A Calgary family is mourning the death of their loved ones after a terror attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday left hundreds killed in eight bombings at multiple churches and hotels.
Hemasiri Abeysirigoonawardena, president of the Sri Lanka Canada Association of Calgary, said a local woman’s son and daughter-in-law are dead after attending a church service at one of the targeted locations.
“They are very shocked. They can not even talk to us. They are devastated,” said Abeysirigoonawardena, who has set-up a GoFundMe to support the families affected by the tragic bombings outside the Asian nation’s capital.
“When the (attack) started we identified the most affected families, and we are trying to help them,” he said.
Officials say more than 200 people were killed and hundreds more injured by explosions in and around the city of Colombo on Sunday, blasts Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described as a terrorist attack by religious extremists.
With churches being targeted in the bombings, Abeysirigoonawardena drew similarities to the Christchurch Mosque shootings last month that left 50 people dead as places of worship targeted by extremists in both attacks.
“No one knows how to stop these things happening, this type of religious extremism … This is a very sad situation where innocent people get victimized,” he said.
The bombings were reminiscent of a bloody, decades-long civil war which raged in Sri Lanka up until 2009 where rebels from the ethnic Tamil minority sought independence from ethnic Sinhala Buddhist majority Sri Lanka.
Condolences poured in over social media in the wake of Sunday’s attack, with the University of Calgary’s Sri Lankan Students Association saying “to see that peace shattered is a devastating thing for all Sri Lankans.”
“It’s extremely shocking that this has happened. It was obviously a coordinated large-scale attack on a religious minority in Sri Lanka,” the association said. “Sri Lanka has had it’s fair share of ethnic and religious conflict, but has enjoyed a hard-fought peace for the last ten years or so, with the end of the civil war.”
On Twitter, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the explosions “a heinous and disgusting act on one of the holiest days of the year, in a place that has known far too much violence and despair.”
Premier-elect Jason Kenney and Premier Rachel Notley also shared their condolences on social media.
“Shocking and tragic news from Sri Lanka this morning. Our voices join those around the world in condemning the horrific attacks on Christians as they celebrate their holiest day, and our hearts and our prayers are with those who were injured or killed,” Kenney said.
In a statement, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada said the organization was devastated by the tragic attack.
“It truly grieves us to hear of yet another senseless attack on innocent people. We are praying for the rapid recovery of the wounded,” said Lal Khan Malik, the organization’s national president. “We condemn this heinous act and offer our sincerest sympathies to the victims and their families.
“All forms of terror and extremism are completely against the true teachings of Islam,” said Mr. Lal Khan Malik, “The Holy Qur’an says to kill even one innocent person is akin to killing all of humanity.”