The Embassy of Sri Lanka together with the Washington National Cathedral jointly organized an Interfaith Service of Prayer and Remembrance dedicated for the people of Sri Lanka at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC over the weekend.
According to a statement issued by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, the event was organised to remember the victims of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks and offer prayers for people of Sri Lanka.
A large gathering of guests was present including religious dignitaries representing Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths, members of Congress, US government representatives, Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, Sri Lankan community members, well wishers numbering over 1000.
The Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, led the congregation. Welcoming all to the interfaith service, Dean said the presence of such a large gathering of well wishers representing all religious denominations was a testimony of their respect and solidarity for the victims of all faiths.
The service of prayer and remembrance began with a procession of religious representatives walking down the aisle carrying candles in honour of the victims. The invocation prayer was offered by the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington followed by the playing of the National Anthem of Sri Lanka.
The Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Most Venerable Maharagama Dhammasiri Thero, Chief Priest of the Washington Buddhist Vihara, Ustadh Seyed Rizwan Mowlana, Founder of Medina Centre, His Grace Anuttama Dasa, Minister for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Rabbi Bruce Lustig, Chief Rabbi of the Washington Hebrew Congregation conducted religious prayers and offered blessings for the victims and their families.
Reading stances of the Sacred Script of Thripitaka, Most Venerable Maharagama Dhammasiri Thero emphasized the essence of Buddha’s teachings on mindfulness and path to righteousness.
Thero said all the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one word, Dhamma. It means truth, that which really is. It also means law, the law which exists in a man’s own heart and mind. It is the principle of righteousness. Therefore, the Buddha appeals to man to be noble, pure, and charitable not in order to please any Supreme Deity, but in order to be true to the highest in himself. At a time of crisis in our motherland, Ven Thero underscored the essence of being caring, kind, forgiving and compassionate towards others.
Anuttama Dasa, Communications Minister for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a global Vaishnava Hindu organization offered prayers from the Puranas and Vedas: “May the entire universe be blessed with peace and good hope, and may everyone driven by envy and enmity become pacified.” He ended by chanting Om and the holy name of Lord Krishna, asking God’s blessings for all those who suffered from the terrible attacks in Sri Lanka.
Ustadh Seyed Rizwan Mowlana reflected on the Holy Quran and Prophetic tradition reiterating that violence and evil has no place in Islam. God created mankind out of a male and a female and made them into nations and tribes so that they may dwell in harmony. The true servants of God are those who walk gently upon this earth and repel evil with good, and when confronted by the ignorant, their reply is “PEACE.”
Representing the Jewish community, Rabbi Bruce Lustig remarked " We turn in our Torah scrolls this week to Leviticus 19:18, which teaches us the primary commandment, to love thy neighbor as thyself. Despite the situation, hated and bigotry, we will not stop loving our neighbor. We stand for the sanctity of the sanctuary that no one should be fearful to pray and praise their God. May our response be to bring more of God’s love into the world, meet hatred with love, injustice with justice, and fear with faith.”
Christian prayers at Sunday’s service at Washington National Cathedral were offered by the Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, the Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral; and the Most Reverend Roy Edward Campbell, Jr., Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Prayers were read from the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and the famed Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
Charge d’ Affaires of the Sri Lankan Embassy, Sarath Dissanayake delivering special remarks conveyed his appreciation to the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Dean and staff of the Washington National Cathedral for organizing an Interfaith Memorial Service and thanked the religious leaders, guests and well wishers for being part of the congregation in remembrance of the victims. Echoing the sentiments expressed by those who spoke before him, Charge offered his prayers and blessings to the families of victims and conveyed his gratitude to the government and people of the United States and the likeminded for the outpouring of sympathy and support extended to Sri Lanka in the aftermath of attacks. In closing, Mr. Dissanayake spoke of the similarities in the teachings of major faiths that advocate their followers to embrace one another and practice loving kindness towards fellow human beings so that the world will become a better and secure place for all.
The Washington National Cathedral, officially named the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, is an American cathedral and the centre of Episcopal Church in Washington and the nation. It should be noted that major state funerals of former US Presidents and dignitaries have been held at the Washington National Cathedral, which is commonly called “national house of prayer” and “spiritual home for the nation” in recognition of being accepted by religious and political leaders as playing this role.
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