SALT LAKE CITY — Faith leaders and members of Utah's congressional delegation on Sunday expressed sympathy and condemned violence against worshippers in Sri Lanka, where Easter bombings at churches and hotels killed more than 200 and injured hundreds more.
"Whoever committed this atrocious crime should be arrested and be brought to justice," said Amir Arain, spokesman for the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy, where he said congregants were grieving and in shock on Sunday.
"Everybody has a right to practice their religion in safety and security. It's a sad, sad day for Sri Lankan people, and we share their loss," he said.
The Asia Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement they were deeply saddened by the blasts.
"We offer our heartfelt condolences and sincere prayers to all of those affected by these tragic events," the statement said. "We mourn with those who lost loved ones and pray for those who are seeking to heal from the physical and emotional wounds they are now suffering. May the Lord bless them with peace and comfort in these trying moments."
Some members of Utah's congressional delegation agreed.
"As we celebrate the miracle of Easter, we hold in our hearts the victims of the senseless violence in Sri Lanka and their loved ones," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Sunday on Twitter. "We pray that they may experience God’s eternal grace, comfort and love."
Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said he was also praying for the southeast Asian nation and emphasized the importance of religious rights and personal expression.
"The tragic deaths & injuries in Sri Lanka, reportedly acts of religious extremists, are heartbreaking. Freedom to exercise religious or other beliefs & peacefully express individual identity must never be marred by fear. Praying for #SriLanka and for an end to violence," McAdams said on Twitter.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, expressed his sympathy, tweeting, "My heart mourns with the people of Sri Lanka."
Avais Ahmed, chairman of the Utah Muslim Civic League, issued a call to action.
"All of humanity is mourning these horrific attacks once again violating sacred faith spaces," Ahmed said in a statement. "These incidents should strengthen the resolve for political, community and faith leaders to prevent tragedies of this sort in the future. Our spiritual tradition not only condemns these attacks but calls for the protection of sacred spaces."
The faith's prophet Muhammad pledged to defend Christians in a letter to monks at Saint Catherine's Monatery in Egypt, promising to "protect them, and their properties and their morals," Ahmed noted.
"As a community and as our league, we stand together against hate, against violence, against evil," he said.
Contributing: Dan Bammes