COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's Roman Catholic Church appealed for calm and an alcohol ban on Monday (May 6) after a personal feud erupted into 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 north of capital Colombo was one of three churches and three hotels hit by suicide bombers on Sunday 21 April.
"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, said his spokesman Father Edmund Tilakaratne.
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.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a statement the government will compensate those who lost property in the night-time clashes.
A few hundred extra troops and police were deployed late on Sunday as authorities imposed a night-time curfew in the town.
Muslims make up around 10 per cent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka's 21 million population and Christians about 7.6 per cent.
The country has been under a state of emergency since the Easter bombings.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk