No Mass for Catholics; no veils for Mus­lim women

The Tribune (SLO) - - News - BY JON GAMBRELL AND KR­IS­HAN FRAN­CIS

AMPARA, SRI LANKA

The ef­fects of Sri Lanka’s Easter sui­cide bomb­ings re­ver­ber­ated across two faiths Sun­day, with Catholics shut out of their churches for fear of new at­tacks, left with only a tele­vised Mass, and Mus­lim women or­dered to stop wear­ing veils in public.

Many across the na­tion knelt be­fore their tele­vi­sions as Car­di­nal Malcolm Ran­jith, the arch­bishop of Colombo, de­liv­ered a homily be­fore mem­bers of the clergy and the country’s lead­ers in a small chapel at his res­i­dence in the cap­i­tal.

The clos­ing of all of Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches – an ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sure un­heard of in the church’s cen­turies on this is­land off the south­ern tip of In­dia – came after lo­cal of­fi­cials and the U.S. Em­bassy in Colombo warned that more mil­i­tants re­mained on the loose with ex­plo­sives a week after bomb­ings claimed by the Is­lamic State group and aimed at churches and hotels killed more than 250 peo­ple.

Be­fore ser­vices be­gan, the Is­lamic State group claimed three mil­i­tants who blew them­selves up Fri­day night after ex­chang­ing fire with po­lice in the country’s east. In­ves­ti­ga­tors sift­ing through that site and others un­cov­ered a bomb-mak­ing operation ca­pa­ble of spread­ing far more de­struc­tion.

“This is a time our hearts are tested by the great de­struc­tion that took place last Sun­day,” Ran­jith told those watch­ing across the na­tion. “This is a time ques­tions such as, does God truly love us, does he have com­pas­sion to­ward us, can arise in human hearts.”

Later on Sun­day, Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena banned all kinds of face cov­er­ings that may con­ceal peo­ple’s iden­ti­ties. The emergency law, which takes ef­fect Mon­day, prevents Mus­lim women from veil­ing their faces.

The de­ci­sion came after the Cabinet had pro­posed laws on face veils at a re­cent meet­ing. It had de­ferred the mat­ter un­til talks with Is­lamic clerics could be held, on the ad­vice of Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe.

In a rare show of unity, Sirisena, Wick­remesinghe and op­po­si­tion leader Mahinda Ra­japaksa had at­tended the Mass in per­son. Their po­lit­i­cal ri­valry and gov­ern­ment dys­func­tion are blamed for a fail­ure to act upon near­spe­cific information re­ceived from for­eign in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that pre­ceded the bomb­ings, which tar­geted three churches and three lux­ury hotels.

Po­lice said they had ar­rested 48 sus­pects over the last 24 hours as check­points mounted by all of Sri Lanka’s security forces sprung up across this country of 21 mil­lion peo­ple. Those ar­rested in­clude two men whom au­thor­i­ties re­cently ap­pealed to the public to lo­cate.

The gov­ern­ment also warned that it would crack down on those spread­ing false information and mak­ing in­flam­ma­tory re­marks.

Po­lice, mean­while, en­tered the main mosque of Na­tional Towheed Ja­maat on Sun­day af­ter­noon, just a day after au­thor­i­ties de­clared it and an­other or­ga­ni­za­tion ter­ror groups over the bomb­ings.

Po­lice en­tered the mosque, lo­cated in Kat­tankudy in eastern Sri Lanka, and stopped an in­ter­view among for­eign journalists and mosque of­fi­cials. Later, a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer dis­persed journalists wait­ing out­side, say­ing au­thor­i­ties were conducting a “cor­don and search operation.”

Po­lice then left, lock­ing up the mosque just be­fore af­ter­noon prayers were to start.

Au­thor­i­ties banned Na­tional Towheed Ja­maat over its ties to Mo­hammed Zahran, the al­leged mas­ter­mind of the Easter Sun­day bomb­ings. Zahran and masked others had pledged their loy­alty to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi be­fore car­ry­ing out the at­tacks, show­ing the dan­ger the ex­trem­ist group poses even after los­ing all its ter­ri­tory in Iraq and Syria.

MANISH SWARUP AP

Sri Lankan Army sol­diers lower the na­tional flag as the sun sets on Sun­day in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In a rare show of unity, Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena, Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe and op­po­si­tion leader Mahinda Ra­japaksa at­tended the Sun­day Mass in per­son. Their po­lit­i­cal ri­valry and gov­ern­ment dys­func­tion are blamed for a fail­ure to act upon near-spe­cific information re­ceived from for­eign in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that pre­ceded the bomb­ings, which tar­geted three churches and three lux­ury hotels.

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