Sri Lankans in Nova Scotia are mourning the loss of nearly 300 people in a series of targeted terror attacks that struck the capital of the Asian island nation on Easter Sunday.
Christian worshippers were killed in suicide bombings as they prayed in Colombo’s churches, while others were struck at upscale restaurants and hotels. Roughly 500 people were wounded in the coordinated attack, and to date, at least a dozen have been arrested in connection with the bombings.
It’s the most devastating violence on Sri Lankan soil since its brutal civil war, which ended about 10 years ago after nearly three decades of conflict.
After phoning friends and family to ensure their safety, members of the Sri Lanka Canada Association of the Atlantic Region (SLCAAR) say they’re still in shock.
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“I don’t think anybody has expected this or seen this coming,” Vishna Dandhurebandara, an executive committee member, told Global News on Monday.
“This is really, really unexpected. That is why we are in this much shock.”
The association represents the Sri Lankan diaspora in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. — about 700 people altogether. To the best of its knowledge, no Maritimers lost any relatives in the attack, but that doesn’t do much to soften the blow.
“Whatever the religion is, if somebody is attacking a religious event, that is the most brutal thing I can ever imagine, because religious gatherings are all about peace and prosperity, right?” he said. “So that’s the most brutal thing we can ever imagine.”
SLCAAR is now working with community members across all three provinces to organize vigils commemorating the victims of Sunday’s horrific attack. A candlelight vigil will be held in Halifax on Tuesday at 7 p.m. — likely outside City Hall — with a sister vigil taking place at the same time in Charlottetown.
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A memorial service will also be held at the Atlantic Buddhist Meditation Centre in Halifax at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, the same time that a candlelight vigil will be hosted in Truro.
“As families and individuals, we are very close,” Dandhurebandara explained. “I mean, we have lots of friends, for example, in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. They are visiting us, we are visiting them, so we are one big family here in the Maritimes.”
The association says these events are open to the public, and all are encouraged to come and support the Sri Lankan community.
About 400 Sri Lankans currently live in Nova Scotia.