The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today commended the President Maithripala Sirisena led government for taking steps to improve religious unity and religious freedom.
“Since President Sirisena took office in January, he has taken several steps to improve religious unity and religious freedom. For example, he created three new ministries to handle religious affairs for the Muslim, Christian, and Hindu communities respectively,” it said.
“Additionally, the new Ministry of Christian Affairs appointed a special coordinator for Charismatic, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christian churches. The special police unit created by the former government has been disbanded, according to officials and religious communities with whom USCIRF met in March 2015.”
In its 2015 Annual Report released today, the USCIRF said, ‘…most importantly, reports of abuses against religious minorities have diminished in the first months of 2015, though concerns remain.”
This year’s report documents religious freedom violations in 33 countries, makes country-specific recommendations, and assesses the U.S. government’s implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
The U.S. federal government advisory body recommended that Sri Lanka although does not meet Tier 1 (CPC) or Tier 2 thresholds, should still be a focus of concern.
A USCIRF delegation visited Sri Lanka in March 2015 to assess the climate for religious freedom, other human rights.
“President Sirisena’s public statements on the need for national unity, reconciliation, harmony, and improved religious freedom have been encouraging, as were the comments by government officials with whom USCIRF met in March 2015.”
USCIRF recommended that the U.S. government should strongly encourage the positive movement that has occurred in recent months and encourage the Sri Lankan government to allow a transparent and independent investigation into alleged war crimes, including targeted attacks on religious minorities.
The Commission also recommended the U.S. government to ensure that a portion of U.S. humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka is used to help protect minorities from religiously-motivated violence.
It recommended assisting the Sri Lankan government to train local government officials, police officers, and judges on international religious freedom standards and on how to investigate and prosecute violent attacks.
The Commission urged the Sri Lankan government officials to provide minority students an equal opportunity to learn their faiths in public schools and to rescind policies and practices – often driven at local levels – that restrict religious communities’ ability to build houses of worship or practice their faith.
(Original Caption: Religious freedom: US commends Sirisena’s govt) DM