Incidents of Christian Persecution in Sri Lanka Increase in 2017

ICC Note:

According to reports, instances of Christian persecution in Sri Lanka increased in 2017. Making up only 8% of the coutnry’s Buddhist-majority population, Christians in Sri Lanka endured as many as 90 instances of persecution in 2017. Much of this violence is perpetrated by radical Buddhist nationalists who believe Sri Lanka should be a Buddhist-only nation and use intimidation and violence to marginalize religious minorities. Will this trend of increased persecution continue into 2018?

01/27/2018 Sri Lanka (Goshen News) – According to “Christianity Today’s” Dec. 22, 2017, online posting, “The South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka earned its place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2016 with the world’s tallest artificial Christmas tree, reaching a height of … about 237 feet.” Located in the capital city of Colombo, “the artificial tree was erected as a steel and wire frame … and decorated with 6 million LED bulbs … and a star top spanning … 20 feet.”

Interestingly enough, the suggestion for the tree came from a Buddhist government official about four years ago in order “to promote religious harmony, peace and unity in a country long divided on religious and ethnic lines.” More than 70 percent of the population of Sri Lanka is Buddhist, just over 15 percent Hindu, about 10 percent Muslim and 8 percent Christian.

It was the Portuguese who first brought Catholic Christianity to the island. Then the Dutch brought their Reformed Church in the 1600s. Then in 1815, Sri Lanka became a British colony, receiving independence in 1947. Since its independence Sri Lanka declares itself a secular state and “its constitution guarantees religious freedom for all.” But it gives “foremost place” to Buddhism and says that “it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the … teachings of the Buddha … A Supreme Court ruling in 2003 determined Sri Lanka’s constitutional obligation was to protect only Buddhism, while other religions were not given the same rights of state-provided protection.”

Apparently the good intentions behind Sri Lanka’s world record high Christmas tree are not being realized. “Christianity Today” reports that incidents against Christians have increased and unfortunately with impunity — as many as 90 of them in 2017, as of December of that year.

One human rights attorney who represented persecuted minorities faced threats of losing his practice after citing statistics on television about anti-Christian attacks and harassment. This attorney briefly fled the country and then faced a seven-hour interrogation upon his return. And several evangelical Christians, also interrogated, “spent an entire day at a branch of the (Organized Crimes Protection Division) without food or water.”

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For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org