Dubai: Over a thousand Sri Lankans of all religions gathered at a vigil followed by a mass at St Mary’s Church in Dubai on Friday in memory of those who died in last Sunday’s terrorist attacks.
Over 250 died and more than 500 were injured in eight simultaneous blasts in hotels and churches across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday (April 21).
Friday’s vigil, which took place in Sinhala and Tamil language, was attended by Sri Lanka’s Consul General to Dubai Charita Yattogoda.
Sri Lankan expat Gavin Benedict, was one of many at the service who had lost a friend in the attacks.
“My friend’s brother lost his life while having breakfast at the Shangri La Hotel,” he said. “It was an unexpected attack and the situation is still not over.”
Referring to the 30-year-old civil war in Sri Lanka that ended over a decade ago, Benedict said he feared a return to unrest in the country, but added that he was pleased to see the community come together in Dubai despite their different backgrounds.
“There is no partiality here, when it comes to race or religion, we stand as one because at the end of the day terrorism has no religion,” he added.
Lakna Godahena, another Sri Lankan at the vigil, also lost her classmate in the blasts.
As a Buddhist married to a Catholic, she said it was important for the community to stand in solidarity.
“Terrorism is not a religion,” she said. “It is a set of mentally sick people with an agenda that cannot be linked to any religion. Events like this one are important for Christian Sri Lankans to feel that we are all together and for our Muslim brothers and sisters to know that no one is blaming them.”
Having risen from its destructive past, Godhena said the country had now taken “15 steps back” with this violence.
Renchen Perera, who represents the Sri Lankan Catholic Community in Dubai, said: “Even our priest here today has lost relatives in the attacks, and in a moment like this, it’s great to see everyone come together regardless of religion.”
Following the service, another mass took place in English calling on all communities to come together in solidarity with the UAE’s Sri Lankan community.