The loss of religious freedom in Sri Lanka was drawn into sharp focus yesterday when US Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican representative from Florida said 30 churches had been attacked over the past four months in the island.
“30 churches have been attacked by Buddhist extremists – quite frankly I never knew such a thing existed, but apparently it does” the US Senator said, expressing concern about the increasing loss of religious liberties in countries of South Asia.
Speaking during the confirmation hearings of the Obama nominated Nisha Desai Biswal, who is set to replace Robert O. Blake as the next Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Rubio urged that US foreign policy should not just reflect the country’s interests, but also its values.
“In this part of the world, religious liberties are under incredible duress,” Rubio said highlighting cases of intolerance and anti-Christian violence in India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka.
Rubio called for the US Government to rethink its foreign aid support to Governments of countries in which religious freedom was under grave threat.
Arizona Senator John Mccain also brought up Sri Lanka in the Q&A session Biswal had to face before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in order to have her appointment confirmed. Mccain said that human rights abuses taking place in Sri Lanka were rising to a level that was very disturbing. “Is the US active enough in condemning the ongoing human rights abuses,” Mccain asked the nominee.
Biswal responded that Senator Mccain’s assessment “comports” with her understanding of the situation in Sri Lanka. “The US has made clear that we believe that if Sri Lanka does not address through its own internal processes that there will be increasing calls for international processes to address these issues,” Biswal told the Committee.