Christian persecution has reportedly taken on a new shape in Sri Lanka according to a Christian group tracking persecution there. Historically, Christian persecution was committed by radical Buddhist nationalists who violently attack Christians and their places of worship. Now, following a recent regime change in 2015, radical Buddhist nationalists have taken on a new legalistic approach. In many cases, these radicals are using local authorities and laws with no legal basis to close down and restrict Christians ability to worship freely. Despite this less violent approach, many Christians in Sri Lanka fear this new form of persecution is gathering pace.
4/13/2016 Sri Lanka (Christian Today) – Sri Lanka has a turbulent history. From multiple invasions and colonial rule to growing nationalism and ethnic conflict, the small island nation has seen it all.
The country’s ’30 year war’ saw violence between the majority Sinhalese ethnic group and the minority Tamil Tiger rebels. However, after the Tamil’s final defeat in 2009, Christians are the new target.
Miriam* is a religious liberties lawyer in Sri Lanka who works to defend the Church against increasing levels of persecution. She spoke to Christian Today about her work and the struggles Christians face.
“We thought we were going to see a change for the better after a new government came in in 2015,” she said. The previous administration was heavily influenced by Buddhist extremism and Christians were regularly subject to very violent attacks. The arrival of new president Maithripala Sirisena bought hope to embattled Christians.
However, in just over a year since Sirisena was elected, more than 120 incidents against Christians have been documented by Miriam’s organization. Indeed, the number of attacks on Christians has risen. In 2012, under the previous government, 52 incidents were recorded. In 2013 that figure had almost doubled to 103 incidents. Now at more than 120, the outlook is ominous for Sri Lanka’s Christians.
“With the new government we have seen Buddhist extremists take a back seat and adopt a more strategic approach,” Miriam said.
“The kind of persecution Christians now face is in the form of legal restrictions. On top of this there has been an increase in persecution carried out by local government officials.
“In many way this is more worrying because these are people with authority.”
Churches and prayer groups have been forced to close, Christian burials have been prevented and a number of violent attacks have been carried out against members of the faith.