Just minutes before a bomb ripped through their Easter Sunday service, children at Zion Church in Batticaloa Sri Lanka, reportedly expressed their willingness to die for Christ.
“Today was an Easter Sunday school at the church and we asked the children how many of you willing to die for Christ? Everyone raised their hands. Minutes later, they came down to the main service and the blast happened. Half of the children died on the spot,” Caroline Mahendran, a Sunday School teacher at the church said, according to an account Israeli public figure Hananya Naftali posted on Facebook.
Naftali also shared about the children’s courage on Twitter, including a picture of the class.
These photos were taken at Zion Church in Sri Lanka during Sunday School moments before the blast.
22 of these children died. Moments before the blast, the Sunday school teacher asked these kids if they are ready to die for Jesus – they all raised their hands. pic.twitter.com/49TTB2FrJJ
— Hananya Naftali (@HananyaNaftali) April 22, 2019
The Rev. Kumaran, a pastor at Zion Church, told Times of India that he confronted the bomber at 8:30 a.m. local time, because he did not recognize the man, who was casually dressed and carrying a bag.
“I asked him who he was and his name. He said he was a Muslim and wanted to visit the church,” Kumaran said.
Some of the priests then ushered Kumaran away, as it was time for the Easter service to begin at the packed church.
While he was walked toward the podium, an ear-shattering explosion engulfed the sanctuary, killing 28 people, among them 12 children, the priest recounted to the Times of India. Others are in critical condition.
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) April 21, 2019
The Wall Street Journal reported the multiple Easter morning attacks in Sri Lanka targeting churches and luxury hotels killed at least 290 people and wounded 500 more.
Authorities believe National Thowheed Jamath, a radical Islamist group, is likely behind the attack.
Sri Lanka is an island nation off the southeast coast of India. The majority of its 21 million people are Buddhist. Muslims make up 10 percent of the population and Christians 7 percent, according to The Journal.
Authorities took 24 people into custody who are believed to have been involved with a least nine bombings in three Sri Lanka cities, according to CBS News.
Suicide bombers carried out the attacks.
The U.S. Embassy in Columbo confirmed to CBS News there are at least four U.S. citizens among the dead.
One of the four is Dieter Kowalski, an engineer from the Denver area who was in the country on business.
The CEO of his employer Pearson, a U.K.-based firm, related to the company’s employees that Kowalaski had just arrived to his hotel in Colombo when a bomb went off.
“I’m sorry to have to share the awful news that our colleague, Dieter Kowalski, was killed yesterday in the Easter Sunday atrocities in Colombo, Sri Lanka,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said in a public statement posted to his LinkedIn account. “Dieter had just arrived at his hotel, where many of our colleagues have stayed over the years, when he was killed in an explosion.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attacks in a statement on Sunday morning.
“Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security,” Pompeo said.
“The U.S. Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families.”
According to Open Doors — a group that seeks to raise awareness about Christian persecution worldwide — reports on average every month that 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons, and 105 churches or Christian buildings are burned or attacked.
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