04/18/2013, 00.00
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Mahinda Rajapaksa: We will defend religious freedom and harmony in Sri Lanka

by Melani Manel Perera
Meeting with Muslim delegates from around the world, the president of the country spoke of cases of religious intolerance perpetrated by radical Buddhist groups. One of these fundamentalist formations announces plans to open new offices in Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The Sri Lankan government is committed to maintaining harmony between religious communities in the country and will not tolerate acts of persecution and violence. This is according to President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with 15 delegates from Islamic countries, held yesterday at Temple Trees in Colombo.

The meeting aimed to discuss national and international interests between the various guests from Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Palestine, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. Given the recent incidents of persecution against the Muslim community in Sri Lanka perpetrated by radical Buddhist groups, Rajapaksa has sought to stress his commitment in the fight against nationalism, and his willingness to take stringent action against aggressors.

Among these fundamentalist groups is the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), whose mission is to protect the Sinhalese population and the Buddhist religion. In fact, the BBS has decided to expand and plans to open an office in Jaffna (Western Province), a Tamil majority area. Moreover, the movement aims  to spread their ideology, even outside Sri Lankan borders: Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States could be the destinations chosen to open "international branches" of the BBS.

Meanwhile, even the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an international organization based in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) with a permanent delegation to the United Nations, expressed its concern over the rise of ethnic-religious tensions in Sri Lanka, which have particularly affected the lives and economic activities of the Muslim community.


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