30 October, 2020

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65 Cases Of Attacks On Places Of Religious Worship In Post–War Sri Lanka

By Centre for Policy Alternatives

While the post-war context offered an opportunity for consolidating peace and reconciliation, and there have been a number of positive developments, there are increasing concerns relating to violence targeting places of worship and religious intolerance. Since the end of the war there have been high-profile incidents such as the attack on the Mosque in Dambulla in April 2012, however other incidents, have received little or no public and media attention. This has resulted in a limited understanding of the scale and nature of these incidents.

attack on the Mosque in Dambulla

This report documents incidents of attacks on places of worship in Sri Lanka since the end of the war in May 2009 and discusses the broader context of such attacks. The report lists 65 cases of attacks on religious places of worship between May 2009 and January 2013. Direct attacks have been reported from all provinces of Sri Lanka, making clear that the threat is not restricted to particular areas. Most of the reported incidents were from the Western province (16), followed by the Eastern province (12), the Southern province (11) and the North-Western province (9).

Although the list cannot claim to be comprehensive, it offers a starting point to document attacks against places of worship of the four main religions practiced in the country. The lack of coverage by the media and other civil society groups, lack of consistent documentation by religious groups, and the cautiousness of religious and civil society groups to engage on this issue were key obstacles in the compiling of this list. This report attempts to address this information gap so as to provide a more comprehensive picture of the ground situation and thereby raise public awareness and increase the understanding of policy makers on this issue.

While the numbers do provide some sense of the scale of the violence, it is important to make distinctions in terms of the nature of violence in each of these incidents. The majority of these cases are against Christian places of worship, mostly against non-traditional churches and there are also a number of attacks on Muslim places of worship. The 65 attacks can be categorized into three main types: inter-communal attacks, intra-religious violence, and robbery.

Mahara mosque - vandalised

In terms of inter-communal attacks the bulk of incidents where perpetrators have been identified, are instances of Sinhala Buddhist attacks on other religious communities’ places of worship. While in the majority of incidents the perpetrators have not been prosecuted and in a number of cases are unidentified, in others there are allegations against groups and individuals who are believed to be responsible. A significant proportion of the attacks incidents relating to Buddhist and Hindu religious places are cases of theft and vandalism. There have also been several incidents of intra-religious violence between denominations of all the religious communities apart from the Hindu community.

While a number of the incidents appear to be isolated, in a number of cases it is evident that the attacks on an individual religious place is sometimes preceded by other forms of violence, threats and intimidation against a religious community in a specific area. The report attempts to include some of these incidents, including violence against clergy, protests against religious practices and hate speech, in order to provide a context to the attacks. The continuing acts of violence against places of religious worship coupled with a culture of intolerance are threatening to undermine efforts to consolidate peace, emphasising the need for immediate action by all actors, especially the Government.

Read the full report from here.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    What is abominable is that some attacks take place under the noses of the police and so called guardians of the law. Some of the perpetrators are clearly recognisable and yet no action taken against them. So the question arises

    1. Is this official policy to condone such acts of violence on minorities?
    2. Are perpetrators garbed in the attire of holy men above the law of the country and the religon the profess to follow?

    It is not surprising given the involvement of the police in crimes like the recent 10 Mn heist involving officials attached to the MSD and an official of the PS. The country is being ruled by criminals.

  • 0
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    Is this is the ‘development’ that the likes of Rajasingham Narendran talk that the government is undertaking??

    • 0
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      Religion is part of civil society. Why you blame the government? These kinds of attacks are due to the work of overzealous civil society activists.

      No, seriously, 65 attacks between May 2009 to January 2013 in a country with more than 100,000 (? I don’t know the exact number, has anybody done an actual survey?) places of religious worship is a pretty good statistic. It’s miniscule. Where is the data for other countries? Without comparison this study is nothing.

      But more seriously, aren’t such attacks serving a useful social function by discouraging unscrupulous people from getting into God business? We already have too many of these religious depots anyway.

