End scourge of extremism

End scourge of extremism

The coordinated attacks on churches and luxury tourist outlets that killed more than 200 in Sri Lanka gripped the world with unfathomable sadness. The death toll had climbed to 290 as of press time yesterday.

Though no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings on Sunday, which also included raids on three high-end hotels in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, it appears the militants timed their attacks to coincide with Easter celebrations, one of the most important Christian holidays. Many believe they primarily targeted Christians who make up 6% of the total 21 million population in the predominantly Buddhist country.

The Sri Lankan officials who are frantically trying to find the culprits believe the blasts were the work of religious extremists in what has been described as the deadliest attack on the South Asian country which has just recovered from decades of civil war between the Sinhalese Buddhist majority and ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindu or Christian.

The world, including various religious groups, has condemned the violence while offering sympathy to Colombo and families of the victims.

According to the Sri Lankan authorities, two dozen suspects were held in connection with the attacks that included suicide bombing. Initially, there were reports that a top Sri Lankan police official issued a letter early this month to state security officials warning of suicide attacks at Catholic churches by a radical Islamist group, the National Thowheeth Jama'ath. Senior government officials said they believe the group had a role in Sunday's mayhem.

At the same time, a New York Times report also brought to attention the rise of a radical Buddhist group in Sri Lanka, similar to some other countries in Southeast Asia. The same report also mentioned the emergence of a hardline Buddhist nationalist political force, led by outspoken monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero that has agitated against the minority Christians and Muslims. The monk accused the Christian elements of attempts to persuade people to accept Christianity.

"We see how these radical Christian groups from the West come here and try to convert Buddhists," said the monk shortly before he was jailed for contempt of court last year. Sri Lanka has seen religious violence, with Muslims and Christians facing persecution, over the past years, though the scale and nature of those attacks cannot be compared to Sunday's pandemonium, which have plunged the country into worry about the possible renewed communal violence. Police also reported late on Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west. Sri Lanka's government after the blasts blocked social media and messaging services, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, to curb the spread of misinformation.

The world has in less than two months witnessed high-profile attacks driven by irrational extremism that have killed too many innocent people -- one in New Zealand's Christchurch earlier in March as well as the Sri Lankan tragedies. Such atrocities accentuate the need for global communities to unite in eradicating religious extremism and forging harmony among those with different faiths.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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