Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued a statement on the incidents at Grandpass Mosque and Weliweriya protests in Sri Lanka.
“Canada expresses concern over the attack on Grandpass Mosque in Grandpass, Sri Lanka, on August 10, 2013.
“This is just one of a number of recent and troubling attacks targeting the Muslim community in that country. It is of utmost importance that every person is able to practise his or her faith free from the threat of violence.
Bennett, a 40-year-old Catholic and academic was named the first head of Office of Religious Freedom in February. He has been the dean of Augustine College, a small, private Christian liberal arts college in Ottawa, since February 2011. He teaches the history of Christianity there and is completing a part-time degree in theology. He has a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Edinburgh, an M.A. in history from McGill University and a B.A. from Dalhousie University.
Bennette also urged Sri Lanka to investigate a deadly army crackdown at environmental protest in Weliweriya and to prosecute those responsible.
“Canada also regrets the reports of violence, injury and loss of life during protests in Weliweriya, Sri Lanka, on August 1, 2013. We are deeply concerned by reports that protesters seeking refuge in a Catholic church were attacked. We offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. We urge authorities to respect the right of peaceful protest and the sanctity of places of worship.
“Canada will continue to condemn all attacks on places of worship. We urge calm on all sides and call for a swift and transparent investigation into what happened, as well as appropriate prosecution for both events.”
The statement came during strained relations between the two nations as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to attend the Commonwealth Heads Meeting in Colombo unless Colombo’s rights record improves.