Over 20 anti-Christian attacks in Sri Lanka recorded in 2017

A Christian alliance is calling on the government of Sri Lanka to protect religious minorities and their places of worship after it recorded more than 20 violent attacks targeting Christians this year.

(REUTERS / Nita Bhalla)A man cycles past St. James Church and a poster of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa which reads ''May you live a long life'' in Jaffna. June 6, 2014.

In a declaration dated May 27, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said there were 190 incidents of religiously motivated violence targeting Christians, churches, and ministers since the incumbent government sat in office in 2015. The number of such attacks on Muslims has also seen a significant rise, World Watch Monitor noted.

Buddhist national group Bodu Bala Sena, also called the "Buddhist Power Force," is being blamed for the latest spate of attacks against Christians and Muslims. The group's secretary general Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero has gone into hiding as police seek his arrest and have also apprehended one of its members for inciting violence against Muslims.

On June 11, BBS representative Dilanthe Withanage released a video message denying the allegations against it. The spokesman also slammed the government for allegedly allowing Islamic extremism to thrive in Sri Lanka.

"Within a decade or two, Buddhism will be under serious threat in Sri Lanka," said Withanage in the video message. "If we want to resort to extremists, violence or terrorism, we have the power and the strength to do it. But we will never resort to such things."

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan human rights lawyer named Lakshan Dias has been in hot water for appearing on a television show and talking about religious intolerance against Christians. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, the minister for Justice and Buddha Sasana (Religious Affairs), also threatened to remove him from his practice if he did not retract his statement and issue an apology within 24 hours, Premier reported.

Dias was the one who released data that estimated that there were 195 cases of violence, discrimination, and intimidation against Christians from 2015 to June 2017. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena chalked down the lawyer's claims as false referencing, and the Bar Council of Sri Lanka has asked him to release an affidavit supporting his comments.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide chief executive Mervyn Thomas expressed concern over the government's decision to threaten Dias because of his comments. He suggested that the authorities should have addressed Sri Lanka's problem with religious intolerance instead of condemning the human rights lawyer.