Sri Lankan-born Father Joseph Figurado is the assistant priest at Christ The King in Mayfield West and St Peter-in-Chains Stockton. Last month, he held a memorial Mass at the church of Christ the King, attended by more than 100 people, to support his countrymen and to offer comfort to Sri Lankans living in the Hunter. “The Mass was held to show solidarity with all Sri Lankan families living in Newcastle," he said. "My homily message was 'Let us rise again and let us all strengthen one another with love and concern'."
Father Figurado was born in Mannar in northern Sri Lanka. He entered a seminary in Negombo in the south in 1993 and became a priest in 2006. He served in Negombo until he came to Australia in October 2016.
On April 21, Easter Sunday, three churches, three hotels, a housing complex and a guest house were bombed in a series of co-ordinated attacks that killed 253 people and injured more than 500. The BBC said evidence indicated Islamic extremists, backed by Islamic State (IS), were responsible for the brutal suicide attacks.
Father Figurado said Sri Lanka was a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country where Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus had been living together peacefully for a long time. He said continued co-operation and compassion between the faiths was vital to the nation’s recovery. “In this chaotic situation in which the country now finds itself, all of us Sri Lankans have to stand together in solidarity regardless of whether we are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims or Hindus. We must strive to live in harmony because we are, first and foremost, all Sri Lankans.”
Describing the attack as an “insult to humanity”, Father Figurado said he still has friends and family living in Sri Lanka struggling to come to terms with the carnage they have witnessed. “The day of resurrection, which is normally a day of celebration, became a day of death. Many of my friends and family have been affected by this attack, as have my brother priests and nuns who live in Sri Lanka. It is so sad to hear their stories,” he said.
In his homily at the memorial mass, Father Figurado said the cruel targeting of innocent men, women and children attending church had left so many questions unanswered. "After all these questions there is a huge silence. Each one of us has been extended beyond what we have thought possible,” he said.
"We are tired, the strain and pain still shows on our faces and in our eyes. The hurt and shock ... is deep in our lives, it has displaced our sense of order, it has disrupted our routines, it has changed our plans, it has altered our future and it has challenged out understanding of right and wrong and of good and evil.
"Perhaps the best way to deal with the silence of the hurt and of the shock is to seek refuge and strength from God and from each other – for all of us to unite, for all of us to stand together with the aim of healing."