Thanks to its promotion by figures from Hollywood (Richard Gere) and Silicon Valley (Steve Jobs), Buddhism in the West presents a ‘peaceful’ face. Yet Christians in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, as well as other minority religions, see things differently.
“To be Sri Lankan is to be Buddhist” is the commonly-held belief by more than 70% of Sri Lanka’s population who follow its philosophy. Race and religion are so intertwined that a 30-year war took place for the majority Buddhist Sinhala race to eventually reiterate their dominance over the minority Hindu Tamils.
The belief that, in Sri Lanka, Buddhism is tied to national identity is key to understanding the locals’ fear and opposition to minority religions, especially Christianity (7% of the population), Hinduism (12%) and Islam (9%) says Mahesh De Mel, Missions Director of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL): “Now, in Sri Lanka, we are the only nation in Asia – in the world – which is majority Sinhalese.