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03.11.2020

Attack on religious freedom in Sri Lanka

Forced cremation of a Muslim body; Photo: Azath Salley

Like the rest of the world, Sri Lanka has also been experiencing a second wave of the Corona pandemic since October. According to the official government COVID-19 website, Sri Lanka has recorded approximately 11,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths since March (as of 03.11.2020). Contrary to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Sri Lankan government made cremation of all deceased COVID-19 patients and all suspected cases mandatory on 11 April. Despite numerous fundamental rights petitions in the Supreme Court, the government continues with the forced cremations without medical necessity. This clearly disregards the burial rituals of the Muslim community and thus their right of religious freedom. Although Muslims make up only ten per cent of the Sri Lankan population, it is reported that almost half of the 22 COVID-19 victims are Muslim. The reports of forced cremations are causing great anxiety among the Muslim community to seek medical help during this difficult time.

After facing threats and intimidation by buddhist monks a Christian cleric from the Polonnaruwa District was forced to close his ministry out of fear for the safety of his church members. Christians make up approxamitly eight per cent of the Sri Lankan population and have often been subject to reprisals by the Buddhist majority or Muslim minority in the past.

Franziska Koch

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