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Dreadful Easter bombings and Christianphobia in Sri Lanka

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A series of coordinated bombings struck three churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday killing 290 people in the worst attacks in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

At least 500 people were wounded in total of eight explosions. According to police several of the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

Most of the victims were killed in three churches where worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services.

Washington Post said: "the suicide bombings on the holiest day of the Christian calendar, when churches see their highest attendance of the year, were widely viewed as targeting Sri Lanka's small Christian community, a minority that regularly faces discrimination."

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Fewer than 8 percent of the roughly 20 million people in Sri Lanka are Christian (the vast majority of them Roman Catholic). Seventy percent are Buddhist, according to the country's 2012 census, 12.6 percent are Hindu and 9.7 percent are Muslim.

Violent attacks on this scale against churches are without precedent in Sri Lanka. The Christian minority, however, does face violence and discrimination, the Washington Post added and quoted human rights activist Ruki Fernando as saying:

"Church services across the country have faced some sort of disruption in each of the past 11 Sundays. Last year, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka reported 86 verifiable cases of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians. Before Sunday's attacks, 26 such incidents had occurred this year, including the disruption of a Sunday service by Buddhist monks."

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Radical Buddhism opposes converts

To borrow Open Doors USA, those who convert to Christianity from a Buddhist or Hindu background suffer the strongest forms of persecution. They are subject to harassment, discrimination and marginalization by family and community. These believers are pressured to recant Christianity; conversion is regarded as betrayal. All ethnic Sinhalese (the majority in Sri Lanka) are expected to be Buddhist.

Similarly, within the minority Tamil population in the northeast, Sinhalese are expected to be Hindu. Non-traditional churches are frequently targeted by neighbors, often joined by Buddhist monks and local officials, who demand Christians close their church buildings regarded as illegal.

Open Doors USA report pointed out that on September 9, 2018, a group of about 100 people stopped the worship service of a church at Beliatta, Hambantota District. They damaged a window, two motorcycles parked outside, and removed religious symbols hanging on the front door. Some forcibly entered the premises and threatened to kill the pastor and his family and demanded they stop gathering people for worship activities and leave the village.

The majority of state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, and so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism. There have also been reports that children were forced to participate in Buddhist rituals.

According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), there has been a sharp increase of attacks on Christians, including violent attacks often carried out through mobs.

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Attacks on Christian churches resumed in May 2009

Tisaranee Gunasekara, a Colombo-based political commentator based in Colombo, following the 2009 victory over the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), attacks on Christian churches resumed in May 2009. "Unlike during the previous occasions, this time only evangelical churches were targeted. Days after the war ended, security forces raided the office of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka in Colombo. Since the raid was not linked to any further action, it seems that its purpose was to terrorise. An attack on a church in the suburban town of Kelaniya was personally led by a government minister closely identified with the ruling family. As attacks on evangelical churches intensified, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith issued a statement blaming the victimized evangelicals of trying to convert Buddhists and Catholics. He was moved to protest only when a statue of the Virgin Mary, built to commemorate the 150th anniversary of a Catholic church in the provincial town of Avissawella, was burnt in late January 2013."

Minorities are essentially outsiders, irrespective of how long they have been here. Sinhala-Buddhists are the sole owners of the country; minorities are not co-owners but guests, here on sufferance without inalienable rights, notwithstanding what the Constitution might proclaim, argues Tisaranee Gunasekara.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 
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