life and a relationship with God,” Edens said, noting, “That’s the message the violent people in Sri Lanka … have missed.”