A Sri Lankan priest in Dubai led a somber memorial service on Monday evening for the victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed dozens of Christians in his home city of Negombo.
Father Jude Angelo, assistant parish priest at St Francis of Assisi Church in Jebel Ali, said he had been told up to 80 people had died when a bomb ripped through St Sebastian’s Church.
His nephew is still being treated in hospital after injuries to his head, back and shoulder when the roof of the church collapsed.
Hundreds had gathered for a packed service on one of the holiest days of the year for Christians.
Fr Angelo, 56, described Negombo as a quiet and calm city, 35 kilometres north of the capital Colombo.
He is still waiting for news about other friends and relatives, but said receiving accurate information was proving difficult.
“Some families are completely gone and some are still missing,” Fr Angelo said. “I am so saddened by the situation.
“Easter Sunday Mass is when we come together in the main church and pray together, for peace and joy. But now peace and joy is no more.
“The only thing we can do is pray for the victims' souls and the families who are crying for their lost ones.”
On Monday night, about 100 worshippers gathered for the 8pm service at St Francis of Assisi Church.
Members of the congregation bowed their heads in silent prayer as Fr Angelo, who has been working in the UAE for about 18 months, led the hour-long memorial.
The Easter Sunday attacks, which appear to have been carried out by extremists, struck churches and hotels in the cities of Negombo, Colombo and Batticaloa on Sunday morning, with almost 300 confirmed dead across the country.
Fr Angelo first heard of the attacks when a colleague in Sri Lanka called him shortly after they happened.
He said he was still planning to stay in the UAE for the immediate future, but was aware he could be called back to Sri Lanka by the church.
“My family told me over the phone that my nephew is still in the hospital,” Fr Angelo said. “It’s not serious but he still needs treatment for injuries to his shoulder, head and back.
“In my home village area, some families are completely gone. Some of them are known to me and some are related to me, but the problem is I don’t know what is happening, exactly.
“We will pray for our country and the families who have lost their dear ones.”