The Officers of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief are deeply concerned about the escalation in communal violence towards Muslims by ‘ultra-nationalist’ Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
On Tuesday 6 March, the Sri Lankan government declared a state of emergency after a number of mosques, houses, shops and vehicles were destroyed in Kandy, Sri Lanka. According to Al-Jazeera and CNN, at least 2 Muslims have been killed, one after the state of emergency had been declared.
The violence was triggered by the death of a Buddhist man after being attacked by four Muslim men over a traffic incident. According to Al Jazeera and the International Crisis Group, Buddhist monks connected to the Bodu Bala Sena and Maha Sohon Balakaya then arrived in Kandy with their supporters to stoke fury and spark the attacks.
Tensions are reported to have been rising between the two groups since 2012. During this time, Muslims have consistently been depicted as terrorists and attempting to demographically replace Buddhists through forced conversion.These narratives bear similarities to those propagated by some Buddhist groups in Myanmar.
The current government has been quick to condemn recent attacks on Muslims. However, according to International Crisis Group, the government has not done enough to investigate or prosecute leaders involved in previous attacks.
We urge the British government to support the Sri Lankan government to take more decisive action to end impunity for attacks on Muslims and to counter negative narratives around Muslims or any religious/belief group in the country.
This statement was issued by the APPG on 8 March.