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Christians make plea for help

22 November 2013


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 the perpetrators."

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 operating."

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 perpetrators."

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).

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