Mr. Speaker, it was with deep sadness that I learned of the attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka that took place one week ago, on April 2, Easter Sunday. In a few short moments, an act of pure evil and hatred took the lives of over 250 women and children and men, and injured over 500. In mere seconds, children lost fathers and mothers, parents lost children, and families were shattered.
The majority of victims were Sri Lankan nationals. They were targeted in three hotels and three churches: St. Anthony's Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa. There is no doubt that the date of the attack was intentional. Easter Sunday is the holiest day on the Christian calendar. This brought back tragic memories of a similar attack on Christians just three years ago, when on Easter Sunday in 2016 the church community in Lahore, Pakistan was targeted, killing 75 people and injuring over 340; and of the Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt in 2017.
Let us be clear: These victims were targeted because they were Christian. As a Christian myself, seeing the statue of Christ in one of the churches covered in the blood of his followers was indescribably moving, for Jesus, out of love, shed his blood for us so that we might live.
This deadly violence occurred on Easter Sunday, the day that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death. It is this example of love that enables Christians to follow Jesus's teachings, to love and forgive our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.
It is this example of love and self-sacrifice that was demonstrated by Ramesh Raju of the Zion evangelical church in Batticaloa on the morning of April 21. This 40-year-old father of two gave his life to block the attacker at the church door, protecting over 600 people inside the church. Sadly, the attacker persisted and the bomb was detonated outside, killing Ramesh and 14 children from a Sunday school class, many of whom were the same ages as my own children.
In these dark moments, Christians suffering in Sri Lanka can look to God knowing that the light shines in the darkness and that darkness has not overcome it. John, chapter 15, tell us that Christ told his disciples that they would suffer for their witness. He said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you..”.
That does not mean that we should stand by, and that does not mean that we should not do all we can to fight those who would attack others simply because of their faith. As Canadians, we unequivocally condemn this act of violence and hatred toward Christians and the targeting of religious minorities throughout the world.
It was less than two months ago that we stood in this chamber to mark the massacre of Muslims in New Zealand. Over this past weekend, we heard again of a heinous and murderous attack on Jews marking Passover at a synagogue in California.
In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, it is easy to become desensitized to these attacks. We are shocked at the news footage as it comes in, but soon our attention is lost.
We must never get used to this kind of hatred and violence. We must never forget.
Together, we must resist those who attack someone because of their religious beliefs.
As Canadians visit our respective places of worship for our various religious festivals and holy occasions, we are reminded of the freedom and safety we are blessed with here in Canada. Would that we never take that for granted. On behalf of Canada's Conservatives, I reaffirm our commitment to combat all forms of hatred and injustice and pledge to continue to defend Canada's proud heritage of religious freedom.
For all who are recovering from injuries and the loss of loved ones due to these bombings in Sri Lanka, Canadians stand with them, and we mourn with them.