26 May, 2024


Will Inter-Confessional Peace Come To Sri Lanka?

By Volkhonsky Boris/ Radio The Voice of Russia-

A new inter-ethnic and inter-confessional conflict has broken out In Sri Lanka – a country where a bloody civil war had ended only three years ago. On Friday, a crowd led by Buddhist monks gathered near a mosque building in the town of Dambulla, thus interfering with the Muslims’ Friday prayer. Muslims were forced to hide inside the building for a long time. And in the night from Friday to Saturday the mosque building was bombarded with Molotov cocktail bottles. Fortunately, nobody has suffered.

At an emergency meeting of the government of Sri Lanka held in the past weekend it was decided to take the mosque to another place, on the pretext that it was built there illegally.

Photo: EPA

What is the essence of the problem? Dambulla is a sacred place for the Buddhist majority of the Sri Lanka population. There is a complex of cave temples, dated back to the early period of Buddhism on the island – 1 century BC. It is one of the most famous tourist sites as well. In 1982, the government of Sri Lanka issued a decree, announcing the Dambulla area a sacred place for Buddhists and, therefore, prohibiting construction of any other cult buildings there, except Buddhist.

But the matter is that the mosque has existed here long before this resolution, says Boris Volkhonsky, an expert of the Russian Institute of Strategic Research.

“The mosque was built in 1962. Though today, the opponents of the Dambulla mosque argue that the territory, occupied by the mosque, was recently unreasonably extended. However, the crux of the matter lies not only in this particular mosque.”

According to Boris Volkhonsky, a new axis of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional confrontation – between the Singhalese Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority, which represents about 7.5% of the population – is clearly emerging in Sri Lanka in the last few months. Last September a similar accident happened in another sacred for Buddhists and very attractive for tourists region of Anuradkhapur, where the crowd led by Buddhist monks defaced a Muslim shrine.

Sri Lanka has not fully recovered yet from the effects of a 25-year civil war, which had claimed up to 100 thousands of lives. The war was being waged between the government, dominated by the Sinhalese, and the insurgent grouping “Tigers of Tamil Elam”. The war, in fact, was not of a religious nature, but a number of radical Buddhist politicians made a lot of efforts to stir up hatred towards the Tamils in the society, Boris Volkhonsky reminds.

“The Muslims (the Moors, as they are called in Sri Lanka) have never been a party to the conflict in the civil war. They haven’t got a territory of their own for compact residence, so there are no separatist ideas among them”. Moreover, the Moors, who had lived in the North, in the province of Jaffna inhabited by the Tamils, had themselves become the victims of the separatists: in the 1990-ies the “Tigers” had expelled all of the Moors from the territory under their control, said Boris Volkhonsky.

Today the events of the civil war period attract attention of the whole world. From time to time the Sri Lankan government and personally President Makhinda Radjapaksa are charged with abuse of power and large-scale violations of human rights. Sometimes these charges are put forward not only for the sake of restoration of justice, but for the sake of exerting political pressure on Sri Lanka. But, one way or another, the government is forced to take a defensive position. Against this background, it is very doubtful that the new axis of inter-confessional confrontation will facilitate thereturn of inter-communal peace and tranquility to Sri Lanka.


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Latest comments

  • 0

    This must be the Hindu Kovil that was burnt. Someone should have pushed this b….r in to the fire.

  • 0

    Why don´t you, the buddhist majority, open your mouth to tell your opinion to the buddhist clergy?

    Do you believe to go to hell like catholics if you critizise Pope?

    Pirit, holy, no critics?

    We live in 21st century. We need harmony among different communities.

    Open your mouth, do not tolerate intolerance!

    Buddha was an indian, a hindu, would have voted against Sri Lanka in Human Rights Commission in UN

    Removing a hindu temple is not a problem for hindus in Dambulla, then every buddhist sinhalese worship lord Ganesha before starting a journey, for not being involved in an accident.

    According to Hinduism, god can be in grass, in wurms, in lightposts, so god could be in buddhist statues.

    Hindus never mind. But Allah could not be in buddhist statues

  • 0

    In Islam the only good thing is that there are no objects as statues of veneration. The only issue is sound polution using loud speakers five times a day. I remember the time in the late ’70s a Mosque was built right next to the Regents Park in the UK. After completion one early morning, I was put up by the Prayers being aired over loud speakers. It was only the first day and the last, as the sond levels had to be reduced for the premises only and it was no hindrence there after for the neighbourhood.

  • 0

    we srilankan do not want peace and addicted to watch riots,protest,violence,picket,war and many more crimes.please rehabilitate us.otherwise we want war.

  • 0


    The average Sri Lankan, hearing various versions through the media that serves as propagandist, and being ill-equipped to challenge the vilifying assumptions against an enemy of choice, will be inclined to embrace or tolerate a rationale for unfair decisions. Fear and ignorance, not countered by a rational presentation of historical fact, become the basis of any future attitude.

    Disinformation and deception can be cleverly used to frame the public’s attitudes. These sorts of claims, even if later disproved, can effectively set up targets for attack.

    Take the following facts for example. Many Sri Lankans are ignorant of the fact that Hezbollah, which represents the Shia in Lebanon, is a popular political party (with no record of “terrorism”, by the way). It is highly valued for its efficient dispensing of myriad social services to all Lebanese. As a resistance movement it was instrumental in evicting the Israelis from the south, more than once.

    The international media has conditioned us to perceive Muslim hostility towards Israel as religious animosity, anti-Semitism and intolerance rather than justifiable anger at the occupation, annexation, abuse, displacement and oppression of Palestinians. Atrocities are committed against Palestinians in order to provoke revenge attacks termed as “suicide terror”, which ostensibly justifies perpetuation of coercion and lack of diplomacy.

    Hamas, widely acknowledged as pious, capable and honest in contrast to the corrupt, inefficient but secular Palestinian Authority is portrayed as “terrorist” although it won a democratic election conducted fairly and reflecting the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Do we question the refusal by Western governments, to recognise a democratically elected party while preaching about democracy?

    Similarly, one must become cognizant of facts before allowing oneself to be influenced by innuendo, deception or campaigns for vilification. Popular sentiment against a minority can be instigated at the will of a party with a variety of political interests. As in the case of geopolitical manipulation of sectarian differences and the fomenting of violence in order to cause instability within an otherwise independent nation, forces within a community can also act with similar motivations in order to use the ensuing mayhem to their own nefarious advantage.

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