Written by Don Byrd

Easter Sunday was marred by news of deadly church bombings targeting Christians in Sri Lanka. Nearly 300 were killed in multiple explosions in what is being called “the deadliest attack on Christians in Southeast Asia in recent memory.”

The NYTimes reports that the attack highlights the ascendancy of religious violence in the region, where Christians are increasingly targeted. Here is an excerpt:

Christians make up only 6 percent of the population of Sri Lanka, which is still emerging from the shadow of a harrowing civil war between the Sinhalese Buddhist majority and ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindu or Christian.

. . . Christians were a primary target, and their faith has been increasingly under attack by militants and politicians across South and Southeast Asia.

Over the past year, deadly bombings of churches by militants claiming allegiance to the Islamic State have rocked the Philippines and Indonesia.

In India, the Hindu right, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has targeted Muslim and Christian minorities, the latter group because of its symbolic association with British colonialism.

The ruling party in Bangladesh, the secular-leaning Awami League, has partnered with conservative Muslim clerics who routinely call for the persecution of religious minorities, including Christians.

In Myanmar, Christian minorities fear they will be the next targets of the Buddhist-dominated government.

And in Sri Lanka, a toxic Buddhist nationalist political force has agitated against minority Christians and Muslims, dismissing them as relics of a British colonial era when the Buddhist majority itself was repressed.

And it’s not just Christians facing violent oppression. The report details how religious minorities of all faiths are subject to increased persecution across Asia, as a result of the “growing appeal of a politics based on ethnic and sectarian identity.” 

The Easter violence in Sri Lanka was a terrifying and sad reminder of the true threats confronting people of faith all around the world simply because of their religious beliefs and their manner of worship. Our politics should provide a means of living together peacefully that honors the human rights of all; Dividing citizens based on religious identity is a strategy for power, not peace.