Around 100 students gathered at the Silent Tree in front of Geisel Library in remembrance of those who were killed in the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday bombings on Tuesday, April 23. Hosted by UC San Diego’s Sri Lankan Student Association, the vigil included speeches from several student leaders.
Three Christian churches and three hotels were bombed by terrorists in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, April 21, killing approximately 250 people and injuring over 500. Two days later, terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Three student speakers from the Sri Lankan Student Association shared their personal experiences in Sri Lanka and expressed their shock and devastation for this tragedy. Later on, they conducted a minute of silence.
Nirosh Mataraarachchi, the president of the Sri Lankan Students Association, said that he hosted this vigil to show the power of unity.
“In order to show the power of solidarity and coalition, we wanted to have this vigil”, Mataraarachchi said.
Meanwhile, Mataraarachchi, who helped establish Sri Lankan Student Associations on other UC campuses, reached out to the other campuses to host vigils. UC Irvine, UC Davis and UC Berkeley all held their own.
Although many students expressed their grief for the event, they also shared a universal hope for solidarity.
Speaker Mihiri Kotikawatta, an undergraduate student from Colombo, one of the cities in which an attack was staged, expressed her hope for the Sri Lankan community.
“I have no doubt that with the love and support of the rest of the world, our island will survive,” Kotikawatta said in her speech.
Another student speaker, Ruvani Fonseka, delivered a similar message calling for strength and integrity.
“If anything positive can come out of such a dark event, I hope that we can become closer, find solidarity with one another, and help each other through this hard time,” Fonseka said.
Elizabeth Simmons, the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, pointed out that, although the tragedy appears distant from the United States, it still has an impact on students at UCSD because the campus has both international students and students with families outside of the U.S. Therefore, it is especially important at this point for students to show compassion and care for the students around them.
“Remember that some of the students around you might be impacted by Sri Lanka, by Christchurch, by Pittsburgh,” Simmons said to the Guardian after giving a speech at the vigil. “Be compassionate with your classmates, roommates and reach out to them. That is something that students can do for one another.”
Students from multiple religions gathered at the vigil and prayed for the tragedy in Sri Lanka. A student from the Muslim Student Association at UCSD expressed gratitude for the support they received after the mass shooting that took place in a New Zealand mosque last month and said they want to offer the same support to the rest of the community.
The student from the MSA also said that religious tension is incited by individuals who want to provoke hate and division, and that these individuals who carried out the attacks do not represent the entire religious community as a whole.
The Sri Lankan Student Association created a UC-wide fundraiser event with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to alleviate the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The funds raised in this event will go to projects that provide immediate needs and psychological support to those affected.
Photo by Vivian Yang.