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Cap on Places of Worship in Lanka to Bring Down Religious Conflicts

In a bid to curb growing religious conflicts, Sri Lanka has put a cap on the building of places of worship, along with the establishment of a Special Police Force to deal with communal tension.

Published: 01st May 2014 08:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st May 2014 08:16 AM   |  A+A-

In a bid to curb growing religious conflicts, Sri Lanka has put a cap on the building of places of worship, along with the establishment of a Special Police Force to deal with communal tension.

M D K Dissanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, told media, that there are 10,000 Buddhist temples, 5,000 Hindu temples, 2,500 churches and 2,500 mosques, and that these are sufficient for Lanka’s size and population.

“Anybody wanting to build a new public place of worship will, henceforth, have to take permission of the Ministry of Religious Affairs,” he said.

The measure follows conflicts between pro-government Buddhist organizations and sections of Christians and Muslims. The former object to the proliferation of unconventional Christian churches believed to indulge in “unethical” conversion of Buddhists and Hindus. They also object to the building or expansion of mosques in some areas.

Government-backed Buddhist outfits had launched agitations against the existence of a mosque in the Buddhist “sacred area” of  Dambulla and against the expansion of a mosque in a crowded area in Colombo. These violent incidents have found mention in UN reports on alleged “religious intolerance” in Lanka. According to Colombo-based opposition Muslim leader, Asad Sally, police have not investigated 284 complaints filed by Muslims.

The proliferation of mosques is said to be irritating the highest echelons of power as it is feared that the spread of Islamic fundamentalism of the Wahabi kind, may help breed Islamic terrorism here.

There is an entrenched fear about “unethical” conversions by the non-conventional churches operating with money from the US and the West. In recent years, Buddhist outfits have destroyed or damaged several makeshift places of worship put up by these evangelical groups.

Buddhist organizations and government have become very protective of Buddhist symbols.

Last week, Naomi Coleman, a British tourist and a practicing Buddhist, was arrested and deported for sporting a tattoo of the Buddha. A leading Buddhist monk has sought a ban on newspapers carrying pictures of the Buddha as shopkeepers use newspapers to wrap profane stuff.



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