KATHMANDU, Nepal (The Kathmandu Post/ANN)- Stop the promotion of hate and faith-based violence
Oftentimes, it is easy to get driven to action by fear and anger than by empathy and compassion. And Sunday’s appalling attack in Sri Lanka proved that yet again. In an extremely tragic incident, more than 200 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded in a series of bomb blasts that hit hotels and churches across Sri Lanka. A series of coordinated attacks targeted at the country’s minority Christian community has left the country in a state of a lock-down and the rest of the world deeply saddened. Until the paper went to press, no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack. What’s more, yesterday’s attacks were not the first. There was also an attack against the Colombo Methodist Church on April 16, where the bishop was held hostage along with a number of church members.
Just last month, 50 people died in the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand. These are trying times, but hate and bigotry cannot be the new normal. This fire of hate needs to be doused immediately and it can be possible only if we take collective efforts to end such violence. To this end, it is imperative that we reject all forms of extremism and stand for freedom of religion and the right to live safely, worship safely.
The attack marks the worst spout of violence in Sri Lanka since its bloody civil war ended a decade ago. Its population is about 70 percent Buddhist and 13 percent Hindu. Only 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is Christian. According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, there have been over 90 violent incidents on churches and acts of intimidation against Christians since 2017. Also, the Sri Lanka 2017 International Freedom Report mentions that government officials at the local level have been involved in the systematic violence against the country’s minorities that mainly comprise of Muslims and Christians. Further, the report states despite the shameful engagement, ‘local officials and police have responded minimally or not at all to numerous incidents of religiously motivated violence against Muslim and Christian minorities. There were some reports of government officials being complicit in physical attacks on religious minorities and their places of worship.’ Sri Lanka is also ranked 44th on Christian support organisation Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. No doubt, violence will thrive in an atmosphere of impunity.
Leaders around the world must work towards guaranteeing the full range of rights for religious minorities. Demonstrating determination to ensure accountability acts as an important element of the government’s efforts to guarantee the safety of the members of religious minority communities. The Sri Lankan must do so and the larger international community must do their bit to ensure peace prevail. Freedom of religion must be ensured, and the promotion of hatred and faith-based violence needs to stop.