      The report does in fact say most of the attacks are on “non-traditional churches” and Muslim places of worship. Are the Muslim places of worship that are attacked are also new? If so, then the attacks are against the new kids on the block and not against religion as such. It is simply business competition. I am disappointed. It would be better if it is a case of atheists attacking religion.

      So if it is business rivalry where is the regulatory body for God industry?

      Wouldn’t it be even better if all places of religious worship are banned and religion relegated to the private realm – your home? But even there please don’t turn your early morning religious sermon on your radio or TV too loud to irritate your neighbour who uses a different brand of God. You don’t listen to it but you get a kick out of making your neighbour get out of bed on the wrong side.

      • 0
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        Hmm… One god, but many retailers. :-)

      • 0
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        One is too many. It is lack of civility that a single places of religious worship be vandalised. It is evil not just when it is statistically worse than in western countries.

        Some people’s minds are so colonised that their value has to be measured against a western standard. That makes me sick!

      • 0
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        “The report does in fact say most of the attacks are on “non-traditional churches” and Muslim places of worship. Are the Muslim places of worship that are attacked are also new? If so, then the attacks are against the new kids on the block and not against religion as such”

        Then how do you justify the attack on the Dambulla mosque which is a 60 yrs old building?
        Yours is a pathetic attempt to justify these wanton acts.Period.

  • 0
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    The Bodu Bala Sena is responsible for instigating many of the attacks of Muslim religious places. This fascist and racist organisation is known to be a front organisation of the Rajapaksas. Yesterday Gota opened one of the offices of BBS and this open association indicates who is behind these attacks.

    • 0
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      Hasn’t MR realised yet, that GR is trying to cut the ground from under his feet? He has learnt these tactics from the USA, of which he is a Citizen!

    • 0
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      OK, you have concluded BBS a racist, fascist organization for what they have done – now what would you call ACJU for scamming the entire country for so many years and also for taking Muslims for a ride with their Halal “certification”?

      • 0
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        The issue regarding Halal certification could have been discussed in a civil manner with the ACJU and the muslim community. That’s what happens in any civilised democratic country. But alas, Sri lanka is being ruled undemocratically by an uncivilised despotic family and therefore evil forces such as the BBS are able with impunity to create trouble using the halal certification issue. The BBS is backed by the Rajapaksa brothers and does their dirty job for them. That’s the reality behind this shameful anti-muslim campaighn by the government.

      • 0
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        Scamming the entire country??!! You got to be kidding me..One thing it is a voluntary process…ACJU do not canvas for any business..and also they have been transparent with all their activities..if you dont believe their version..ask the companies who have obtained “Halal” Certs…Have you heard the BBS in their rallies….Racists to the bone…

      • 0
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        Aha, Lester/Observer/Heshan is back to his old anti-Muslim agenda. When are you going to tell us that Muslims are “subhuman barbarians who should be ethnically cleansed from SL,” as you used to on Groundviews and Transcurrents before you were banned?

      • 0
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        Those who cannot appreciate that Halal is a non-issue must only have BS in their heads. Or else, they are simply repeating something, which the know to be lies, in the hope that repetition would lead to people believing them!

      • 0
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        Dear Observer,

        Now that the Halal Certificate is no more, we will not have anymore scams, and accordingly you will have the opportunity not to pay for this unnecessary certificate. Your cost of living will come down. this is what you believed and this is what you wanted.

        According to Susantha Rathnayaka however the amount paid to ACJU is nothing and will not impact the retail prices.

        So much for all the fuss! Keep going!

  • 0
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    Hundreds of hindu temples have been desecrated/demolished in the north and east,temple chariots burned,statues of deities in temples stolen,temple priests attacked for objecting to booted armymen walking into temples,and a few priests killed – one shot by a gun provided by the army,temple pooja hours regulated by the army,army presence at all temple festivals – these are all happening.
    Citizens cannot complain to anyone – police wont record complaints.

  • 0
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    P.S Hundreds of evangelical churches have been attacked and even demolished,their pastors and congregations assaulted,by mobs led by buddhist monks – in the south.

