Northern Ireland politicians and religious leaders condemn Sri Lanka attack
Northern Ireland's political and religious leaders have condemned yesterday's terror attack in Sri Lanka.
Six explosions at churches and hotels killed more than 200 people in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. The Easter attacks are the worst bloodshed Sri Lanka has seen since its brutal civil war ended a decade ago.
Tweeting yesterday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "On this Easter Sunday my thoughts are with Sri Lanka following the horrific attacks on worshippers there.
"It is a sad reminder of how many Christians around the world suffer persecution for their faith."
Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill extended her condolences and solidarity to the people of Sri Lanka after "the shocking attacks on innocent civilians at hotels and places of worship on Easter".
"There is no justification for attacks such as this which must be condemned in the strongest terms possible," she said.
Alliance leader Naomi Long added: "Never has the Easter message been more needed. It's a message of unquenchable hope, of unending love, of victory of the forces of death.
"Whether in Sri Lanka or on streets closer to home, it has felt like we're walking in the dark of our own Easter Saturday."
The attacks were also condemned by the leaders of the four main churches.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen, said they were "shocking and despicable".
"Many across the world will suffer opposition and persecution for their faith in Jesus, as He challenges evil where it rises.
"Today we stand in prayerful solidarity with them, as we remember in our prayers all who were murdered today in this shocking and despicable terrorist act."
The president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Billy Davison, said yesterday's events had been a "deliberate act of carnage".
"May those who carried out this act of destruction in the hope of fermenting reprisals, witness the coming together of Christians and other people of good will, to build a better future for the people of Sri Lanka," he added.
The Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said the attacks were a reminder of people being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
He said: "These Christians are our sisters and brothers. We stand in solidarity with them and they with us. There is nothing but devastation and fear and injury for these people, these communities and for Sri Lankan society."
Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all-Ireland, Eamon Martin offered prayers at Easter Sunday Mass in Newry Cathedral "in solidarity with the suffering in Sri Lanka".
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: "On this holy day, let us stand with the people of Sri Lanka in prayer, condolence and solidarity as we reject all violence, all hatred and all division."
Pope Francis also mentioned the attacks in his Urbi Et Orbi Easter message at the Vatican.
The pontiff said: "I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence."