04/24/2019 Sri Lanka (International Christian Concern) – In the wake of the deadly Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, many are continuing to wonder why the country’s Christian minority was targeted by terrorists. The suicide attacks on churches and hotels ranks among the worst single terrorist attack in Sri Lanka’s independent history and claimed the lives of at least 321 people.
Historically, Sri Lanka’s Christians have faced little, if any, hostility from the country’s Muslim community. In fact, due to their shared identity as religious minorities, Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka have developed a common bond.
Both Christians and, to a greater extent, Muslims in Sri Lanka face discrimination and sporadic instances of outright hostility from radical Buddhist nationalists. According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), there were 86 verified incidents of persecution against Christians in 2018. The majority of these incidents were perpetrated by radical Buddhist nationalists.
Similarly, in February 2018, a mob allegedly incited by Buddhist monks attacked Muslim properties in the central district of Kandy. As a result, 45 homes and businesses were damaged as well as four places of worship.
So why were Sri Lanka’s Christians targeted by Islamic extremists last Sunday?
Yesterday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the series of bombings. Sri Lankan government officials have further accused at least one local Islamist group of being involved. These government officials went on to claim that the attacks were a “retaliation” for the New Zealand mosque attacks in March.
This international connection may provide insight as to why Sri Lanka’s Christians were targeted. Across the world, Christians and churches are often viewed as symbols of the West. Terrorist seeking to make statements against the West target Christians and their places of worship because of the symbolic value they are perceived to hold.
Whatever the reason for the Easter bombings, it remains one of the worst tragedies to hit Sri Lanka’s Christian minority. As the Christian community attempts to recover from last Sunday’s loss of life and security, the international Church must keep them in prayer.
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