Belfast Telegraph

Sri Lanka attacks were grizzly reminder of country’s past horrors, says Northern Ireland cleric

The Rev Dr Maithrie White-Dundas
The Rev Dr Maithrie White-Dundas
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A Sri Lankan-born woman now living in Belfast has spoken of "the terrible evil and darkness" inflicted upon her country following the Easter Sunday bombings.

The Rev Dr Maithrie White-Dundas was reacting after eight blasts killed at least 290 people and injured over 500 others.

She was born in Sri Lanka and studied English literature at university there.

The minister moved to Nottingham in 2000 to complete a doctorate in English literature.

It was in Nottingham where she met her husband, Paul Dundas, who is from Co Fermanagh. She has lived in Northern Ireland for 11 years.

Rev White-Dundas learned of the attacks while preparing for the Easter Sunday service at St Columbanus' Church in Ballyholme, where she is serving as deacon intern.

"Waking up to the news on Easter Sunday and then celebrating the resurrection at the Easter services felt very surreal," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Singing hymns and sharing in the eucharist was a reminder of those who died while doing the same, without realising they were a heartbeat away from eternity.

"To hold the consequences of human evil and its darkness, together with the hope and glory of Christ's resurrection, was a strange balancing act."

Sunday's attacks are the deadliest seen in Sri Lanka since the end of the country's civil war in 2009.

Rev White-Dundas added: "It has been devastating to watch the scenes on TV - and to feel a terrible sense of deja-vu - probably what all Sri Lankans felt in remembering similar scenes from ethnic conflict of the past. The perpetrators are different, but the outcome is the same.

"The taste and smell of death feels visceral due to our past experiences and I have not been able to watch much of it on TV.

"As I thought further, I realised that Christians have always - throughout all history - lived trying to hold in tension the joy of resurrection life, with the reality of terrible suffering. It is the scale of it that differs and shocked.

"My own feelings 24 hours later, as a Christian and an ordained minister, is the need for forgiveness in the midst of all the cruelty.

"I know that Christian communities in Sri Lanka are already extending assurances to the Muslim community. This is as important in Northern Ireland as it is Sri Lanka."

There are fears that the attacks could plunge Sri Lanka back to the early days its civil war, which lasted from 1983 to 2009.

Rev White-Dundas added: "The Muslim community in Sri Lanka has always been peace-loving - for many of us, they are our closest friends and will remain so.

"But there have been extremist Buddhist groups that have attacked both Muslim and Christian groups and the worry is that there could now be a reaction against the Muslim community after this event that has now been identified as having links to an extremist group.

"The Muslim community has condemned and distanced themselves from the attacks but Christians are nervous about further attacks."

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