Sri Lankans in UAE come together to pray for victims, survivors

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A special Mass was also held at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali on Monday (April 22) night.

Inter-faith services were held across Dubai to pray for the victims and survivors of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that killed over 320 people in Sri Lanka.

Religious and civic leaders - Christians, Buddhists and Muslims - also called for swift justice to the blast victims and their families as they reminded their compatriots to keep calm and remain vigilant lest the tragedy escalates into a religious conflict.

Heads bowed and hands clasped in prayer, Sri Lankan Buddhists chanted sutras at the Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery in Jumeirah on Tuesday night while on the other side of Dubai - in Oud Metha - Christians lit candles and offered a special liturgical Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church.

A special Mass was also held at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali on Monday night while Sri Lankan Muslims included in their thoughts and Salah (daily prayers) the victims of the horrific tragedy.

"Despite the tragedy, it is heartening to note that people from various religions and nationalities here in Dubai, come together to offer their condolences and prayers. This show of solidarity is the start of the healing process," Priyantha Perera, coordinator of the Sri Lanka Catholic Community at St. Francis Church, told Khaleej Times.

Sri Lankan priest Fr. Jude Angelo added: "Sri Lankans are a peace-loving people - we come from a small island nation and we have just survived a devastating civil war. Violence is rearing its ugly head again but we will ceaselessly pray to frustrate the forces of evil."

As they prayed for peace, the Catholics also demanded from the Sri Lankan government the prompt delivery of justice for the victims.

Visiting priest Fr Desmond Perrero, who came to Dubai during the Easter week, said: "We really don't know who instigated the attacks but the Sri Lankan intelligence and security was not up to the mark.

"But immediate healing can only happen if there is also swift delivery of justice, including providing post-trauma counselling for the survivors. I also call on my fellow Sri Lankans to keep calm so this tragedy will not spread into wider conflicts," added Perrero, who is the director of Caritas in the Diocese of Kandy.

Sampath Matthew Fernando from the Sri Lankan Catholic community at St. Michael's Church in Sharjah, also called for sobriety.

He told Khaleej Times: "I'm personally devastated, learning the scale of the attacks, and I know personally some of the victims. But what merits would it give us if we retaliate?

"I strongly call for peace, calm and forgiveness. An eye for an eye mentality should never have a place in this world so violence will never occur again in Sri Lanka or New Zealand, or any part in the world," he added.

Fernando's comment was in reference to Sri Lankan Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene, who told the parliament that "preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka (on Sunday) was in retaliation for the attack in Christchurch."

However, Dubai resident Mohamed Shiyam, a Sri Lankan Muslim, said: "The attack was barbaric. It is absolutely nonsense if someone is retaliating for the Christchurch attacks."

Afzal Mansoor, who also prayed for Sri Lanka, said: "Muslims strongly condemn the bomb blasts. This is not Islam; we cannot call them Muslims."

"Violence has no colour or religion - it is simply violence. To fight it, we will continue to grow stronger in our community. Here in Dubai, we will show how to respect each other and show tolerance," added Sitty Muzammila.

Sri Lankan expat Rubesh Pillai, a volunteer who helps run the Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery in Dubai, underlined: "No matter who the bombers are or whom they claim to represent, we understand that they represent no one but themselves only.

"There is sorrow in our hearts for the victims, for lives snatched away too quickly, for futures unrealised. We are grieving with the survivors because even one death is a death too much," he added.

To start the healing process, Pillai said members of the Mahamevnawa Buddhist temple have decided to donate funds for the rebuilding of the bombed churches and to create a fund for donation to those families that have lost a loved one or have suffered injury.

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Angel Tesorero

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