Over 250 people were killed and around 500 others were injured in six coordinated attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, 21 April. Among the targets in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa were two Catholic churches – St Anthony’s Shrine in the capital and St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of Colombo – and another Evangelical church in the eastern coastal city of Batticaloa, wreaking carnage among the faithful during their most solemn feast of the year.
Funeral banners hang across the street in front of the bombed St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo: Vatican News
Just weeks after New Zealand united in prayer and sadness over the shootings at two Christchurch mosques, people throughout the country again came together in solidarity at prayer gatherings and vigils for those killed and wounded in the church and hotels bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
For the first time in Palmerston North, Sri Lankan Catholic families organised a prayer Liturgy gathering for their local community. Held at 4pm at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on Saturday 27 April, the community used the traditional format for the Litany for the dead and prayed in their own language. About 40 members of the Sri Lankan community attended supported by members
of other denominations and Cathedral parishioners.
Organisers said they are living far away from their own country and are feeling deeply about the sad situation. Some live here with their families while others are students who are feeling lonely and terrified for themselves and for their families in Sri Lanka. At the vigil they joined in prayer for those who died, those hospitalised, the hospital staff, for the special forces monitoring security, for the Sri Lanka people in New Zealand and for world peace. Bishop Charles Drennan and Monsignor Brian Walsh will be gathering with the community to celebrate a memorial Mass in coming weeks.
Sri Lankan Catholic families in Palmerston North organised a prayer liturgy gathering at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. Photo: Sagara Kumara
People came together on Saturday 27 April for an evening Memorial Mass service in Lower Hutt’s St Peter and Paul’s Church to show solidarity for those affected by the bombings. Assistant priest at Te Awakairangi Parish, Fr Joy Thottankara of India, celebrated the Mass.
In Nelson, people of all faiths and cultures held a peace vigil on Sunday afternoon, 28 April, organised by Nelson’s Sri Lankan community, at Trafalgar Park Pavilion. Candles were lit in honour of the victims and prayers were shared from members including the Quaker, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian communities.
In Auckland, people from different faiths and communities lit candles and prayed during a Mass at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Northcote, held to remember the victims. Local priest Fr Jude Algama, originally from Sri Lanka, told the gathering of about 300 people that terrorists do not dictate interfaith relations. Fr Algama said the week had been a very difficult time for his nation and also his local community in Auckland.
During his homily at the Mass, Vicar General of the Auckland Diocese Monsignor Bernard Kiely, said it was up to religious leaders to speak up at times like this. ‘Speak out and be very clear that the extremists and the terrorists do not dictate or determine the conversation of interfaith dialogue and relations. The Sri Lankan community here is small but deeply hurting, so it’s important that we as a nation surround them with our love and our prayer.’
Read more: Church in solidarity with Sri Lanka
Published in WelCom May 2019