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Hundreds pray together for Sri Lanka

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Almost 900 Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, members of other Christian denominations and the general community sat side by side and “prayed for the same purpose” at a Mass held yesterday to remember those affected by the Sri Lankan bombings.

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With a message of peace and the need to “break the cycle of hate”, the service in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral provided an opportunity to pray for the more than 250 people killed and 500 injured in the bombings of churches and hotels, as well as for those who rescued them.

One of the guest speakers following the Mass was Professor Mohamad Abdalla representing the Imams Council of SA. He told the congregation that the strong presence of imams from the different mosques in Adelaide was a “show of solidarity”.

“Our hearts are broken…but we continue to stand against hate, discrimination and racism – anything that divides us as humans,” he said.

“Christian and Muslim faith traditions were deeply impacted by this tragedy. We want to reassure that we are here with you and stand with you as you stood with us after the tragedy in Christchurch.

“I personally visited the families of the victims of Christchurch two days after the event. I saw the grief and the pain in their faces and I can only imagine the grief and pain in the hearts of your friends, brothers and sisters…”

Professor Abdalla said he wanted to convey the message he heard again and again from the survivors and families of the Christchurch victims, which was “we must break the cycle of hate and not allow hate to infest our hearts”.

Professor Abdalla with Fr Marshall after the service.

Celebrating the Mass, Administrator Delegate Fr Philip Marshall had a strong message of peace, “the peace that comes when we find the right relationship with each other and with God”.

“We stand today because the way of violence is not the way, it can never work, reprisal cannot work. Violence upon violence, death upon death, suffering upon suffering – and children, women and men dying. But we can be different.

“I am proud of this city and the people in it because we have done this (service) and we sit here today in something that looks extraordinary to others…Christians and Jews, Buddhists and Muslims in one place, one faith, one love, one humanity, different paths, different connectors,” he said.

The service was attended by many dignitaries including the Governor the Hon. Hieu Van Le AC, Premier Steven Marshall, Labor leader Peter Malinauskas, State Government ministers, politicians, civic and religious leaders and Sri Lankan consular representatives.

In the prayer service prior to the Mass, members of the congregation lit candles in remembrance of the people of Sri Lanka. Hymns, readings and the Prayers of Intercession during the Mass were sung and spoken in Sinhala as well as English.

A special collection was held for the Sri Lankan victims and survivors, and Red Cross volunteers were available to provide psychological first aid for anyone needing support.

One of the organisers of the event, Prabath Perera, from the Sri Lankan Catholic Association, said he was overwhelmed by the number of people who attended.

The bombing at St Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Negombo hit close to home as his parents and brother were attending the Easter Mass when terror struck. His 80-year-old mother sustained a small injury to her head, however Mr Perera said they had been very lucky.

“I thank God for saving them. It was a miracle,” he said.

“People affected directly or in other ways are all shocked by this. We had a war 10 years ago so we never wanted to go back to those times, so we were really shocked by what happened in Sri Lanka and especially this time targeting the Catholics.”

Looking around at those who attended the Sunday night service in the Cathedral, Mr Perera said the Sri Lankan Catholic community appreciated the support.

“We have had support from all the Sri Lankan community, not just Christian but Buddhist, Muslims, Hindus and some Indians are here too, and also people who are here for the normal Mass.

“We all prayed for the same purpose today.”

Buddhist monk Gothatuwe Punya Thero was a guest speaker at the service.

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