For almost a year Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka were struggling for their right to burial and free exercise of religion. The government finally announced the lift of the ban on burial of COVID-19 victims in late February. The decision comes after numerous states and the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) openly criticized the decision at the ongoing 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Since April 2020, cremation of COVID-19 fatalities had been mandatory under the unproven claim of possible contamination of groundwater. Numerous experts from different countries have condemned this practice as unscientific and insensitive, especially to Muslim beliefs. The Christian communities in Sri Lanka were also affected by the forced cremations.
The first funerals took place in early March near Batticaloa, in the east of the island. Currently, individuals and local mosques are providing land for burial purposes to the Muslim community. The government states, there will be designated burial sites for COVID-19 deceased in each district in the future.
Franziska Koch (Coodinator, Sri Lanka Advocacy)
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