Following the end of the civil war in 2009, attacks on both Christians and Muslims have risen – largely carried out by Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists. However, during the period under review there have also been increasing attacks on churches by Hindu extremist groups in Eastern Province.(1) Ninety attacks on Christians were recorded in 2017,(2) with 67 between January and September 2018 alone.(3) Discrimination against Christians included assaults on churches, denial of burial in public cemeteries,(4) and refusals to enrol Christian children in school.(5) Some of the most notorious attacks occurred after the beginning of the Sinhalese New Year. On Palm Sunday 2019 – which coincided with New Year itself – a nationalist mob surrounded the Methodist Church in Anuradhapura and made “murderous threats” to Bishop Asiri Perera and his congregation, pelting the building with stones and firecrackers.(6) But by far the worst attack occurred a week later when Islamist extremists targeted Christian Churches with bomb attacks on Easter Sunday.

1. “Violence, Discrimination against Christians Escalate in Sri Lanka”, Human Rights Without Frontiers, 29th October 2018,; “Violence, Discrimination against Christians Escalate in Sri Lanka”, Morning Star News, 19th October 2018, (Sites accessed 7th June 2019).
2. Figures only to 25th December 2017. Final year-end figures might be higher. “Sri Lanka sees more than 90 attacks against Christians in 2017”, Tamil Guardian, 25th December 2017, (accessed 29th March 2019).
3. “Violence, Discrimination against Christians Escalate in Sri Lanka”, Human Rights Without Frontiers, op. cit. 4. “Sri Lanka “, Open Doors World Watch List 2019, (accessed 7th June 2019).
5. “Christian child denied school admission”, Sri Lanka Church Attacks, 8th August 2018, (accessed 7th June 2019).
6. “Palm Sunday’s church attack ruins nation’s aluth avurudu calm”, Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), 21st April 2019, (accessed 7th June 2019).
7. “Sri Lankan human rights lawyer threatened”, CSW, 27th June 2017; “Well-known Lawyer Lakshan Dias Flees Sri Lanka After Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe Threatens to Take Action in Two Days”,, 29th June 2017,; “Sri Lanka”, US State Government 2017 International Religious Freedom Report, (all sites accessed 7th June 2019).
8. “Mob including government official threatens Christians”, Sri Lanka Church Attacks, 8th July 2018, (accessed 7th June 2019).
9. “Attacks carried out by suicide bombers, Govt. Analyst confirms”, Ada Derana, 22nd April 2019,; “Death toll from Easter Sunday attacks climbs to 321”, Ada Derana, 23rd April 2019,; Citra Abbott and John Newton, “Priest says ‘We are far away from peace’”, Aid to the Church in Need (UK), 30th April 2019,; Ash Gallagher, “The Sri Lanka attacks show how Isis is moving east to recruit members”, Independent, 28th April 2019, (all sites accessed 7th June 2019).

June 2017

Government minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse threatened to debar human-rights lawyer Lakshan Dias unless he retracted the claim that 195 anti-Christian incidents occurred from 2015 to June 2017. Mr Dias made the statement on a TV talk show on 14th June. Mr Rajapakse said: “He is a traitor… He is eagerly waiting to grab an opportunity to create unrest in the country.” Dias received a police summons in response to a complaint.(7)

July 2018

50-60 villagers carrying sticks and rods surrounded Harvest Mission Church in Kiran, Batticaloa District during their Sunday service. Among the attackers were members of local government agency Korakallimadu Grama Niladhari. The mob said that they would attack the congregation if they did not halt their religious activities within 15 minutes. The attackers left after the pastor stopped the service.(8)

April 2019

More than 300 people, including at least 45 children, were killed and more than 500 people injured in bomb attacks on three churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Explosions hit St Anthony’s Church, Kotahena; Katuwapitiya Church, Katana; and Zion Church, Batticaloa. Islamist group Daesh (ISIS) affiliates claimed responsibility for the attacks.(9)

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