The United States has taken note that the Government has yet to prosecute monks involved in attacks against Muslims and Christians in 2014.
The annual US State Department International Religious Freedom Report for 2016 released yesterday notes that the Government continued to permit the construction of Buddhist statues in non-Buddhist areas despite strong objections from members of the Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities.
“The US Ambassador urged political leaders to take action to defend religious minorities and to protect religious freedom for everyone. The Ambassador encouraged the Government to make the national reconciliation process inclusive of religious minorities and to be protective of minority rights and sentiments. Embassy personnel also met with religious leaders to urge them to assume a leadership role in bridging the ethnic and religious divide in support of interfaith harmony. The embassy continued to support programs and host events designed to promote dialogue among religious and ethnic groups, and embassy officers met regularly with leaders and representatives from a broad range of religious groups to encourage them to play a leading role in reconciliation,” the report released by US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said.
According to the report, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) documented 85 incidents of attacks on churches, intimidation and violence against pastors and their congregations, and obstruction of worship services during 2016 compared to 87 such incidents in 2015.
Multiple universities and mosques reported vandalism of Muslim prayer rooms during the year. Minority Rights Group International, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO), reported 60 instances of hate speech, acts of discrimination, or attempts to desecrate or destroy Muslim religious buildings in the first half of the year.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that several Buddhist nationalist organizations that regularly espoused hate speech continued to enjoy impunity from arrest and investigation, although not to the extent permitted under the previous government.
Buddhist groups – including the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS or Buddhist Power Force), Ravana Balava (Ravana Power), Sinhala Ravana (Sinhala Echo), and the Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa (Sinhala National Force), which claims ownership of the Sinha-Le (Lion’s Blood) campaign – continued to promote the supremacy of the country’s ethnic Sinhalese Buddhist population and propagated views hostile to members of religious and ethnic minorities. (Colombo Gazette)