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Sri Lankan Catholic singing duo, forgives attackers
Colombo, 17 August 2013: "We have decided to forgive in the name of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us to enjoy the beauty of life," said Rookantha and Chandraleka of Sri Lanka, who consciously forgave those who "deprived them of their material wealth but certainly not of their faith in Christ.
Devout Catholics, the two popular veteran singers moved to the United States from Sri Lanka after they were attacked at home on 26 January 2000. Now, years later, they finally have justice. On 1 August, a court handed down long sentences to their attackers.
Notwithstanding the value of earthly justice and a desire for compensation, what matters for the Catholic couple is the supreme value of forgiveness.
A dozen officers of the President's Security Division (PSD) carried out a "political vendetta" against them and their family in January 2000, storming their home in Mattegoda, a Colombo suburb. During the raid, they threatened to "destroy everything." At the time, Chandrika Bandaranayaka was Sri Lanka's president.
Before getting away with the family jewels, precious objects, a car and a large amount of cash, the PSD officers doused the husband and wife duo with petrol, threatening to set them on fire, shaving Chandraleka's hair, all this in front of the couple's two children aged 8 and 2 ½ years.
The violent raid was carried out because the popular duo were sympathisers of the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP).
After 13 years, the High Court in Panadura convicted ten people, all members of the PSD. Nine of them got four years and six months of hard labour, plus financial compensation for the victims. The tenth member of the group, who is now disabled, was given four years and six months in prison.
Notwithstanding the verdict or the suffering and fears they endured, the Sri Lankan Catholic couple said that they have forgiven the raid's perpetrators.
"We do not wish them to suffer," they told AsiaNews, "but we respect and welcome the court's decision, even 13 years after the facts."
For Rookantha and Chandraleka, forgiveness is found in "the Word and in the teachings of Jesus who, on the cross, said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do". "Forgiveness in the case of a serious act is true forgiveness and we do so as Christians," they said.
"After the attack, along with our children, we knelt and prayed. We asked God to give us the strength to 'drink the bitter cup' and move on."