Persecuted Religious Minority Group Members Speak Out
Members of persecuted minority groups spoke to reporters at the U.S. State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom July 16th.
The three-day gathering of religious leaders, civil society organizations, and high-ranking officials from nations around the world are meeting in Washington, DC, this week to discuss how to effectively combat the growing discrimination, intolerance, abuse, and genocide of minority groups who simply desire to exercise their religious freedoms.
Speaking on behalf of the 259 people killed and hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, when a series of bombs ripped through churches and hotels in three Sri Lankan cities, Yamini Ravindran told reporters that the survivors have chosen to forgive their persecutors.
“Even with so much disaster, suffering, challenges, [and] permanent changes … they are moving forward because they are forgiving,” she said. “They do not have hate in their hearts.”
Ravindran, the advocacy coordinator for the Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, added that the victims’ decision to forgive doesn’t mean their recovery has not been challenging. “It is difficult. It is very challenging,” she said, “but this is how they have chosen to respond.”
Asked how they were managing to cope after the attacks, Ravindran replied that Christian victims were determined to love their neighbors while claiming their hope of eternal life.
“We have been told to forgive, and the most important commandment is to love,” she said. “I think that is … the foundation of what we believe in, [and] that has really strengthened the Christian community in Sri Lanka. … It has really helped the Christian community to be very resilient and move forward from all this hurt.”
Farid Ahmed, a Muslim who had migrated with his wife from Bangladesh to New Zealand, also spoke.
Ahmed’s wife Husna was gunned down after helping others escape during the March 15, 2019, terror attack at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where the Ahmeds were attending Friday Prayer. Husna was among 51 people killed in back-to-back attacks at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center that day that also left 49 people injured.
“It shattered our whole nation,” said Ahmed, adding that following the attacks the community demonstrated resilience, forgiveness, and a coming-together of people of many different faiths joined through solidarity.
“Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhist believers [and] non-believers—all of them came together and they have been sharing the grief,” he said. “What I would like to say to the world [is] don’t give up. Don’t give up hope.”