World

Wounded in body and spirit, mourning Sri Lankans pull together

Christianity’s holiest day — one of joyous resurrection — turned deadly Sunday morning when suicide bombers inside three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka detonated bombs that tore open sanctuaries, shattered windows and splintered wooden church pews. Hours later, two more blasts near the capital city of Colombo widened the devastation.

Officials believe 290 people are dead. Another 500 hundred were injured. Though some foreign tourists were killed, most of the victims were Sri Lankan, leaving their families and communities to grapple with a degree of violence and carnage not seen on the island in a decade.

Cover photo by Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

By Monday, Sri Lankans found enough peace to begin to mourn.

The government announced plans for a mass funeral on Tuesday for the nearly 300 victims. In more-intimate spaces — on front yards and inside cramped houses — those who loved the victims gathered, too.

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Sneha Savindi, 11, was standing in line for communion at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo when the bombs detonated, the girl’s family told the New York Times at her funeral Monday. She died alongside nearly 150 other worshippers.

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

At some funerals, like Sneha’s, victims were sealed away in wooden boxes — a sign their bodies were too maimed to show. At others, blast wounds were covered by clothing and drapery.

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Many of the Sri Lanka victims were Christians, and nearly everyone in those tightknit religious communities knew at least one person who died.

On Monday, friends and relatives gathered to mourn Mary Noman Shanthi, 58, and Rohan Marselas Wimanna, 59, in Negombo.

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

In many families, more than one member was killed. Dimitra Silva lost his 13-year-old brother, Anos Silva, and his grandparents in the St. Sebastian blast.

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Some mourners, those who were injured in the explosions but ultimately survived, were confronted with wounds of the body and spirit.

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

A second day of fear and chaotic grief closed Monday with burials, at times with more than one coffin from the same family. Graves were prepared, white crosses were provided, and umbrellas were raised to fend off the rain.

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

On Tuesday, the Catholic community of St. Sebastian buried many of its dead. In a tent set-up outside the partly-destroyed church, religious leaders joined the many families as they said their final goodbyes to loved ones. A few yards away, bulldozers stood next to fresh mounds of red dirt for the freshly dug graves.

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post