Two top UN officials have voiced alarm over the spate of communal violence in Sri Lanka since the Easter Sunday Bombings, saying the government should ensure that spread of prejudice and hate among groups is not tolerated, as they emphasised that “to be a Sri Lankan” is to be a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian.
United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng and UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Karen Smith, in a joint statement on attacks against religious minorities in Sri Lanka, said they are alarmed about the growing acts of violence on the basis of religion, including attacks against homes, places of worship and businesses in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka.
The Special Advisers noted the recent spate of attacks against Muslim and Christian communities in Sri Lanka following the deadly terror attacks carried out on Easter Sunday against churches and hotels in various parts of the country in which nearly 260 people were killed and hundreds injured.
The recent violence in Sri Lanka has highlighted a growing influence of nationalist and extremist views of identity in the Asia region, putting religious minorities at risk, they said.
“Sri Lanka has a pluralistic society. To be a Sri Lankan is to be a Buddhist, to be Hindu, to be a Muslim, to be a Christian. All these communities are entitled to their identity, to freely exercise their religion and to live in peace and security as recognised by the country”s Constitution, the Special Advisers said, calling on all Sri Lankans to respect one another.
The Sri Lankan government on Monday enforced a countrywide curfew and blocked social media platforms to stop people inciting violence as communal violence spread in the island nation in the worst unrest since Easter Sunday bombings. A Muslim man was slashed to death on Monday during the rioting between minority Muslim and majority Sinhalese communities in the country.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also appealed for calm after the unrest broke out, especially in Kurunegala district targeting Muslims, and asked the public not to be swayed by false information.
Dieng and Smith added that it is in the interest of all ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka, as well as the government, the opposition, civil society and the security sector, to work collaboratively in taking appropriate action and immediately stop these hateful attacks.
The country is trying to move forward from a traumatic period of inter-ethnic armed conflict, but these attacks are pushing Sri Lanka backwards. If not adequately dealt with, the recent violence has the potential to escalate even further, they warned.
Acknowledging the swift response of the Sri Lankan government, including by deploying the security forces to protect affected communities and addressing the spread of false information and incitement to violence, they encouraged the Government to make sure that these and other past similar attacks are fully investigated and those responsible for instigating or committing these violent acts are brought to justice and made accountable.
They added that the Government needs to give the example that it will not tolerate the spread of prejudice and hate among groups within its population. This needs to be done at national and local level, by putting an end to local discriminatory practices that perpetuate religious intolerance and violence.