Attacks on religious minorities continued in 2017

The International Religious Freedom Report for 2017 was released US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback  at the US State Department on 29 May 2018.

The report on Sri Lanka  said  that  Buddhist nationalist groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, Buddhist Power Force) continued to promote the supremacy of the ethnic Sinhalese Buddhist majority and denigrate religious and ethnic minorities, especially via social media.

“Local government officials and police reportedly responded minimally or not at all to numerous incidents of religiously motivated violence against Muslim and Christian minorities.

The report also noted that in June last year, the then Justice Minister, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe publicly threatened to disbar and jail prominent human rights attorney Lakshan Dias for giving a media interview in which he stated that more than 190 documented attacks on evangelical Christians had occurred under the current government.

According to the report, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) documented 97 incidents of attacks on churches, intimidation and violence against pastors and their congregations, and obstruction of worship services.

The report also said that the Sri Lankan Muslim Council (MCSL) reported dozens of violent attacks on mosques and Muslim prayer rooms during the year, especially during Ramadan.

The report said that the government continued to enforce the ministerial circular issued by the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs in 2008, which required registration of and permission for construction of new places of worship.

According to evangelical Christian groups, local authorities selectively applied the circular and used it as a pretext for abuses of religious minorities. The legal requirement of religious education for children resulted in cases in which students belonging to religious minorities were forced to study the dominant religion in a given region, such as Buddhism or Hinduism.

The report says that Department and embassy officials met with Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu civil society activists and victims of reported attacks across the country to gauge the climate for religious minorities. In addition, embassy and visiting Department officials met with religious groups, civil society organizations, and government officials to express concern about harassment of, attacks on, and government and societal discrimination against members of religious minority groups.

In regular meetings with the president, prime minister, and other senior government officials, the Ambassador emphasized the need for respect for and inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities in the post-conflict reconciliation process. (State Govt)

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