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Violence Against Christians Increase in Sri Lanka; 20 Attacks This Year Alone

Friday, June 30, 2017, 14:28 (IST)

Violent attacks on Christians are intensifying in Sri Lanka this year with over 20 separate incidents in the last six months.

Following a parallel rise in violence and discrimination against Muslims in the country, Christian Evangelical Alliance has called on the government to ensure protection of minorities and their places of worship, according to World Watch Monitor.

"Since the current government took office in 2015, over 190 incidents of religious violence against churches, clergy, and Christians have been recorded," said the alliance in a declaration on 27 May.

A Buddhist nationalist organisation called Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or the 'Buddhist Power Force' is held responsible for the attacks. The Police are hunting to arrest its secretary general, the Venerable Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, who is in hiding.

The extremist group released a video message last week in which it denied its involvement in the attacks while blaming the government for allowing Islamic extremism to flourish in the Buddhist-majority nation.

"Within a decade or two, Buddhism will be under serious threat in Sri Lanka," said Dilanthe Withanage, the group's spokesman.

"If we want to resort to extremists, violence or terrorism, we have the power and the strength to do it. But we will never resort to such things," Withanage added.

The surge of violence is reminded of the bloody 25-year civil war in 2009 that left between 70,000 and 80,000 people dead.

Over 70 percent of the Sri Lankans are Buddhists. Despite the fact that minority religions, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam form about 28 percent, the commonly held belief in the country is "to be Sri Lankan is to be Buddhist".

Sri Lanka is 45th on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List that ranks the 50 countries where Christians are most under pressure for their faith.