Joe Cook

Around 100 members of both the University and the public gathered this evening in remembrance of victims of the Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.

Great St Mary’s, the University Church, partnered with the Cambridge University Sri Lanka society and Fisher House, the Catholic chaplaincy to the University of Cambridge, as well as representatives of other faith groups, to host a candlelit vigil a week after six bombings at hotels and churches across the country killed over 250 people and injured a further 500.

Reverend Devin McLachlan, Associate Vicar of St Mary’s, welcomed “those of all faiths and none” to the service, adding that, on a evening when everyone “should feel welcome and comfortable and safe…we stand in solidarity tonight with the people of Sri Lanka, rejecting religious intolerance, bigotry and violence in all its forms.”

The service included music and readings along with reflections delivered by two members of the University’s Sri Lanka society. Talal Fazmin, treasurer of the society, spoke with warmth about growing up in Sri Lanka and the value he places on its multiculturalism. The attacks, he said, were an “affront to our way of life and all we stand for.”

Despite this, he added, time and again, it has been shown that “in the darkest of times there is light”, referencing the scores of people who rushed to donate blood in the wake of last week’s bombings, and the similarity of this to the outpouring of support which followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. “This is what is means to be Sri Lankan”, he said, “in times of need we will give the clothes off our back to help.”

Attendees lit candles before two minutes silence was held to remember the victims.Joe Cook

Aquila Hassan, Co-President of the Sri Lanka society also spoke, noting the interfaith support that she, as a Muslim, had personally witnessed since the attacks, as Christian friends reached out to her to make sure she was alright. In solidarity, she said “your pain is unimaginable…we grieve with you.”

“In a time when it is easier to marginalize people…we must stay united”, she said. “If we rise up at this time with love and kindness and compassion for each other…Sri Lanka will be just fine.”

Towards the end of the service, a series of prayers were led by Monsignor Mark Langham, from Fisher House, and attendees were encouraged to participate in whatever language they were most comfortable with.

Aquila Hassan, Co-President of the Sri Lanka society spoke at the vigil.Joe Cook

Tributes were also paid to the victims of other recent terrorist atrocities. Mentioned specifically were the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year, as well as those on synagogues in the US, first in Pittsburgh in 2018, and again, near San Diego, less that twenty-four hours before this evening’s vigil.

To conclude the service, the vicar, Adrian Daffern, offered up the hope that Great St Mary’s could be a place of gathering for all, “irrespective of who you are, who you love or where you’re from”, and donations were taken to be shared between charities suggested by Fisher House and the University Sri Lanka Society, including UK Students for Sri Lanka Emergency Relief and Aid to the Church in Need’s Sri Lanka Emergency Appeal.

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