“Communities Come Together in Washington to Honor the Victims of the Easter Sunday Attacks in Sri Lanka”

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Surekha Vijh-

It has been more than a week since tragedy struck in Sri Lanka on April 21, Easter Sunday.

The Sri Lankan American community in the greater Washington area are continuing to raise funds and have candlelight vigils to honor the victims of the Sri Lanka terrorist bombing attacks that killed at least 290 people and injured more than 500. Various other communities are also holding meetings in solidarity with the victims.

The Buddhist Vihar Society in Washington DC canceled their biggest festival, the Vesak festival, in order to commemorate the people who were killed in Sri Lanka. A memorial vigil will be held in the National Cathedral on May 5. The Catholic and other Christian communities are likely to join the vigil.

The Buddhist Vihar Society is the most prominent Buddhist temple in Washington DC.

Washington DC is also mourning Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a fifth grader, who was reportedly among the American victims.

Kieran’s father Alexander Arrow described his son as “articulate, insightful, and kind.” He said that his son, who would have turned 12 in August, was on leave from the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. and was living in Sri Lanka, where his mother is from.

Arrow said, “Kieran was just a foot in the wrong direction,” Both Kieran’s mother and grandmother survived the attack. Kieran was eating breakfast at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo when a suicide bomber detonated a backpack inside.

“I keep going over the last 11 and a half years and thinking about all of the little memories that we have together,” Arrow added, holding back tears.

According to Arrow, Kieran wanted to become a neuroscientist. “He wanted to address Alzheimer’s or other great unsolved neurological diseases and I know that he would have done that.”

Dieter Kowalski from Colorado was identified as one of the Americans killed in the attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Sunday. He was hailed as “big-hearted and full-spirited,” in a moving tribute by his boss.

Dieter Kowalski, 40, had checked into the Cinnamon Grand Colombo on Sunday just hours before it was one of three hotels targeted by the suicide bombers.

The Sri Lankan Students Association of West Virginia University hosted a candlelight vigil April 29, in Woodburn Circle, in memory of the victims of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.

Friends and family also mourned the death of London-based American investment banker Matt Linsey, 61, and two of his children, Amelie, 15 and Daniel, 19, in the blasts that hit the Shangri-La hotel.

Students from various universities in the DC area, along with the Sri Lankan Student Association, hosted a candlelight vigil tonight, to remember the lives lost due to the terror attacks in Sri Lanka.

According to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington DC, the number of foreign nationals whose bodies have been identified is 36. The fatalities were: one from Bangladesh, two from China, 11 from India, three from Denmark, one from Japan, one from the Netherlands, one from Portugal, two from Saudi Arabia, one from Spain, two from Turkey, six from the UK, one from USA, two holding US and UK nationalities, and two of Australian and Sri Lankan nationalities.

US Officials convey their condolences to Sri Lanka and families of victims

Human remains of 13 foreign nationals have been repatriated to date. Additionally, 14 foreign nationals are unaccounted for at present and could be among the unidentified victims at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s mortuary.

Twelve foreign nationals injured in the attacks are receiving treatment at the Colombo South Teaching Hospital and private hospitals in Colombo while others have been discharged from hospitals following treatment.

The Sri Lankan embassy has also given some emergency safety tips for travelers to Sri Lanka. An embassy spokesperson said although it is mostly safe in the cities, travelers still need to take precautions.

The State Department said that although the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Sri Lanka due to the security environment, they too gave safety tips for Americans traveling to Sri Lanka. If people decide to travel to Sri Lanka, they must be aware of their surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and crowded public venues. They should follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media for breaking events and adjust their plans based on new information.

They can follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter. US citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations.

Suicide bombers struck churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, in a highly coordinated attack targeting Christians and foreigners. The event has left the island nation reeling.

Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation, but it’s also home to significant Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities. A popular destination for tourists, the country has been largely peaceful since the end of its 26-year civil war.

Blasts ripped through three churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa as worshipers were gathering for services, police said. Bombers also struck three hotels and a banquet hall in Colombo, the capital.

The deadliest attack was at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a beach town about 22 miles north of Colombo. Negombo, known as “Little Rome,” is dotted with Catholic churches. Officials reported at least 104 dead there. Also targeted was St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade, the largest Catholic congregation in Colombo, and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.

Three police officers were killed in a “scuffle” at a home in the Dematagoda area of Colombo, police said. They had gone there to interrogate someone.

Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, had called it “the cowardly attacks on our people today” and urged the country to remain “united and strong.”

The bombings were the worst violence to hit Colombo since 1996 when a blast at the country’s central bank killed nearly 100 people. That attack was carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, which waged a war for a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka’s north for more than 30 years.

The island is home to around 1.5 million Christians, the vast majority Roman Catholic. The Singhalese majority are Buddhist, around 70 percent of the population, with sizeable Hindu and Muslim minorities as well.

The claim of responsibility for the attacks was made by the Islamic State (IS).  

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