Information on Sri Lanka
In this island paradise, violence and turmoil have become as much a part of the landscape as palm-lined beaches. Originally named Ceylon, when it gained independence from Britain in 1948, the name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. In the mid-1980's, violence broke out between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists, leaving tens of thousands dead. In December 2001, a peace accord was first signed and there is hope of peace and safety beginning to shine.
Since the third century B.C., Buddhism has been a part of Sri Lanka. Christianity was first introduced by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, but Buddhism remains the state religion and is officially protected and promoted. Many Sri Lankans consider Christianity to be a foreign religion imposed by European colonials.
There has been a significant growth of evangelical Christianity since 1980, resulting in increasing opposition from militant Buddhists, frequently led by local monks. Churches have been burned and Christians beaten and stabbed. In one instance, in October 2003, a large mob, led by monks, entered a church gathering and attempted to force the pastor to worship a Buddhist statue. When he refused, they attempted to have him arrested for disrespecting Buddha. Mobs frequently threaten more violence unless all Christian work stops in their area. Buddhist influence in the government has been pushing to impose an anti-conversion law, similar to that in India.