Fr. Malaka Leonard Fernando is the Minister Provincial of the Vice Province of our Lady of Lanka, Sri Lanka, of the Third Order Regular Franciscans. His residence is just half a kilometer from Katuwapitiya, where St. Sebastian’s Church was bombed. The Congregation also has a Friary just in front of St. Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya. Fortunately none of the friars were injured.
When did you get the news about the bomb blasts?
On Easter Sunday, I said Mass at 7.00 am at a nearby church. And just after Mass I got the news of six blasts that took place within a short space of time; Katuwapitiya, Colombo-Kochchikade, Baticaloa and three hotels in Colombo city.
UNICEF registered more as 47 died children in the massacre. You also have a school (minor seminary) a few kilometers away from the city of Negombo. What about the children, can they understand what is happened?
We Sri Lankans suffered enough from 30 years of war against terrorists. We thought that Sri Lanka was becoming a peaceful environment. But with these blasts, all our hope has gone. We are far away from peace. Today a considerable number of children have become victims of the blasts. Children are innocent. They are unable to understand what is happening. Most of the children are in fear. Schools are closed for a few days.
Is somebody from your relatives or the families of the children affected?
No, my relatives were not caught in the blast. But some very close friends were injured, and some killed.
What was the reaction of the Christians, are they in fear?
We never expected these kinds of incidents to happen in our country. On the one hand, Sri Lankan Christians always listen to their pastors. They do not harm others. On the other hand, most of the Christians are in fear. That is because only Christians were targeted by the attacks. But now the Police have continued carrying out raids and have arrested some people in connection with the attacks.
Did you take part in the funeral lastTuesday?
Yes. I did. Not only that; I asked all of our Friars (TOR Franciscans) to attend the funeral services.
What was the message of His Eminence?
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith expressed his grief at the explosions that occurred at three churches at Easter Sunday Mass. In his Message to the nation, Cardinal Ranjith invited the people to remain calm and asked them not to take the law into their own hands. His Eminence also expressed his deepest sympathies to the grieving families who lost their loved ones in the blasts, and wished a speedy recovery to the injured. His Eminence requested the public to be generous in donating blood at this hour of need.
What is your message for the world?
“There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” The way of peace is the path of love. St. Francis, our patron Saint, loved people and the nature alike. Let us take every possible step to avoid violence and live peacefully.
Do you know a prayer to our Lady of Lanka that we could share with our benefactors to pray for Sri Lanka?
Thank you very much for your concern for our country. May God bless you! We recite the following prayer every day for our country (Sri Lanka):
“O Most Loving and Tender Mother, Queen and Patroness of Sri Lanka, we humbly ask you to look upon us, your children, in our hour of need. Dearest Mother, you have come to our rescue, even in times of peril, from war and destruction. In your never failing love for us, we earnestly ask you, to dispel from our midst, waves of violence, killings and addictions, and various forms of evil actions to disrupt unity among people.
Help us to build in our land God’s Kingdom of Justice and Love. We entrust to your loving care and guidance all races and peoples of our country. Help us to bring about brotherhood, peace and unity in our society. Guide the destinies of our nation and obtain for us lasting peace so that all of us may live as brothers and sisters of one family. Amen.”