Date: October 31, 2023
Washington, DC – United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioners Stephen Schneck and David Curry traveled with staff to Colombo, Trincomalee, and Jaffna in Sri Lanka this month and held meetings to assess religious freedom concerns.
“We appreciated the opportunity to meet with Sri Lankan officials, religious leaders, civil society, academics, and journalists to discuss religious freedom issues in the country,” said USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck. “USCIRF acknowledges that religious communities have taken initiative to establish inter-faith dialogues at the local level, however, the Sri Lankan government must amend or repeal current discriminatory policies and legislation to allow for greater religious freedom for Hindu, Christian, and Muslim minority communities.”
USCIRF remains concerned about the Sri Lankan government’s detention of religious minorities through arbitrary use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act. Prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders, and religious minority communities report fears of surveillance by authorities. Additionally, in the north and east of the country, the Sri Lankan Department of Archeology has increasingly collaborated with local authorities and Buddhist clergy to facilitate the expropriation of Muslim and Hindu religious sites.
“Challenges regarding the registration of places of worship, particularly churches and mosques, must be addressed by authorities. USCIRF urges the Sri Lankan government, at both the local and national levels, to pass guidelines that allow for a more transparent registration process,” said USCIRF Commissioner David Curry. “We also call for Sri Lankan authorities to offer more robust protection to religious minorities who report increased acts of discrimination, including intimidation, violence, and hate speech.”
In 2023, USCIRF recommended Sri Lanka be included on the U.S. Department of State’s Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations. USCIRF highlighted these concerns in its 2023 Annual Report and in a Country Update on Religious Freedom Conditions in Sri Lanka.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a commissioner, please contact USCIRF at