A candlelight vigil was held in New York City’s Union Square on Tuesday for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks.
One vigil attendee shared that “a collective space for our grief and anxiety was a comfort.”
The vigil contained messages of honoring and lifting up the lives lost, sending love, healing and solidarity for those harmed, grieving the loss of loved ones, and mourning the desecration of sacred sites. Calls were also made for the prevention of profiling and extremist and/or nationalist backlashes, and for intercommunity solidarity and pluralism. The organisers emphasized uniting together against fueling existing tensions between communities, and specifically uniting against Islamophobic rhetoric, policies and narratives as a whole.
Musician Elsz played their harp while performance artist YaliniDream introduced speakers.
Vyshali Manivannan read a piece she wrote in the wake of these attacks entitled “Your Loss is not Loss.” Artist and activist Thanu Yakupitiyage read a solidarity statement as a Sinhala Buddhist ally, calling out the Sinhala nationalist context that fuels sectarian tensions and violence on the island.
“We put this vigil together with acknowledgment that we must unite, while recognizing the decades long impact of the Sri Lankan State’s elevating of Sinhala Buddhism as the primary national identity over other ethnic and religious communities on the island; and the role that Sinhala nationalism has had in fueling sectarian tensions and violence against minority communities including Tamil and Muslim peoples; we organize as a multiethnic and multireligious group of islanders against the decades of trauma, pain, hurt, and loss this underlying landscape has caused,” the organisers said.
PEARL’s Advocacy Associate Thiviya Navaratnam read PEARL’s official statement on the Easter attacks, which urged the state to respect and protect human rights, especially among those of minority groups, while investigating and responding to the attack. The statement from the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka was also read by Bangladeshi-American Muslim ally Sharmin Hossain.
Attendees then placed their lit candles at the altar adorned by flowers and held a moment of silence to remember the victims. Singer Rolex Rasathy then led in singing a Tamil hymn, to which some attendees joined in.
“It can be so tough to be so far from home,” said Elsz, who grew up in Colombo and attended St Anthony’s church, “but I’m happy to have this family here with me in New York so we can support each other.”