May 1, 2019

A Memorial Service for Sri Lanka

by Kurt Gottschalk


The first hot day of the year brought with it the chill of what Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Perry Greene, Ph.D., called “senseless, ongoing horror in Sri Lanka,” at a campus memorial service on April 24 for the 300 people killed in the Easter Sunday church attacks across that country.

Dr. Greene and members of the campus clergy addressed a crowd of about 60 students, faculty and staff gathered on the Flagpole Lawn for the afternoon service.

“There are few words to capture the senseless ongoing horror in Sri Lanka,” he said. “The haters speak with one voice against those they see as other than themselves: the other faith, the other race, the other gender, the other geography.”

He likened the attacks to recent mass killings in New Zealand and Pittsburgh, tragedies that also led the Adelphi community to gather in vigil.

“We are the voices of love and compassion,” he said. “We are the voices of people who care for each other.”

Rabbi Glenn Jacob, D.D., recalled visiting Sri Lanka three months ago, witnessing marriage ceremonies, and wondered about the lives and conditions of people in the diverse, multicultural, majority Buddhist city he’d visited.

“The Buddha taught, ‘Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful,'” Rabbi Jacob said, going on to point out that similar edicts are put forth in Christian, Muslim and Judaic doctrines.

“In each generation, every culture prays that we will live by the golden rule, because although we understand it, we never achieve it,” he said.

Adelphi Catholic Chaplain Father Jeff Yildirmaz had also visited Sri Lanka, serving last year in one of the churches where the attacks would occur.

“In the Christian tradition, the Lord Jesus challenges us to be good to those who hate us, to pray for people who persecute us,” he said. “That is one of the most challenging words of the gospel.”

Muslim Chaplain Abdin Chande, Ph.D., reminded the assembled that in the Muslim religion, sacred spaces are open to people of any faith and are protected by God. “Neither these buildings nor the people in them should be attacked or hurt in any way,” according to the teachings of the Quran, he said.

The afternoon ended with student Dori-Jo Gutierrez singing “Amazing Grace” while accompanying herself on guitar, and a direct message to students from International Student Services and Interfaith Center Director Wendy Badala: “Each of you has a responsibility to love, be kind to others and help to change and transform the world we live in.”


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