The scenes of devastation in Sri Lanka are horrific to see, especially for those who grew up in the neighbourhoods that are home to the island country’s centuries-old churches.
Deva Wanigasekera, who was born in Sri Lanka, was devastated by the news. Wanigasekera now lives in Calgary but, like many other Buddhists in Sri Lanka, attended Christian schools.
“I have a lot of Christian friends, and it is shocking to me,” Wanigasekera said. “Any destruction of the Christian churches or the Christian people is not at all favourable for Sri Lanka, and I am very sorry about that.”
Members of Calgary’s Sri Lankan community have seen much ethnic strife during the country’s long civil war, which ended in 2009, but they say they’ve never seen attacks on the Christian minority in their homeland.
“That’s why we are so shocked,” said Somi Wijaya with the Sri Lanka Canada Association of Calgary.
“They don’t deserve it. They are poor people, and our country is hardly getting out of the poverty so at this time, this will kill all of our future dreams.”
The blasts came as members of Sri Lanka’s Christian minority prepared to attend Easter Sunday church services.
In Calgary, at St. Thomas More Church in the northeast community of Temple, Father John Pinto started Easter mass by saying prayers for the victims.
“I know it is a horrible thing, and we cannot compare in human terms the suffering the people are going through and will go through, but it’s life,” Pinto said.
He called on worshipers to turn to their faith, reminding them that acts like the Sunday bombings are relatively rare.
“We could be caught on the road with an accident or anything but we should not be victims of terror,” Pinto said.
Those attending Easter services at St. Thomas More were saddened by repeated attacks on places of worship.
“It’s so sad, especially when the community is giving a message of peace and joy. We believe in peace and humanity all over the world,” said Noel Jan.
Members of the local Sri Lankan community plan to hold a fundraiser for a Calgary family whose relative was killed at one of the churches. They intend to support the family and demonstrate that Buddhists and the country’s religious minorities remain united.
“We want to show whoever did this that we are stronger. They cannot divide us.” Wijaya said.