10/6/2023 Washington (International Christian Concern) — After recently visiting several locations in Sri Lanka, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioners Stephen Schneck and David Curry are calling on the government to improve their treatment of religious minorities.
Commissioner Schneck told the press, “We appreciated the opportunity to meet with Sri Lankan officials, religious leaders, civil society, academics, and journalists to discuss religious issues in the country. USCIRF acknowledges that religious communities have taken initiative to establish inter-faith dialogues at the local level; however, the Sri Lankan government must amend or repeal current discriminatory policies and legislation to allow for greater religious freedom for Hindu, Christian, and Muslin communities.”
As of 2022, approximately 7.4% of Sri Lanka’s total population is Christian. Buddhists account for 70% of the total population, many of whom believe Christianity is a product of Western colonization and a threat to the Sri Lankan Buddhist identity. Between January and August of 2022, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) documented 53 incidents of Christian persecution including acts of discrimination, threats, intimidation, violence, hate speech, and property damage.
Most recently, the government has arbitrarily used the prevention of Terrorism Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act to detain religious minorities. Additionally, a 2008 ministerial circular requires all religious groups to receive permission to register and construct new places of worship. This rule has placed limits on Christians as it is extremely difficult to obtain the proper authorization and is often disregarded by the public even after it is obtained.
“Challenges regarding the registration of places of worship, particularly churches and mosques, must be addressed by authorities. USCIRF urges the Sri Lankan government, at both the local and national levels, to pass guidelines that allow for a more transparent registration process. We also call for Sri Lankan authorities to offer more robust protection to religious minorities who report increased acts of discrimination, including intimidation, violence, and hate speech,” said Commissioner Curry.
International Christian Concern (ICC) stands with USCIRF in its recommendation for Sri Lanka to be included on the U.S. Department of State’s Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.
This designation would demonstrate that the United States is committed to religious freedom and is taking further action against the government of Sri Lanka for its actions against Christians.
We pray that God would guide officials in the state department as they prepare to make designations for international religious freedom. We trust in the all-powerful, all-knowing, and lobing hand of the father to guide us.