Sri Lanka Restricts Building Of New Places Of Worship

Sri Lanka has restricted the building of new places of worship, in a bid to resolve incidents involving "religious extremism" in the country. 

M D K Dissanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, told media, that there are 10,000 Buddhist temples, 5,000 Hindu temples, 2,500 churches and 2,500 mosques, and that these are sufficient for Lanka’s size and population.

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“Anybody wanting to build a new public place of worship will, henceforth, have to take permission of the Ministry of Religious Affairs,” he said.

The measure follows conflicts between Buddhist organizations and sections of Christians and Muslims. The former object to the proliferation of unconventional Christian churches believed to indulge in “unethical” conversion of Buddhists and Hindus. They also object to the building or expansion of mosques in some areas.

Buddhist outfits had launched agitations against the existence of a mosque in the Buddhist “sacred area” of  Dambulla and against the expansion of a mosque in a crowded area in Colombo. These violent incidents have found mention in UN reports on alleged “religious intolerance” in Lanka. According to Colombo-based opposition Muslim leader, Asad Sally, police have not investigated 284 complaints filed by Muslims.

The proliferation of mosques is said to be irritating the highest echelons of power as it is feared that the spread of Islamic fundamentalism of the Wahabi kind, may help breed Islamic terrorism here.

There is an entrenched fear about “unethical” conversions by the non-conventional churches operating with money from the US and the West. In recent years, Buddhist outfits have destroyed or damaged several makeshift places of worship put up by these evangelical groups. ( with inputs from P.K.Balachandran, The New Indian Express)

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