Last year, Sri Lanka saw one of the world’s largest coordinated terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, when radicals carried out eight suicide bombings at targets that included three churches on Easter Sunday, claiming almost 300 lives, most of them Christians. However, persecution in the southeast Asian country typically stems from radical Buddhist and Hindu groups that harass and discriminate against converts to Christianity.
Sri Lanka has a constitution that gives Buddhism preferred status, and this Buddhist supremacy view is widely shared in the country. Additionally, Christian churches are frequently opposed by neighbors, and local officials sometimes demand they close their buildings—leading to mob protests, especially in rural areas. The Christian minority is partly tolerated, but converts to Christianity are not.
On April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, three bomb blasts went off in three churches in three different parts of Sri Lanka: St Anthony’s Church in Kochikade, Colombo; St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo; and Zion Church in Batticaloa. Three hotels were also targeted. These coordinated attacks, which claimed 253 lives and injured hundreds of others, were later claimed by Islamic State extremists. Some 176 children lost one or both parents.
On March 24, 2019, a mass protest was held outside the premises of Christ Gospel Church in Ja-ela, Gampaha District, during Sunday afternoon worship. The 2,000 townspeople, led by a traders’ association, distributed leaflets and set up a petition, calling for the removal of the church. This is a more typical example of persecution in Sri Lanka, which often involves small mobs.
The majority of state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, forcing Christian students to resort to studying Buddhism or Hinduism. Some reports indicated that children were forced to participate in Buddhist rituals.
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