UN ’alarmed’ over rise in prejudice against SL minorities

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United Nations, 14 May: The UN has voiced alarm over the spate of attacks against religious minorities in Sri Lanka since the Easter Sunday bombings and urged Colombo to ensure that the spread of prejudice and hate among groups is not tolerated.


Calling on Sri Lankans to respect each other, UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng and UN Special Adviser on Responsibility to Protect Karen Smith 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 in Sri Lanka, as recognized by the country’s Constitution. We call on all Sri Lankans to respect one another."


The special advisers in a statement on Monday said they were "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".


They noted an increase in violence against Muslim and Christian communities in Sri Lanka, a Buddhist majority country, following the April 21 bombings on three churches, three hotels and two other locations in various parts of the country.


"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," said the statement.


Amid the upsurge in communal violence, the Sri Lankan government on Monday enforced a nationwide curfew and blocked social media platforms to prevent circulation of rumours.


Mosques and Muslim-owned shops were vandalized or set on fire in violence and one Muslim man was slashed to death on Monday. The curfew was partially lifted on Tuesday.


The UN advisers said that "it was 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," the statement said.


Acknowledging the swift response of the Sri Lankan authorities, including by deploying the security forces to protect affected communities and addressing the spread of false information, the UN officials "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".


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".


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