A US delegation, which visited Sri Lanka to assess the climate for religious freedom, other human rights, and tolerance, have noted progress on the issues in Sri Lanka since the country’s 2015 election.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that it was encouraged by statements made by officials with whom they met, and in particular welcome comments in support of national reconciliation among all Sri Lanka’s religious and ethnic communities.
USCIRF Commissioner Eric P. Schwartz said that during their recent three day visit, USCIRF had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affaris, Mangala Samaraweera, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa, Minister of Buddha Sasana Karu Jayasuriya, and Minister of Muslim Religious Affairs Abdel Halim Mohamed Hasheem, as well as representatives from Sri Lanka’s diverse religious communities, among others.
“We are encouraged by statements made by officials with whom we met. In particular, we welcome comments in support of national reconciliation among all Sri Lanka’s religious and ethnic communities. After a devastating war and reports that religious minority communities were increasingly subjected to attacks in recent years, the new government’s engagement with religious minorities is an important step forward in the effort to promote national unity and increased space for all religious groups,” he said in a statement.
USCIRF welcomed other measures by the government, in the areas of freedom of expression and association in particular, which tend to create a climate conducive to religious freedom.
“We are very pleased to hear that reports of abuses perpetrated against minority religious communities have diminished over the last few months. We encourage the government to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable. We believe accountability will encourage a critical sense of security and well-being among affected communities,” Schwartz added.
While welcoming recent government measures, Schwartz called on the authorities to ensure the ability of religious communities to practice their chosen faiths without restriction. This includes the ability to build houses of worship and to be free of any acts of intimidation or harassment.
Schwartz said his delegation left Sri Lanka with a sense of great encouragement, and look forward to further progress on critically important issues.