While condemning the International Religious Freedom Report for 2014 issued by the US Department of State, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thera today said that the BBS would prepare a report on religious freedom in the US and hand it over to the US Embassy in Colombo soon.
“The report has condemned the local Buddhists and had praised Islamists and Christians. Now, the US Department of State is the entity which decides religious freedom in Sri Lanka. We will make a detailed report on the religious freedom in the US and hand it over to the US Embassy in Sri Lanka within two weeks. We need no permission to create such a report as the US Department didn’t clarify anything from us,” the prelate said.
While addressing a media conference, BBS Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Vithanage said the report was against the Buddhist community.
“No information relating to destroying Buddha statues, temples and insulting Buddhist religious activities are included in the report. Therefore, it is clear that the report is against the Buddhist community,” Mr. Vithanage said.
The US report said the Sri Lankan Constitution and other laws gave Buddhism “foremost place” and commit the government to protecting it, but did not recognize it as the State religion.
“Authorities often did not investigate or prosecute those responsible for attacks on churches. At times, the local Police and government officials appeared to be acting in concert with Buddhist nationalist organizations,” the report said.
The BBS also condemned the report contents with regard to the incident in Aluthgama and Beruwala.
“We have never organised such protest or provide any leadership to it, but the report said, “The incident was widely covered by international press, occurred after the Bodu Bala Sena a hard line violent ethnic Sinhala Buddhist organisation with links to the government, held a large rally in the streets of Aluthgama to condemn a reported assault of a Buddhist monk by several Muslim youth’.
“We had no connection whatsoever with the previous regime or with this government,” he said.
“The BBS General Secretary Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera regularly made inflammatory statements about “Islamic invasion and aggression” and “forced conversions” by Christian groups as posing existential threats to Buddhism in the country,” the report read.
“The US ambassador should be ashamed of making or providing details to compile such reports,” Mr. Withanage said.
“The report says the US Embassy officials regularly met representatives from a broad range of religious groups to encourage interfaith efforts, but not any single official came and discussed the issues with the BBS in the previous two weeks,” Withanage said.
According to the report the US government estimates the total population to be 21.9 million as at July 2014 of which 70 percent is Buddhist, 13 percent Hindu, 10 percent Christian, and 7 percent Muslim.
“Christians tend to be concentrated in the west and Muslims in the east; the north is predominantly Hindu,” the report said.
“The facts are completely wrong,” Mr. Withanage said. (Chaturanga Pradeep)