CHRISTIANS in Sri Lanka
have urged the UK Government and the international community to
raise concerns with the Sri Lankan authorities over alleged
human-rights abuses and religious discrimination.
The Prime Minister was in
Sri Lanka last weekend (above) to attend the Commonwealth
Heads of Government Meeting, and said that he would press President
Mahinda Rajapaksa to investigate claims that Tamils, Muslims, and
Christians had been attacked in recent years.
There have been
increasing reports of extremists from the majority Buddhist
community attacking minorities. Yamini Ravindran, of the National
Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, said this week: "There
have been more reported incidents than last year.
"One of the main reasons
for the rise is because certain Buddhist nationalist groups and
monks claim Sri Lanka is a Buddhist nation, and target minorities,
especially Christians, saying it is a Western religion. The police
don't take the side of the Christians; in most cases, they are with
Ms Ravindran said that
other countries could help the situation by putting pressure on the
Sri Lankan authorities to investigate such attacks.
In a statement, the
religious-freedom advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide
said that there had been 65 violent attacks on Christians in Sri
Lanka so far this year: "This trend has been accompanied by
tightening administrative regulation, especially in the south,
including demands from local officials for long-established
churches to prove their legality in order to be allowed to continue
The group's chief
executive, Mervyn Thomas, said: "If Sri Lanka is to make meaningful
progress on reconciliation and developing a culture of pluralism,
it must do much more to address the violence and discrimination
suffered by its religious minorities."
After a week-long visit
to the island in August this year, the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told the UN Human Rights Council: "I am
particularly alarmed at the recent surge in incitement of hatred
and violence against religious minorities, including attacks on
churches and mosques, and the lack of swift action against the
In February, 133 Sri
Lankan clerics wrote to the UN Human Rights Council calling for an
investigation into alleged abuses (News, 22 February).
They said that the
authorities had shown a "total lack of political will" to
investigate allegations, and that critics of the regime, including
clergy, had been assaulted, arrested, and intimidated by the
military and the police.
In March, the former Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Revd Duleep de
Chickera, was among several prominent Sri Lankans to call on
President Rajapaksa to denounce hate campaigns against mosques and
Muslim businesses (News, 15 March).