COLOMBO: Hundreds of Sri Lankans joined a protest organized by the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Colombo on Tuesday to stop Israel’s aggression on Gaza.
Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu leaders were all part of the rally together with residents of the Sri Lankan capital who chanted, ‘Free, free Palestine” and carried banners reading “Stop the massacre,” “Stop bombing Gaza,” and “Pray for Gaza,” along with Palestinian flags.
Dr. Sudath Dewapura, president of the Sri Lanka chapter of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, told Arab News that all those who joined the protest could “no longer bear” the killing of innocent civilians as Israel’s war on Gaza entered its fourth week.
Israeli forces have been besieging and bombarding the densely populated region in retaliation for a surprise attack by the Gaza-based militant group Hamas on Oct. 7.
Since the beginning of the escalation, Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 8,000 people and injured tens of thousands more.
“All the Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, everybody here today, everybody wants to stop the war,” he said. “They must stop the war.”
After the rally, protest organizers submitted a plea for action to the UN office in Colombo.
“I feel very strongly about what is happening there,” Brother Lionel Peiris said. A Franciscan from the Anglican Church in Colombo, he was part of a World Council of Churches fact-finding mission to report on the structural injustice and abuse of Palestinians by Israel.
“It is a racist state that practices apartheid, which does not allow Palestinians to have their rights,” he told Arab News. “Their lands have been taken from them, their water has been taken from them, their livelihood, their orchards. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
Like others, he took part in the Colombo rally in the hope that his presence would add to voices from all over the world.
“The world has got to stand for justice and truth, and for fairness,” he said.
The rally in Colombo became a multi-religious display of solidarity with Palestinians, who have been facing “systematic annihilation of their culture, their territory, their homeland, their right to life,” said Shreen Abdul Saroor, a women’s rights activist and one of the protest’s leaders.
“All these things in the last 75 years have been taken away by Israel,” she told Arab News, as she called for all religious groups to come together to “ensure that Palestinians have the right to their homeland, and to call for an immediate ceasefire, and put an end to this brutal war right now.”