Thanks for (Interfaith) Praying for Sri Lanka

Many thanks for all who came out to the Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Sri Lanka – and to all those who prayed, wherever you were. The loving and steadfast group of two dozen who came out in the rain for the People of Sri Lanka are both compassionate and committed. So especially is Tasneem Hamead, the Muslim UB Student from Sri Lanka who was the initiator of the vigil. We stood in love, determination, and solidarity with her. She offered the following wonderful words:

To rekindle hope in turbulent times

Friday, 26 April, 2019

Niagara Square, Buffalo, NY

In a devastating tragedy on Easter Sunday, simultaneous explosions in churches and hotels claimed the lives of nearly 300 people and injured hundreds more. Sri Lankans at home and around the world are in shock and grieving. Sri Lankans have been sleepless since Sunday. The atmosphere surrounding my country and its people is one of fear-induced paralysis. Many have described their feelings as being in a haze or a dream, a dream in which there is no sleep, nor dreaming nor waking.

The perpetrators of this heinous crime have been identified as belonging to a radical Muslim group. Churches are now closed with the Archbishop of Colombo cancelling this Sunday’s service. There can be nothing worse than people being frightened to go out to pray. Muslim Friday prayers were also not held at some mosques today in a show of solidarity and also due to fear of reprisals.

As a Sri Lankan and Muslim, I would like to speak for all Sri Lankan Muslims and say how deeply grieved we as a community are. These vile attacks were carried out in the name of Islam, however much it pains us to say it. Yet apologies will not bring back the hundreds of people we have lost or console their families. It breaks me to tell you that Sri Lankan Muslims at large have not been able to protest this heinous crime against humanity as a state of fear persists along with the fear of being mistaken for terrorists.

Back home, when news of the bombings first surfaced, my best friend was visiting my family. I was suddenly struck by the realisation that she is Christian and I Muslim. Here was my Christian best friend, in a Muslim home, when Christians were being massacred in churches by Muslims. These attacks had suddenly placed the two of us in different boxes, boxes we were not previously aware of. This is what the terrorists wanted. To divide us and reduce the hundreds of innocent lives to mere victims: our people who have left us too soon are not victims. They are martyrs. And they will remain martyrs.

            I wish I could say we are on the path to healing and recovering now. I wish I could tell you Sri Lanka is solely focused on supporting our grieving people, but we haven’t been allowed that. Sri Lanka is so tense that it hasn’t been able to attend to its grieving population due to multiple threats, fears of more attacks, fear of reprisals. We have not been able to protest these horrific attacks: we have not been able to grieve as one community. We have only just come out of a brutal war since 2009; we were slowly beginning to rebuild, but Sunday’s attacks took it all away. Our hope is that this gathering might do a little, konjum, poddak from far away what our people cannot do at home. That we can come together, across oceans and within the island, at this hour of great need and feel for each other. To rebuild a sense of hope in us all.

Statement read by Tasneem Hamead at vigil for the victims of Sri Lanka’s Easter tragedy in Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York on Friday, 26 April, 2019. The vigil was organised by the Western New York Peace Centre, Tasneem Hamead, and the Muslim Women’s Council of the State University of New York at Buffalo.