Hard-line Buddhist groups accuse Muslims of forcing people to convert and destroying sacred Buddhist sites. One radical Muslim group, the NTJ, has been linked to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues and has also reportedly plotted to attack Christian churches.
New Delhi, India, April 30, 2019 —
The Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka have lately been the latest flashpoint amid ongoing religious tensions in the island nation.
Sri Lanka has long been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.
A Christian group said there had been 86 cases of discrimination, threats and violence against followers of Jesus last year, with another 26 so far this year.
Reports Of Monks Trying To Close Down Places Of Worship
U.S. officials warned in a 2018 report that Christians had been pressured to close places of worship after they were deemed ‘unauthorised gatherings’.
The report also said Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship.
There have also been attacks on Muslims, with the government forced to declare a state of emergency amid a spate of anti-Muslim rioting.
Muslims Have Been Accused Of Forced Conversions And Destroying Buddhist Sites
Hard-line Buddhist groups accuse Muslims of forcing people to convert and destroying sacred Buddhist sites.
One radical Muslim group, the NTJ, has been linked to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues and has also reportedly plotted to attack Christian churches.
Of Sri Lanka’s 22million population, 70 per cent are Buddhist, 13 per cent Hindu, 10 per cent Muslim, and seven per cent Christian, according to a 2012 census.
Christians Appeared To Be The Main Target Of Attacks
Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community appeared to be the main target of Sunday’s attack. Christianity is a minority religion in Sri Lanka, accounting for less than 10% of the total population of 21.4 million.
According to census data, 70.2% of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist, 12% Hindu, 9.7% Muslim, and 7.4% Christian. It is estimated that 82% of Sri Lankan Christians are Roman Catholic.
The Easter Sunday’s attacks risk upsetting the country’s fragile post-war peace. Tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority led to a 25-year insurgency between the Tamil Tigers, classified by the US and others as a terrorist organization, and government forces.
More than 70,000 people died in the fighting, which ended when Sri Lankan forces defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009.
In recent years, the country has witnessed a surge in ultra-nationalist Buddhism led by the Bodu Bala Sena, the country’s most powerful Buddhist organization, which has pledged to defend the religion.
(Inputs From Daily Mail)