Just when we thought the world has broken free of the murderous hold on terrorists, we were shocked into reality last Sunday, Easter Sunday, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, as nine Sri Lankan terrorists unleashed unprecedented carnage on innocent Christians worshipping in three churches, and spilled the blood of tourists in three hotels. They killed 359 souls, men, women and children and wounded more than 500. We vehemently condemn those acts and call on all men of goodwill everywhere in the world to do the same.
There have been overt insinuations that these murders were perpetrated as a reprisal to the Christchurch massacre in two mosques in Australia five weeks ago. Whether this is true or not, the carnage in Sri Lanka appears like a dastardly act. The carnage in Sri Lanka is clearly the next most destructive terrorist attack in the world since September 11, 2001. It is clearly a reminder that the struggle against terrorism must continue and, indeed, there is an urgent need for a renewed commitment by world leaders. The signs of complacency could be seen all over Sri Lanka last week. Repeated and explicit warnings by India and elsewhere were ignored and treated with levity, almost worse than what happened in the United States among competing agencies. But it has now been confirmed that petty squabbles, personality clashes and envies ought to have no place in the security system of any country. As was revealed last week, warnings were also sent to government officials concerning a certain cleric who eventually radicalised the misguided young men. But the warnings about the cleric were equally ignored and, in the end, 359 had to die.
The President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickcremesinghe, were expressing how sorry they were about the dereliction of duty of their security officials in sharing information which would have averted the catastrophe. But apologies are of little use after the fact on issues like this, for instance, how does an apology console one of the victims who lost his two daughters and many tragedies like that. Even the dismissal of the Sri Lankan police chief and defence minister does not even begin to atone for this monstrous disaster. The moral is: do not ignore any lead, or warning, no matter how tenuous.
Even more disturbing is the profile of the terrorists themselves, as outlined by the Sri Lankan deputy minister of defence who revealed the fact that the terrorists were, contrary to popular stereotypes, educated middleclass citizens, with university degrees, some even had second degrees, which proves that the struggle against the terrorists must be waged at both the intellectual and tactical levels.
But massacres like last week’s are clearly threats to international peace and security and must rouse the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to place the issue in the UN’s agenda at both the Security Council and the General Assembly. It is obvious that terrorism cannot be truly overcome without a truly global action. Peace remains the most vital element for global wellbeing and prosperity. The killings must be stopped at all costs. The world cannot pretend to be moving in the right direction when innocent people could be butchered for no reason other than their religion.
Respect for the religious beliefs of every individual has long been accepted universally, and religious freedom is a key to the fundamental freedoms which must be protected under all circumstances. Ultimately, every religion would be judged by its contributions to the wellbeing of the human race. Spilling innocent blood, while it may terrorise a population and disgust humanity, cannot win a human argument. This is what the mindless killers of Sri Lanka failed to understand.