christian church       Christians in Sri Lanka, off the southern coast of India, are facing an increase in persecution at the hands of Buddhist fundamentalists who believe the country is a historic Buddhist land that should not be shared with anyone else, a watch group reported.

Christianity is viewed in Sri Lanka as a product of Western colonialism that threatens Buddhists’ identity, the Washington-based International Christian Concern (ICC) said, adding that the practice of Christian evangelism is seen as an obstruction to Buddhists’ vision for the country.

ICC reported that 2012 and 2013 have seen a dramatic increase in Christian persecution in Sri Lanka, including Christians being attacked in more than 50 incidents in 2012 alone for practicing their faith. Reports of Christian pastors and their families being threatened and having their homes firebombed have almost become common, ICC said.

Catholic World News cited a bishop May 1 in Sri Lanka who said the cause of the uptick in persecution is the growth of what he calls the “Buddhist Taliban.”

Sri Lanka, with 21.5 million people, is 69 percent Buddhist, 8 percent Muslim, 7 percent Hindu and 7 percent Christian, and many of the Christians are Catholic, according to the Catholic World News report cited by ICC.

Open Doors cited an April press release by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, which expressed deep concern over the “prevalence of an organized campaign of hatred against adherents of non-majority faiths.”

ICC believes the motivation for the use of violence by Sri Lankan Buddhists is rooted in politics and ethnic identity.

“Without an urgent initiative to protect its religious minorities, Sri Lanka runs the risk of empowering an unhealthy nationalistic sentiment that will only subvert its earnest efforts to birth a better nation out of the ashes of war,” ICC concluded.

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