A candlelight vigil was held at the Alberta legislature grounds Monday night to honour those who lost their lives in a series of bombing in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
At least 290 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a series of co-ordinated bomb blasts that rocked churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Sunday. Authorities said many of the attacks, believed to be carried out by suicide bombers with a local Islamic group, targeted worshippers gathered to celebrate Easter.
Sri Lankan Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene described the blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, and police said 13 suspects had been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
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There were several vigils held in cities across Canada Monday. The Edmonton vigil was organized by the local Sri Lankan community.
“It’s to send good vibes to tell them, ‘We are here for you,’ and to pray,'” Rushlani Warnakulasooriya said Monday.
“We are together here praying for you, thinking about you and sending all the positive energy. That’s our goal… It’s for everyone.
“The candlelight vigil is not just for Sri Lankans, anyone can come, anyone can light a candle and pray.”
A large crowd of people gathered in front of the steps of the legislature Monday night, some with flowers and many lighting candles for those who died.
Premier-designate Jason Kenney was among those in attendance. He shook hands with people in the crowd before taking to the podium to speak. Kenney said he’s attended mass at St. Anthony’s Shrine in a Colombo, one of the churches targeted Sunday, and saw firsthand the faith of the Sri Lankan people.
Rushlani and her sister, Susan Warnakulasooriya, grew up in Negombo, Sri Lanka — one of the cities targeted in Sunday’s attacks. The women moved to Edmonton in 2016.
After growing up through the civil war, which ended in 2009, Susan said she couldn’t believe what she saw on the news on Sunday.
“I lived my childhood seeing people die every day from attacks,” she said. “When it ended, I thought, ‘It’s over. It’s never going to happen again. People won’t suffer anymore.’ When I heard about it, I thought, ‘It’s not real. It can’t be real. It’s not happening again.’
“Too many lives were lost because of the war, people don’t deserve this. Sri Lankan people back home don’t deserve this.”
The women had family friends who died in Sunday’s attacks. One of their friends, who is currently studying in the United States, lost his entire family.
“He called me when this was happening… He’s like, ‘My family is gone… They were in the church,'” Rushlani said.
“I didn’t know what to say. My sister and I were sitting on the floor crying. We were helpless. We didn’t know what to do.”
Compelled to take action, the women and their parents organized Monday’s vigil. Everyone was welcome.
“It’s about being a community, being a human being. Not being a Catholic, not being a Sri Lankan. It’s about being human and being together when we need each other,” Rushlani said.
With files from The Associated Press.