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Long Island monk: 'We don't understand what happened to this world'

The Rev. Prasanna W. Costa, at the Church

The Rev. Prasanna W. Costa, at the Church of St. Joseph in Garden City, said he had lost contact with relatives in the area of the bombing. Credit: Newsday / Ted Phillips

This story was reported by Vera Chinese, Jesse Coburn, Rachel O'Brien and Ted Phillips. It was written by Coburn.

Members of Long Island’s Sri Lankan community expressed shock and sadness at the Easter Sunday bombings of churches and hotels in the South Asian country that killed at least 310 people and injured hundreds more.

“It is so sad. We did not expect something like that,” said Bhante Kottawe Nanda, resident monk at the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center in Riverhead, who himself is Sri Lankan. “We don’t understand what happened to this world. This should not happen.”

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested 40 people in connection with the bombings, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Rev. Prasanna W. Costa of the Church of Saint Joseph in Garden City said he asked parishioners in a service on Sunday“to pray for the victims, those who died and their families and also those in the hospitals.”

For Costa, who is Sri Lankan, the attacks hit close to home.

“My whole family is in that area, not too far away from these churches that the attacks took place,” he said. “My family is OK, but I have relatives ... I don’t know, I don’t know much about it because I cannot contact them any more. I contacted them this morning. Social media is blocked.”

“It’s a very mean act,” he said of the bombings. “What do they gain by killing innocent people?”

Don Jayamaha, of the Buddhist Meditation Center, estimated there are around 500 Sri Lankans on Long Island, many in Port Jefferson. Thousands more live on Staten Island, he said.

Local law enforcement agencies stepped up patrols in response to the bombings as Christians in New York attended Easter services Sunday morning.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and County Executive Laura Curran said in a joint statement that there was no known imminent threat to the county, but police increased patrols around religious institutions “in an abundance of caution.”

Suffolk police also said there were no specific threats there, but they increased patrols and were monitoring intelligence.

The Rev. John Melepuram of St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Old Bethpage called the reports of the bombings “very sad to hear.”

The church serves a community from Kerala state in southern India.

“Our hearts are with them and our prayers, too,” he said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed State Police to increase patrols at houses of worship.

“We will not be intimidated by cowardly acts of violence and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The deadly attacks on churches on Easter Sunday are as horrific as they are heartbreaking.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed solidarity with the local Sri Lankan community.

“Peaceful worshippers murdered on Easter Sunday,” de Blasio wrote in a tweet. “It’s unthinkable.”

NYPD spokesman Sgt. Brendan Ryan said in a statement that there were at the time “no specific credible threats to New York City. We will monitor and deploy our personnel as needed.”

In their prayer requests during Sunday service, worshippers at the United Methodist Church of Bay Shore called on one another to keep the victims of the bombings in their thoughts.

“Please remember these requests as you pray during the week,” lay reader Lois Fallon said.

Nanda, of the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center, said the center will hold a special meditation Tuesday at 7 p.m. in memory of those killed. The event is open to the public. The center is located at 5268 Sound Ave. in Riverhead.

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