‘I love my Jesus, I love my Jesus’—A story from Sri Lanka

April 27, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

When Chrishanthini talked about her husband, Ramesh Raju, and the last time she saw him, she broke down, sharing her hope and strong faith.

“I love my Jesus, I love my Jesus,” she said crying, as tears streamed down her face.

Ramesh was one of the nearly 300 people in Sri Lanka who lost their lives on Easter Sunday 2019. A building contractor and father of two, 14-year-old Rukshika and 12-year-old Niruban, Ramesh was only 40 years old.

That morning as Christians gathered in churches to celebrate the resurrection, a string of more than eight coordinated explosions rocked the country, including three churches, four hotels and a home. Six of the initial explosions struck in the capital city of Colombo followed by two more in the picturesque town of Batticaloa on Sri Lanka’s east coast.

If he had not been there…

Chrishanthini shared with BBC reporter Rajini Vaidyanathan that the day her husband died, he also helped save many lives of Sri Lankans who had come for Easter Sunday services in Zion Church, a Protestant congregation. That morning, around 450 people had packed into the building. She recalled the events leading up to his death.

Chrishanthini, a Sunday school teacher, finished with her class and took some children outside for breakfast before the worship service. Ramesh was also in the courtyard when he spotted a man he didn’t recognize carrying a large backpack. The man said he had a video camera inside his backpack and had come to film worshippers inside.

“My husband sensed something was wrong and informed him he’d need to get permission first,” Chrishanthini told the BBC.

“He then forced him to leave.”

As she headed into the church, she said she heard a loud bang. Reports from those who were on site say people scattered in every possible direction, fleeing the blast and spilling out of the building trying to escape the fires caused by the bomb.

Chrishanthini and her family managed to get out and rushed to local hospitals searching for Ramesh. Hours later, she found the body of her husband in the church at the spot she’d last seen him. The family buried Ramesh on Monday. Local police attended the service.

If Ramesh had not stopped the attacker and he had been able to enter the worship service like other suicide bombers have done in the past, Zion Church would have seen many more casualties. According to the church’s website (which has since been suspended), more than 28 worshippers were killed, including a dozen children; another 27 were injured. The bombing is the worst violence to strike the town in a decade.

Forever-Changed Lives

Chrishanthini, also 40 (the same age as her husband) shared details of her own life, including the losses she has endured living in a country that has seen ongoing violence and bloodshed caused by Sri Lanka’s 30-year-long civil war. She was just a child when she lost both of her parents to the war.

“My mother was killed when I was very young, she had her throat cut,” she told the BBC. A few years later, her father was also killed in “suspicious circumstances,” she said. And her aunt was one of the 2,000-plus victims in Batticaloa killed in 2004’s Boxing Day Tsunami.

Chrishanthini and her children are among the 1.9 million Christians in Sri Lanka. Until now, persecution in the country (No. 46 on the World Watch List) had been confined to mob protests, mainly on the village level in rural areas, and did not involve sophisticated weapons or plots of mass destruction.

But on Easter Sunday 2019, that all changed. And life forever changed for Ramesh’s family.

The new widow and now single parent is comforted by her strong faith, Christian community and knowing that the stern and protective actions of her husband saved many lives–and the grief of many families.

Praying with the church in Sri Lanka

A believer and Open Doors co-worker serving in Sri Lanka shares her prayer in response to the Easter attacks in her country

Father,

It broke my heart to hear about the bomb blasts that killed my brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka on Easter.

I am shocked and angry. I wonder why You allow these things to happen. But Lord, Your ways are higher than my ways and Your thoughts, deeper than my thoughts. Lord, help me, help Your children see the light of Your grace in this darkness.

Lord, this incident brings chaos, grief and irreplaceable loss of loved ones amongst the Christian community in the country. What should I do in times like these?

My brothers and sisters need comforting words, hands to carry them through their darkest days, and hope to see them through these tumultuous times.

Lord what can I do now?

Lord how can I sit still and be quiet when parts of your Body is suffering?

“Child,” You say, “Pray.”

Lord I pray for the comfort of the Holy Spirit to cover the grieving families.

I pray for strength and perseverance for the Christians in Sri Lanka. Victims and their families are suffering loss, shock and trauma. Heal them Lord. Heal their hearts, their bodies, their souls.

I pray for wisdom for the Christian leaders to lead believers to make wise decisions during this fateful time.

I pray for peace amongst the ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka.

I pray for the safety and strength of the Open Doors field team.

I pray against the hatred and the heart of vengeance present in the heart of those who detonated the bombs. I pray for the government to take appropriate action and to bring justice—Your justice—to Sri Lanka and its people.

I am comforted knowing that You will take your children in Your loving arms. I am assured knowing that they are with You, though they leave a huge emptiness in the hearts of their families. I pray for comfort and assurance and healing from shock and trauma for the families of Your children.

Lord, I pray for Your intervention, for Your presence and comfort. Help me to keep praying for my brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus, I keep my hope in You, and I pray for Your mercy and grace to be over us all.

Amen.

Top photo: (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

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