Rebuilt, Like a Broken Church
In conversation with the people of Katuwapitiya after the Easter Sunday attacks on their church
Natasha Sewwandi, a Grade 11 student of St. Peter’s College, Negombo watches with great delight as the Katuwapitiya Temple, where she prayed for help and comfort, is being rebuilt. “At first I was sad and scared, but not now. I am very happy to see our Katuwapitiya Church is rebuilt. There are Muslims in our area too. Although there was a lot of pain at the time of the incident, we were not angry with everyone because of the actions of a few. Neither did we lose the friendships we had” the 16-year old said.
Poojani Nisansala (16), a student of St. Mary’s Maha Vidyalaya is aNatasha’s friend. She joined our conversation with a smile and words of inspiration. “After the attack, problems arose from drunkards in our area. When they tried to attack shops, the people in our village did not allow it to happen. The villagers told them not everyone was involved in the attacks. I have Muslim friends and our friendship is still there” she said.
Forty-five-year-old Malani Perera, who lives on the main street spoke to us about her thoughts about the attacks. “Not every Muslim is a disciple of Saharan, so we need to be focused and understanding. We want unity, not a divided state. The feast of Easter Sunday is our highest feast. The pain we felt was great, but we didn’t even throw a stone in retaliation. We had little resentment, that’s all. We controlled ourselves and that’s our religious upbringing,” she says.
Sri Vimukthi Fisheries Women’s Association of Maha Weediya in Negombo is composed of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim members. Since 2001, there are about 300 young men and women working for the welfare of fishermen. Among those who provide leadership, Manager Vincent Fernando was instrumental in the religious and social development of the area. He described the situation in Negombo after the April 21st incident: “Rumors and media have had the biggest impact on our people. The media could have been more responsible but it doesn’t happen, unfortunately. News published regarding security checks at mosques created fear and anger in the minds of people. These are things journalists should think about, isn’t it? Negombo is a multi-religious area where all three communities – Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim – live together. We were very fraternal. The brotherhood is still there. Although some people boycotted Muslim shops for sometime, the majority of us did not. This is the first time in my life that Easter lost its Divine Mass. But now it’s all over. Just as a destroyed church was rebuilt, so have people’s minds” Vincent said with a smile.