Following the bomb attacks at four hotels, one housing complex, and three Christian churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday -- 290 killed, over 500 injured -- officials there said they believe a radical Islamist group was responsible. Twenty-four suspects are now in custody, according to news reports. Cardinal Robert Sarah, a high-ranking official at the Vatican and a potential future Pope, denounced the "terrible attacks" and declared, "I condemn this barbaric Islamist violence."
"As we celebrate the resurrection of the son of God, the terrible attacks in Sri Lanka once again show how the followers of Christ are all over the world the victims of wild and foolish deeds," tweeted Cardinal Sarah on April 21.
"I condemn this barbaric Islamist violence," he said. "Pray."
Two of the churches bombed were Catholic and one was Protestant, respectively St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, and Zion Church in Batticaloa.
"Sri Lankan officials believe an Islamist militant group was behind the Easter morning attacks on churches and luxury hotels that killed at least 290 people and wounded another 500, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters," according to the Wall Street Journal on April 22.
The Telegraph reported on Monday that Sri Lankan officials "believed a local Islamist extremist group named National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) was behind the deadly Easter Sunday attacks, with officials adding it was likely the group had international support. A Sri Lankan government official said the attacks were carried out by seven suicide bombers from NTJ."
G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian diplomat and high commissioner to Australia, told the news service News 18 that he believes the bombings were in retaliation for the March 15 attacks on a mosque and Islamic center in New Zealand, which killed 50 people.
"[S]since the primary targets were Christians and the timing was on one of the holiest days for Christianity, this appears as a retribution for the killing of devotees at the mosque in New Zealand,” said Parthasarathy.
"This attack in Sri Lanka is significant as it takes place on Easter Sunday and the targets are churches and places where Christianity followers including western tourists were likely to gather in large numbers," he said. "This has international ramifications. They are targeting Christian-related places of worship with devotees there, similar to the way the mosque was targeted in New Zealand."
This attack required "meticulous planning from a professional terrorist organisation," said the former diplomat. "Therefore, one can say, it was to send out a very important message."
Cardinal Robert Sarah, 73, is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, appointed to that position in 2014 by Pope Francis.
Earlier this month, he warned, "The Church can not cooperate with this new form of slavery that has become mass migration. If the West continues in this fatal way, there is a great risk that, due to a lack of birth, it will disappear, invaded by foreigners, just as Rome has been invaded by barbarians."
"My country is predominantly Muslim," he said. "I think I know what reality I'm talking about."
"If Europe disappears, and with it the priceless values of the Old Continent, Islam will invade the world and we will completely change culture, anthropology, and moral vision," he said.