Vigil to take place at Sunderland church in memory of Sri Lanka terrorist attack victims

Reverend Chris Howson.
Reverend Chris Howson.

A vigil will take place at a Sunderland church so that Wearsiders can show support for the victims of last weekend's terrorist attack in Sri Lanka.

Sunday's bombings ripped through Christian worshippers at church celebrating Easter and guests at hotels.

Officers of Special Task Force search for explosives ahead of mass burials at a burial ground for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Picture by PA.

Officers of Special Task Force search for explosives ahead of mass burials at a burial ground for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Picture by PA.

The attacks killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 others, marking Sri Lanka's worst violence since its 26-year civil war ended a decade ago.

Authorities have blamed a local Islamic extremist group called National Towheed Jamaar, whose leader, known as Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary speeches online.

On Tuesday, IS claimed the attack, sharing images of the leader and other men with their faces covered before an IS flag to bolster its claim.

Before the bombings, Sri Lankan officials received intelligence reports and warnings that such an attack could be looming, but the information failed to stop the assault.

Following the atrocity, faith leaders in Sunderland say they will hold a vigil for people of all religions at St Mary's Church in Bridge Street, Sunderland city centre, tomorrow.

Reverend Chris Howson, who is Sunderland University chaplain, has called on anyone who wants to show support to attend the event, which is being organised by the city's Inter Faith Forum.

"We have people here in Sunderland who have been affected by the incident," said Rev Howson.

"It has mostly affected Catholic students and their families and we feel that we need to show support for them.

"Anyone who wants to express their sadness and solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka are more than welcome to join in the event.

"Members of the Sikh and Jewish communities have also been involved in putting this together so all faiths have been part of it."

The vigil will be held from 6.30pm to 7.30pm at St Mary's Church on Thursday.