CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Inquiry after religious unrest in Sri Lanka

KANDY (SE): Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, will appoint a commission comprised of three retired judges to investigate attacks on Muslims in the city of Kandy by Buddhist mobs in Sri Lanka, Firstpost reported.
 
The government declared a 10-day nationwide state of emergency on March 6 and police imposed a curfew in the Theldeniya and Pallekele areas of Kandy after Buddhist mobs attacked a mosque, Muslim businesses and houses on March 4. 
 
Firstpost reported on March 10 that at least three people died, 20 others were wounded and more than 200 Muslim-owned businesses and homes were destroyed by the time the unrest died down on March 8.
 
The riots came in reaction to the death of a Buddhist lorry driver who died from injuries sustained during an altercation with a group of Muslims on March 2.
 
The Straits Times newspaper reported one Kandy resident, 30-year-old Mohamed Shifan as saying, “First they burnt the mosque, there were even women among the attackers. Then they started to burn all the Muslim shops.” 
 
Police fired tear gas to disperse a mob including Buddhist monks on March 5, UCAN reported and the curfew was lifted on March 10. However, the nationwide state of emergency declared on March 6 remains in place.
 
Father Nandana Manathunga, chairperson of the Human Rights Office in Kandy, said a group of people came to Theldeniya and attacked shops and houses.
 
“Many came from outside the village and demonstrated,” he said.
 
Police detained 150 people, along with the suspected instigator, Amith Weerasinghe, a man known for anti-Muslim activism and outspoken social media posts, on March 8 according to Firstpost.
 
The prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe said compensation will be paid to affected families, according the UCAN
 
Muslims say they live in fear and that it is common to see young and old Muslims gathered in front of their burnt houses, shops and vehicles.
 
Some villages in Kandy district are empty except for police and soldiers. All Muslim shops are closed in many places.
 
Bishop Joseph Ponnaiah of Batticaloa, said that violence based on religion and ethnicity should stop.
 
“I see this incident as well planned and the government should investigate quickly. During the earlier regime, we also saw this type of incident,” the bishop said.
 
The residents of Kandy blame hardline groups such as Bodu Bala Sena rather than the Sinhalese community for the violence.
 
Similar anti-Muslim violence erupted in the east of Sri Lanka in late February after a false rumour was spread about birth control pills being served in a Muslim restaurant in Ampara to Sinhalese customers. 
 
The BBC reported that the former captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team, Kumar Sangakkara, posted on his Twitter feed: “No one in Sri Lanka can be marginalised or threatened or harmed due to their ethnicity or religion.  We are One Country and One people. Love, trust and acceptance should be our common mantra. No place for racism and violence. STOP. Stand together and stand strong.”

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