Sri Lanka government declares curfew amid bomb attacks

A member of the Sri Lankan armed forces guards the city of Colombo. (AFP pic)

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government declared a curfew with immediate effect, junior defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene said today, following eight explosions that killed 207 people and injuring 450 in the mostly targeted churches and hotels.

“A curfew will be imposed until things settle down,” he told reporters in Colombo.

Government officials also said major social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked inside the country to prevent misinformation and rumours.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organisations.

This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.

Out of Sri Lanka’s total population of around 22 million, 70% are Buddhist, 12.6 % Hindu, 9.7% Muslim, and 7.6% Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.

In its 2018 report on Sri Lanka’s human rights, the US State Department noted that some Christian groups and churches reported they had been pressured to end worship activities after authorities classified them as “unauthorised gatherings”.