LGBTI Sri Lankans have expressed their shock and grief at a terrorist attack that killed 359 people and wounded more than 500 others.
On Easter Sunday (21 April) six explosions detonated at three churches and major hotels in Sri Lanka. The hotels and two churches were located in the capital, Colombo while the third targeted church was in the eastern city of Batticaloa. Police reported two more explosions after the deadly six in other parts of Colombo.
The terrorist attack which happened during Easter Mass services has been described as the most violent act since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended about 10 years ago.
A local terrorist group known as National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) carried out the attacks, but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the terrorists likely had international help. The Tuesday after the attack international terrorist group Daesh (Islamic State) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Daesh released a video of the eight men who it claimed were the Sri Lankan terrorists pledging allegiance to the group. In a statement it said the attack targeted ‘members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka’.
The suicide bombers died in the blasts, but police have detained 60 people in association with the attacks.
Shocked and in disbelief
LGBTI Sri Lankans reacted to the events, promising ‘not to go back into the darkest of times we have experienced in the past’.
Leading Sri Lankan LGBTI advocacy group, Equal Ground said it hoped ‘our LGBTIQ brothers and sisters are safe’.
Local gay man Gavinda, said police were still finding explosives around the city. He told Gay Star News there was ‘so much uncertainty and fear’ and an ‘equal amount of grief and fear’.
‘I grew up in Negombo, where one of the church bombings took place and caused the most causalities. There were lot of friends’ of my family (affected),’ he said.
‘None of us could fathom what was going on. I woke up to a several missed calls from my sister and she was hysterical once I returned her calls.’
Sri Lanka is an island country near the south east coast of India with a population of about 21 million people. It has a diverse population of different religions. Buddhists make up about 70% of the population, Muslims 10% and Hindus 12%. Christians represent about 7% of the population.
But when it comes to LGBTI issues, Sri Lanka still retains British colonial-era laws which criminalize homosexual sex. It also does not have anti-discrimination laws in place to protect LGBTI people, but the government has promised that will change.
Gavinda said because of the stigma around being LGBTI, not many Sri Lankans are out. Therefore, it was impossible to say if any of the victims were LGBTI.
But that hasn’t stopped LGBTI Sri Lankans from feeling hurt by the terrorist attack. The community was also working to help support victims, including driving people to work because it is still not safe to take public transport.
‘The attack was on the whole society. We are all shaken by it,’ Gavinda said.
‘We are all coming together to help each other in any which way we can. Raising money to carry out funerals, Providing food and water, clothes and in little ways.’
Sri Lanka is still in a state of emergency to prevent any more attacks.
Gavinda echoed Equal Ground’s call to remain peaceful despite the fear and grief.
‘I really hope we can keep inter racial unity right now,’ he said.
‘Then comes the bigger fish such as the focus on the economical impact this has had and rebuilding tourism.
‘I continue to say that we must hang on to love and share kindness all around. Forgiveness seems like a luxury only a very few can afford right now but now is when we need it the most.’