MEMBERS STATEMENT | SRI LANKA TERRORIST ATTACKS

Mr Melhem (Western Metropolitan): I also rise to offer my condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka, especially my deepest condolences to Mr Ondarchie and Dr Ratnam, my colleagues in this chamber, because of their connections with Sri Lanka and their Sri Lankan ancestry. Probably more than anyone in this room they have a bit more of an appreciation of what actually happened because of their links. My deepest condolences to them as well.

On Sunday, 21 April, a series of coordinated, cowardly attacks struck three cities in Sri Lanka, including the country’s capital, Colombo, when nine suspected suicide bombers linked to an Islamic terrorist group targeted three Christian churches during Easter Sunday sermons and four luxury hotels. The attack killed approximately 253 people, including at least 42 foreigners—two Australians, a mother and her 10-year-old daughter. We heard from Mr Ondarchie about how the father escaped from being killed as well. Many others were seriously wounded.

These bombings targeted the Christian minority of Sri Lanka—just 7.4 per cent of the country or 21 million people. These attacks took place on the holiest day of the year for these Christians—a day the attackers knew they would find families and communities gathered in peaceful prayer. The attackers are part of a small number of extremists that seek to spread terror and fear. They do not reflect the roughly 2 million Muslims that live in Sri Lanka peacefully, and they are a small part of the nearly 2 billion Muslims across the world.

One month ago, many of us stood in this place to speak to a similar cowardly act that occurred in New Zealand and targeted their Muslim population. Today my message is the same: there is no justification for any human being to take another human being’s life; there is no place for extremism like this in any society. All religions—including Islam, Buddhism, Tamil and Christianity—encourage peace and harmony as a central tenet. Anyone who attempts to use their religion to purport acts of terror is betraying their religion and their teaching. That is my message. They are coward terrorists. If you commit a crime in the name of your religion, whether you are Muslim, Christian, white or black, it is not the teaching of Islam and it is not the teaching of Christianity. Those religions I mentioned teach peace, love and harmony. They all believe in one God. It is the same God. There is no difference. We can call them different factions, but it is one God. They use the name of God to kill other human beings. The one place for these people is hell. They are taught that if they commit these crimes, paradise is waiting for them. Well, let me give you the mail: paradise is not going to be there for you; you will be going to hell. Our global community cannot let these terrorists win in their goals of creating division and disunity. We must come together in mourning and use all our efforts to stamp out this extremism in our society. To the Christian population of Sri Lanka: may you have the strength to continue your faith without fear. My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives and those who survived these terrible events.