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A new narrative after Christchurch & Colombo

  • 26 April 2019


What can one say in the face of yet another horror? This time it is the people of Sri Lanka who have suffered — Christians celebrating resurrection but 'bearing in their bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Christ may also be made manifest in their bodies', as St Paul puts it in his second letter to the Corinthians.

359 people have died as at the time of writing. The government has blamed National Thowheed Jamat, a virtually unknown organisation claiming Islamist inspiration while ISIS/Daesh — having been soundly beaten in Syria and Iraq by a combination of parties including Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbullah, Kurdish fighters and NATO — has claimed responsibility. There has been some suggestion that the perpetrators claimed to be acting in retaliation for the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch (also at prayer) by an Australian white supremacist last month.

It goes without saying that nothing can justify such attacks — not now, not ever — and Muslim groups, Christian groups, governments and individuals across the world have all expressed their horror for what happened in both Colombo and Christchurch. And yet, as always, there are obviously some people who weigh the chance of five minutes of notoriety in a hungry news cycle as worth all the dead, all the shattered wounded and all the grieving families.

The narratives, too, are playing out with depressing familiarity. As with previous attacks, there will be people who use Colombo as an excuse to further their own vendettas or narratives of a 'clash of civilisations'. The Sri Lankan government (still uneasy ten years after its brutal suppression of the Tamil minority in a horrific civil war) have used the attack to roll out further controls over its population — even though it seems that the security forces were warned of the attacks in advance but failed to use the powers they did have to prevent them.

This, too, follows in a terrible tradition. The perpetrators of the London Bridge bombings were known to British intelligence (and indeed, seem to have been veterans of an Islamist inspired group fighting in Libya with British backing). The Quebec mosque attacker was known to those who monitor far right groups — and the mosque itself had previously received threats.

The terrible fact is that, leaving aside the fact that terror groups of various stripes are often backed by governments when they happen to be