Christians in Sri Lanka are found amongst both the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority ethnic groups. Buddhism, the religion followed by most Sinhalese, is dominant. The Christian community includes families who have been Christian for generations as well as new converts from Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Many Christians are very poor. They are harassed and attacked by Buddhist extremists, often led by monks, and their church services disrupted.
On Easter Sunday 2019 Islamic State (IS) suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks against three churches and three hotels, killing at least 254 people, mostly Sri Lankan Christians (who make up just 8% of the island’s population).
Buddhist hardliner Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential election in November 2019 and a landslide victory in the general election in August 2020, opening the door to a law criminalising conversions, something Buddhist nationalists have been wanting for many years. At a Buddhist convention in February 2020, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, brother of the president, identified the conversion of “traditional Buddhist families to other religions” as one of the greatest threats facing Sri Lanka.
Intolerance is growing. July 2020 saw two attacks on churches. A house church in Batticaloa was attacked, the pastor and congregation beaten, by a 40-strong mob of Hindu extremists and a petrol bomb was thrown onto the roof of a church in Uva province. In October another Christian place of worship was destroyed.
Radical Muslims are pressurising both Christian and Hindu Tamils in the east to convert to Islam. At least ten Tamil villages are now 100% Muslim and have new Arab names. Tamils, who make up 14% of Sri Lanka’s population, are mostly Hindus. The three-decade civil war, which ended in 2009, is still a bitter memory for the defeated Tamils, who are oppressed and disadvantaged in many ways by the Sinhala-dominated authorities.
Ask that hostility and injustice towards Christians will cease and they will be able to worship without danger. Pray for unity amongst the Christians despite their diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet