“Every religion has dignity; every religion that respects life”, remarked Pope Francis at a press conference during a visit to Asia. This included a visit to a Buddhist temple while he was in Sri Lanka.
On 8 January 2015, the people of Sri Lanka elected a new president. The date also marked the sixth anniversary of the murder of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, a critic of the regime which has now been replaced.
Many health professionals have gone on strike in Sri Lanka, though this has been suspended for a fortnight by court order. Other workers too are threatening industrial action if their pay is not raised to match the cost of living.
At least three Muslims were shot dead in southern Sri Lanka after a hardline ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ group went on the rampage. Dozens more were injured and buildings set alight as the Bodu Bala Sena marched on Aluthgama and surrounding areas.
Sri Lankan government minister GL Peiris has tried to justify a wave of attacks on churches and mosques, claiming that these were simply community reactions to unauthorised facilities. The state’s refusal to protect religious minorities further undermines human rights in Sri Lanka overall.
As the UK Prime Minister and other leaders prepare to attend a Commonwealth gathering in Sri Lanka, its government has criticised his pledge to flag up concerns about human rights. It is estimated that tens of thousands of civilians were killed by the regime and Tiger rebels at the end of a brutal civil war.