Local residents hold a vigil to express solidarity with China in the efforts to battle the novel coronavirus outbreak in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb. 1, 2020. (Photo by Ajith Perera/Xinhua)
COLOMBO, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- As the sun set over the ancient city of Kandy in Sri Lanka's Central Province on Saturday, local citizens gathered at the Nelligala Temple to perform "pirith," a Buddhist practice of chanting verses to ward off danger.
The worshipers were invited by the Sri Lanka-China Buddhist Friendship Association (SLCBFA) to invoke blessings for the Chinese government and people who are fighting the epidemic of novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP).
According to SLCBFA Vice President Ajith Dharmawardena, around 70 percent of Sri Lanka's population is Buddhist, and the practice of coming to the temple to pray for oneself and others during times of distress and hardship is deep-rooted.
"China at the moment needs support, that is why we decided to come here to invoke the blessings of Lord Buddha to give a speedy recovery to people affected by the novel coronavirus in China and the whole world," Dharmawardena told Xinhua.
"I have confidence that the Chinese government and people will overcome this problem," he added.
Besides this prayer ceremony, Sri Lankans have taken many other acts of solidarity with China and will take more in the coming days.
The SLCBFA had previously organised two other prayer ceremonies, with one at the Kelaniya Temple, one of the most sacred sites in Sri Lanka, on Feb. 1 and another at Gautama Viharaya in Colombo on Wednesday.
A fourth SLCBFA prayer ceremony is slated for Feb. 15 in the ancient north-central city of Anuradhapura.
On Wednesday, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, together with several cabinet ministers, lawmakers and Chinese embassy officials, prayed in the Abhayaramaya Temple in Colombo in solidarity with China.
During the prayer ceremony, which was attended by around 1,000 people including locals and Chinese nationals living in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka would stand firmly with China because of the close friendship between the two countries.
On the same day, another prayer ceremony was held at the iconic Gangaramaya Temple in central Colombo for the speedy recovery of all patients of the epidemic.
During the prayer ceremony, organized by the Sri Lanka-China Journalist Forum (SLCJF), Colombo district MP Udaya Gammanpila said that although Sri Lanka is a small country, it would do whatever it could to support a long-term friend.
"When China is hurt, we shall cry," he said.
SLCJF Chairman Nalin Aponso also called on all Sri Lankans to support the Chinese government and people.
"We will never forget the support given by China when Sri Lankan suffered from tragedies, such as the tsunami, floods, landslides, war and terror attacks," he said.
Earlier on Feb. 1, the Association for Sri Lanka China Social and Cultural Cooperation (ASLCSCC) held a candlelight vigil in front of the Bandaranaiake Memorial International Conference Hall, a gift from China, in Colombo.
During the vigil, ASLCSCC President Indrananda Abeysekara expressed solidarity with the Chinese people and was confident that the Chinese government is capable of overcoming the challenge posed by epidemic.
Support from Sri Lanka to China also came in other forms. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday donated a shipment of his country's black tea to China as a gesture of goodwill.
On Jan. 29, the Sri Lanka Tourism Board released a graphic on social media with the phrase "We stand with China," stressing solidarity with the Chinese people and pledging to continue to welcome Chinese visitors.