  • 0
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    Adolf Hitler lead attacks against the Jews, wonder whether Bodu Bala Sena thinks Gautama Buddha will lead their movement if He was alive? Who is defiling Buddha’s teachings? Who are the real enemies of Buddhism? Anyone with half a brain will be able to answer these questions. I hope ‘REAL BUDDHISM’ will survive in Sri Lanka in spite of Bodu Bala Sena and their supporters.

  • 0
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    The Rajapaksa regime, by being silent, has condoned these racist, ugly acts, against a minority in this nation.
    If what a commenter here says is true and that Gotabhaya did indeed opened one the BBS offices, then that act by itself speaks volumes. It is sad that this country has no faith in their government, and that they are complicit in Islamaphobia and crimes against a religion that has existed in this nation for generations.
    It seems the thugs belonging to a religion that has only preached peace has the power to attack any place of worship belonging to the minority, and the government so far has looked the other way.

    Is this yet another attempt to distract the country to what is happening in Geneva, if so, the cost will be too high.

  • 0
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    What is going on? Don’t you realize that just one case is one too many!

    We should not be questioning, we should be screaming headlines that we cannot tolerate violence at any cost. The Government is silent!

    They are therefore party to the crime, they are therefore criminals. Let us just throw them out. They have lost their rights to govern.

  • 0
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    NO ONE NEEDS ANY COMPARISON WITH OTHER COUNTRIES.

    WE HAVE TO CONTROL THESE THUGS OTHERWISE THERE WILL BE ANOTHER GENOCIDE OF MINORITIES.

    THE RULING IDIOTS SHOULD BRING DISCIPLINE AMONG THEMSELVES.

    SARATH FONSEKA TOLD LAST NIGHT ON SIRASA SATANA THE TRUTH, AND I AM SURE HE WILL REPLACE THESE RULING GOONS.

    SEND THESE GOONS TO THE DEVIL DANCING VILLAGE INTO THEIR MUD HUTS WHERE THEY TRULY BELONG.

  • 0
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    I am proud as a Sri Lankan,that we have right thinking people in our country,cause
    when we are together we do not look if anyone of us from another religion,the reason
    for that is we get on very well,there may be some lunatics who disgrace our country
    image,they are not true patriots,

  • 0
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    Today every country should be looked at in the context of being only a small part of the wider world. The reason being, globalization has removed the traditional boundaries placed around each country. Today we are not the citizens of a country but citizens of the world.

    Today Christianity has 2.2 billion followers – 32% of the world population; Islam has 1.6 billion followers – 23% of the world population; Hinduism has 1 billion followers -15% of the world population; then comes Buddhism with 7% of the world population and 488 million followers. Although in Sri Lanka majority of the citizens follow Buddhism,in the context of the world, Sri Lankan Buddhist are neither the highest number of Buddhists living in a country (China has 244,130,000)nor the highers percentage of Buddhists in a country (Cambodia has 96.9%).

    So, the Government of Sri Lanka should take into consideration the impact of attacking the minority religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) indirectly, which forms 70% of the world population. If those countries, especially the western countries where the Christians are strong and Middle Eastern Countries where Islam is followed and India where Hindus are majority stop trade with Sri Lanka what would happen to the economy of Sri Lanka? We know what impact GSP Plus withdrawal had in Sri Lanka. Do we need a compounded negative impact due to Bodu Bala Sena attacking all other religions in Sri Lanka with the support of the Government? Its time for the Government of Sri Lanka to open its eyes and act smartly. The Citizens of Sri Lanka have suffered enough, economic development and poverty elevation is not equal to infrastructure development!

  • 0
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    This is why Separation of Church, Temple, Mosque and State is needed.

    USA, France, Turkey, India and other have it.

    Religion is an individual belief.

    Sr Lanka should have a referendum on the separation of Church and State.

  • 0
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    What we need from Tamil diaspora and public intellectuals in Sri Lanka is the calbre of people such as Samuel Huntington, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis to expose that Buddhism is an essentially reactionary and backward creed.

    • 0
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      Really??? May be they should also tell us to believe in God and Santa Claus too?

  • 0
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    Not agreed Mr Peter. All religion were in forward minded when they root its footstep in earth, it is the people who bring disrespect to their religion and teaching.

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