Christians in the West awoke Easter morning to learn that their brothers and sisters in Christ in the East had been targeted in a series of terrorist attacks at churches and hotels in the south Asian island nation of Sri Lanka.
Vice President Mike Pence, himself a devout Christian, took to social media to offer his heartfelt condolences for the victims of an obvious “attack on Christianity” and religious freedom.
Pence tweeted Sunday morning, “[email protected] and I are monitoring the horrific attacks on those celebrating Easter in Sri Lanka. Our hearts & prayers are with the victims & their families. This atrocity is an attack on Christianity & religious freedom everywhere. No one should ever be in fear in a house of worship.”
The tweet from the vice president came in response to reports that hundreds of people were killed and/or wounded in a series of coordinated suicide bombings at packed churches during Easter services and at hotels popular with foreign tourists in various locations across the small island.
According to updated reports, at least 290 people were killed in the series of bomb blasts, and more than 500 others suffered injuries.
Coordinated terrorist bombings
Though no group has claimed credit for the attack as of yet, the Sri Lankan government revealed it had received advance warnings of a murderous plot by a local Islamist extremist group that is suspected of being at least inspired, if not actually affiliated with, the still dangerous Islamic State group.
In the aftermath of the bombings, the Sri Lankan government instituted a curfew and granted wide latitude for the military and law enforcement to detain and question suspects potentially linked to the attacks.
Thus far, 24 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, which reports suggest were carried out by a total of six suicide bombers dispersed among the targeted locations.
American citizens among the dead
The devastating events occurred at three separate churches in a trio of cities. The attackers also targeted three luxury hotels in the capitol city of Columbo.
Aside from the many Sri Lankan Christians who were brutally murdered or wounded by the bomb blasts, at least 39 foreign tourists were also killed — including at least four U.S. citizens — and another 28 were injured.
Billionaire fashion mogul Anders Holch Povlsen of Denmark reportedly lost three of his four children as a result of the terrorist acts.
As the vice president said, this was a targeted attack against Christians and the Christian faith, and such an atrocity must not be tolerated anywhere in the world.