Sri Lanka Christians stay home to pray

Family in Negombo praying and watching Archbishop of Colombo's service on TVImage copyright

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A family in Negombo prays as they follow the Archbishop of Colombo’s televised service

Christians in Sri Lanka have prayed at home one week after a series of deadly bombings by Islamist militants.

Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith held a televised mass, attended by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

He called the attacks “an insult to humanity” in the service, broadcast from a chapel in his residence.

Sunday church services were cancelled after the attacks on Easter Sunday which killed at least 250 people.

“Today during this mass we are paying attention to last Sunday’s tragedy and we try to understand it,” Cardinal Ranjith said.

“We pray that in this country there will be peace and co-existence and understanding each other without division.”

How are the victims being remembered?

While Sri Lanka’s churches were empty, scores of people gathered for a public service outside St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo – the site of one of the deadliest bombings.

There, Buddhist monks joined Catholic priests for prayers in a show of solidarity with the Christian community.

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Crowds of people watched the heavily-guarded church from behind a barricade, with some singing hymns and passing rosary beads through their hands.

Many lit candles and placed them in a makeshift memorial for the victims.

And the church’s bells tolled at 08:45 (03:15 GMT) – the exact moment a bomber detonated his device one week ago.

The hands of its damaged clock tower are still stuck at that time.

What happened on that day of carnage?

As well as St Anthony’s Shrine, bombers struck churches in Negombo and the eastern city of Batticaloa, and hotels in Colombo.

Most of those killed were Sri Lankan, but dozens of foreign citizens were also among the dead.

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Crowds of people gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo

The military is still searching for militants linked to the attack.

On Friday President Sirisena said Zahran Hashim, a radical preacher suspected of being the ringleader, was killed in the explosion at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

Another 15 people, including six children, were killed on Friday when three suspected Islamist militants blew themselves up during a raid in Sainthamaruthu – near Hashim’s hometown.

The authorities blamed the local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) for the attacks, but said that they must have had help from a larger network.

The Islamic State group later claimed it was behind the bombings, but provided no evidence of direct involvement.

On Saturday President Sirisena banned NTJ and another group, Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI), from Sri Lanka.

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