In the recent past, there has been a significant trend of increasing religious intolerance and violence against religious minorities in Sri Lanka. This has been accompanied by tightening administrative regulation, including the use of Ministry Circulars to compel clergy to seek state approval for their religious activities.
The non-recognition of the Evangelical Christian community by the state has fostered discrimination and violence against Evangelical Christians and their places of worship. In 2014, NCEASL recorded over 100 incidents of intimidation, discrimination and violence against Christians. Alarmingly, 30 of these incidents were related to the forced closure of Evangelical churches. Similarly, on 6 February 2015, 5 pastors in the Puttalam district were accused by the area Divisional Secretary of constructing unauthorised places of worship.
In such a context, NCEASL believes that the appointment is a significant step toward the recognition of Evangelicals as a part of the legitimate Christian community in Sri Lanka.
NCEASL is also optimistic that the appointment would create opportunities for constructive and participatory dialogue with the state and relevant stakeholders on grievances faced by Evangelicals. These include issues of non-recognition of churches, legal justice for victims of past violence and the forced closure of churches.
Police inaction in the face of violence against religious minorities and impunity for assailants were hallmarks of the previous administration. NCEASL, however, is confident that the previous administration’s perceived complicity in attacks would not continue under the current administration.