The Sri Lankan government announced on Monday the launch of a new police unit that is specifically tasked with investigating religious hate crimes on the island nation. Dramatic increases in attacks on churches and mosques by Buddhist radicals prompted the government to develop this new police unit. On the first day of operations, the new police unit had almost 300 complaints filed regarding religious hate crimes. Driven mainly by Buddhist nationalism, Christians and Muslims in Sri Lanka have found themselves the targets of mob attacks led by radical Buddhist monks. Will this new police unit change it situation for Christians in Sri Lanka?
4/29/2014 Sri Lanka (Lanka Business) – Sri Lanka police Monday announced a new unit to investigate religious hate crimes after attacks by Buddhist monks on churches and mosques last year raised concerns about religious freedom.
Police Inspector-General N. K. Illangakoon said the new unit would swiftly investigate any complaint relating to “religious matters” on the majority Buddhist island amid rising tensions over the attacks. “This unit will cover the entire country and deal with complaints relating to religious matters,” Illangakoon told reporters.
The move follows a series of attacks since early last year on mosques, churches and Muslim-owned businesses by nationalist Buddhist groups who accuse religious minorities of undue influence on the island.
Videos shared on YouTube have shown mobs led by Buddhist monks throwing stones and smashing a Christian prayer centre in southern Sri Lanka in January this year while police looked on.
Senior Buddhist monks have also been caught on video threatening violence against their moderate colleagues who advocate religious tolerance.
Moderate Buddhist monks and Christian and Muslim leaders have accused police of failing to prosecute those behind the attacks.
Religious affairs ministry secretary M. K. B. Dissanayake said the new unit was expected, through swift investigations, to ensure that isolated incidents did not escalate out of control.