Sri Lanka is suffering its worst economic crisis for decades, with food inflation rising to 93.7% in September 2022. A ban on chemical fertilisers from April to November 2021 caused a drastic drop in crop yields nationwide. Fuel and energy shortages are so severe that the schools have been closed and hospitals are struggling to function.
Christians make up 8% of the population in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka and are represented in both the Sinhala majority and Tamil minority ethnic groups.
The Christian community comprises both families who have been Christian for generations and new converts from Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Most Christians are poor and many have suffered violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists or radical Muslims.
On Easter Sunday 2019, Islamic State suicide bombers killed at least 254 people, mostly Sri Lankan Christians in co-ordinated attacks on churches and other Christian targets. Church leaders criticised the government’s slowness to investigate, with trials of suspects not yet concluded by early 2023.
Mobs led by Buddhist monks disrupt church services, sometimes backed by local officials. In January 2022 a pastor in Anuradhapura District was served with a notice barring him from holding meetings in his home. The notice erroneously asserted that express permission is required for a building to be used as a place of worship. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has resisted churches’ requests for approval documentation. Such false allegations are common.
Extremists have repeatedly disrupted Christian funerals, particularly for converts in rural areas of the Hindu-majority eastern coast region, where burial grounds are controlled by local temples.
Buddhist hardliner Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election as president in 2019 opened the door to criminalising religious conversions. However, he was ousted in July 2022 following anti-government protests at the worsening economy, replaced by his ally former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Pray for an end to hostility towards Christians and that they will be able to worship without threat or harassment. Ask that the Lord will provide for the many very impoverished Christians as they suffer greatly due to the nation’s economic hardship.