Central Iowans ‘sickened’ by Sri Lanka disaster

AP PHOTO – Indians place flowers and candles as they attend a vigil outside Sacred Heart Cathedral to honor victims of Sunday's bombings in Sri Lanka, in New Delhi, India on Tuesday. Central Iowans said they were heartbroken at the news of the bombings.

For many in Central Iowa, Easter is a time to celebrate, but news of hundreds killed in bomb blasts on the other side of the globe darkened the holiday for Christians around the world.

International news sources reported more than 300 killed and 500 wounded while staying in hotels or worshipping during Easter services in the island nation of Sri Lanka, located just south of India. Local mental health expert Paul Daniel was born in Sri Lanka and came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old.

“Sri Lankans are resilient people. They have lived with a lot of strife for a long time,” he said.

That resilience has come at a cost. Daniel said the country has had about a decade of relative peace since an ethnic conflict ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009.

That conflict was mainly between majority Buddhist Sinhalese and the minority Hindu Tamil people. There are also minorities of Muslims and Christians living in the country.

Responsibility for Sunday’s attack was claimed by Islamic State representatives who said the hotel and church bombings were in retaliation for a mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand in March.

Daniel and dozens of other Central Iowans previously visited Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people in South- and Southeast Asia. That was in partnership with New Hope Christian Church, he said, as well as others who were interested in going.

“The church on the east coast that was bombed was a church we helped rebuild,” Daniel said.

He said communications with his contacts in the country have been difficult due to the tense situation in the last few days.

Penni Chadderdon of Eye Center Associates went on that mission trip with her husband, Dr. Abie Chadderdon, in 2005 to bring glasses to people who had lost theirs in the disaster.

She said the news of Sunday’s disaster was horrific.

“It hit home,” she said. “They’re in our prayers right now because that would just be really hard to handle.”

Kim Dostal and Becky Faircloth were other locals who went on that mission trip. They were part of a team working to build a shelter for displaced people, including orphans.

“When we were doing the construction and stuff, we dealt with a lot of the local citizens in getting materials and such,” Dostal said. “They were just so friendly … They were grateful for it, and to think now that the Christians are being persecuted like they are it’s just heartbreaking.”

Faircloth said she put in a lot of hard work during that trip in 2005, including learning to mix concrete by hand. All that work she did in the country made the pain of the news Sunday even sharper.

“I was saddened and sickened to my core. They already have been through so much and then to have something so irrational happening now,” Faircloth said.

She called for people across the area to pray for the people of Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the attacks.

Daniel, drawing on his experience as a Sri Lankan native and a mental health expert, said the most important thing for the country right now is to again start the healing process by coming together as a nation.

“It’s going to be pretty tense in the next few weeks,” he said. “One of the greatest things right now is to reinforce that bond.”


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