When Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war ended in an equally brutal fashion a decade ago, there was hope that the island nation could leave its past behind. The Easter Sunday bombings, the first attacks of this scale since the war, are a reminder of how fragile the peace the nation achieved really is.
The attacks on churches and hotels, which killed more than 200 people, came at a crucial juncture: The country is still struggling to reconcile its past while building a new future. Sri Lanka has just emerged from a bitter constitutional crisis, sparked by the political rivalry between the president and the prime minister. And although the country is diverse—with a population that is more than 70 percent Buddhist, about 12.5 percent Hindu, 10 percent Muslim, and 7 percent Christian—and has remained more or less stable since the civil war, the past few years have shown how difficult it is to heal wounds from a nearly three-decade-long conflict. It is still unclear who is behind the bombings, though the country’s defense minister said one group was probably responsible and seven people have reportedly been arrested in connection with the blasts.
In the 10 years since the end of the civil war, all has not been grim. Tourism in Sri Lanka has increased and the economy has shown some promising signs. But last year, Buddhist nationalists went into Muslim-majority areas in the center of the country and burned Muslim-owned businesses and homes following tensions between the two communities. The move shocked the country, but it was hardly unexpected, given what the United Nations described as a “lack of accountability for past actions.” The UN was referring to the unmet promises of the Sri Lankan government made to the international community following the end of the civil war.