Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church appealed for calm and an alcohol ban yesterday after clashes between Christians and Muslims in a town scarred by the Easter suicide attacks.
Hundreds of security forces entered Negombo to impose a curfew after dozens of Muslim-owned shops, homes and vehicles were attacked.
St Sebastian’s church in the town 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of capital Colombo was one of three churches and three hotels hit by jihadist suicide bombers on April 21 killing 257 people.
“I appeal to all Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters not to hurt even a single Muslim person because they are our brothers, because they are part of our religious culture,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo.
“Therefore please avoid hurting them and try to create a better spirit of understanding and good relations between all the communities of Sri Lanka,” he said in a video message to the country.
The cardinal visited Negombo, held talks with clerics at a mosque and appealed to the government to shut bars in the Catholic-dominated town known as “Little Rome”, said his spokesman Father Edmund Tilakaratne.
“As a temporary measure, the cardinal asked the government to order the ban on liquor sales in Negombo area,” Tilakaratne told AFP.
In another televised appeal, Ranjith appealed to Christians, Buddhists and Muslims to show restraint.
A top police officer said two arrests were made after the latest clashes and more suspects had been identified through CCTV footage.
The officer said all will be prosecuted under emergency laws approved after the Easter attacks.
“At least three people were injured in the clashes,” the officer told AFP.