Yellowknifers gathered for a candlelight vigil to honour victims of the Sri Lanka terror attacks at Northern United place this past Sunday.
“We wanted to have something here in Yellowknife, in support and grieving with all of those who are affected,” said one of the event’s many organizers Anusa Sivalingam, a member of Yellowknife’s small Sri Lankan community. “There are so many ethnicities and peoples and religions that are in Sri Lanka. It’s a tiny island that is religious and ethnically diverse and it’s beautiful in its people, it’s beautiful in its land and we wanted to show support on this side of the world.”
Over 250 people were killed in a string of deadly suicide bomb blasts on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka targeting churches and luxury hotels. Islamic State jihadists have claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Dozens attended the event in Yellowknife, which included a moment of silence, speeches from religious leaders, a potluck dinner and the signing of messages that will sent to Sri Lanka later this year.
Nazim Awan, chair of the Islamic Centre in Yellowknife, came with many supporters from the Islamic community and provided a good deal of food for the event. He said that although the attackers identified as Islamic, they do not represent true Islamic values.
“There is always support for each other, which is part of what makes this place great.”
“All of us are affected because faith is the smaller part of the bigger human family,” he said. “We have different faiths, different colours, different languages, but at the end of the day all religions teach the same thing; respect of other people.”
Father Kirk Tastad, of the Holy Family Lutheran Church, also spoke at the vigil.
“It’s important that we remind the world and each other that we see what’s gone on and we won’t forget,” said Tastad. “It’s why we light candles, it’s why we stand shoulder to shoulder, to remind people that we see, whether it’s in Christchurch, California or in Sri Lanka.”
“We stand together to make it known that we desire to move together in a different way as one people, with shared humanity,” he continued.
Dulari Ranathunga, event organizer and a member of Yellowknife’s Sri Lankan community, spoke about her friends and family in Sri Lanka.
“I was afraid that if they went outside, they might not come back,” she said. “I was in mourning for a week and it became even more difficult when they cut off communication like Skype. It was important to get out and connect with the community again. There are not many Sri Lankans here but we’re close and events like these provide a sense of belonging with all the community which is important.”
Ana Sutendra left Sri Lanka for Canada in 1989.
At Sunday’s vigil, she said Yellowknife’s sense of community is what has kept her and her family in the city for many years.
“It’s very important that we come together today and show people that this is not racial or religious, that this was perpetrated by extremists,” she said. “You look around here and see people of every ethnicity and acts like this will not divide the community. There is always support for each other, which is part of what makes this place great.”