Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told members of Darwin’s Sri Lankan community to use their various religious faiths to gather, comfort and hug each other following the East Sunday bombings.
When the local Sri Lankan Association heard Mr Morrison was flying in to Darwin on Tuesday for the election campaign, they invited him to a service at the Darwin International Buddhist Temple organised following the bombings.
At least 290 people were killed and more than 50 injured in the bomb blasts that ripped through churches, luxury hotels and a guesthouse on Easter Sunday.
Mr Morrison and NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner listened to Buddhist prayers and chants as well as the Australian and Sri Lankan national anthems.
The PM told the crowd on Tuesday he had spoken to Australian father Sudesh Kolonne, who found his wife Manik Suriyaaratchi and their 10-year-old daughter Alexendria dead after a bomb hit the Negombo church they were attending.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also expressed his “heartfelt thanks” for Australia’s response, including the local Sri Lankan diaspora which numbers about 90,000, Mr Morrison said.
“We remember Manik and Alexendria and our heart goes out to Sudesh, about this time in Colombo they are both being laid to rest,” he said.
“I look around at the young children here tonight, the women here this evening and the husbands and fathers.
“I think there is a unity of belief in humanity across all of these beliefs, as we seek to respond and absorb the terrible events that have occurred in Sri Lanka.
Faith is something that brings the community together, helps us to try and make sense of what is difficult to make sense of, to find peace in moment of violence.”
The Sri Lankan Association NT president Nishantha Wijesinghe, an eye surgeon, said many Darwin residents knew people that had been hurt or killed because they came from the town’s hit by bombs.
One of his colleagues at the hospital had a nephew in intensive care.
“We are all in shock and can not believe what has happened in the last few days but we have been overwhelmed by calls and messages of condolence from our fellow Australians,” he said.