Martin C. Barry
More than 300 people from all over the Montreal region attended a candlelight memorial service in Park Extension’s Jarry Park last weekend to express their solidarity with victims of the terrorist bombings which took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
Three Christian churches in Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in the commercial capital Colombo were targeted in a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings. Later on Easter Sunday, there were smaller explosions at a housing complex in Dematagoda and a guest house in Dehiwala.
In all, 253 people were killed,including at least 42 foreigners and three police officers. As well, at least 500 people were injured. Since then, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has taken credit for the attacks. Church attendance on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka is typically very high.
It was the first time since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 that the country had experienced a major terrorist attack. The bombings appeared to be planned in such a way as to cause maximum destruction, targeting Christians during worship services across the nation.
Among those from the Park Extension area who attended the memorial service were Vathany Srikandarajah and Nizam Uddin, who are president and general secretary respectively of the Himalaya Seniors of Quebec. Mrs. Srikandarajah is of Sri Lankan heritage.
“It’s very sad. So many children died. So many people died and so many people injured,” she said in an interview with Nouvelles Parc Extension News. “In some places whole families are gone.”
Struggling against terrorism
Nizzam Uddin said he was saddened upon learning of the tragedy. “This is sad news for us,” he said, noting that the Himalaya Seniors have always tried to promote cultural harmony in Park Extension. Regardless of anyone’s beliefs, he said it has become necessary to struggle against terrorism.
“We have gathered here today to remember those who were killed in the disastrous bomb blasts,” said Maithely Navaneethan, one of the service’s organizers. “And also we are going to pray for those who need comfort at this time and who need peace.”
Another tragedy in Sri Lanka
She pointed out that Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday terrorist attack was yet another affliction to befall the country in recent times, following the lengthy civil war and a devastating tsunami.
Among the spiritual leaders representing many faiths (including Christian, Islamic, Budhhist and Hindu) who spoke during the service was Christian pastor Michael Johnpulle, originally from Columbo in Sri Lanka.
“My dear friends and dear people, I just want to express my appreciation for your presence here this evening,” he said. “We are gathered together as one people. We come from different walks of life. We may belong to different creeds and races, but we are all one people here as one human race.
Remembering the fallen
“We have come to remember those who have lost their precious lives in Sri Lanka in the recent massacres – the bloody Easter Sunday massacres that took place in Sri Lanka,” he continued. “Therefore we appreciate your presence irrespective of your religion or race or whatever it is.
“We want to show our solidarity with the people in Sri Lanka and all the people who have lost their lives, their families, people who are suffering, people who are either shocked or are undergoing so much pain in their heart. We want to show solidarity with them. That’s why we have come together.”