Consultation on Defending Religious Freedom: A Legal Perspective Colombo, Sri Lanka

Persecution against the church in the South Asian region has continuously increased over the past few years. According to the World Watch List for the period of 2017/2018, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are within the top 50 countries where persecution against Christians is highest.1 One of the main reasons behind this has been the rise of religious nationalism in the region. For instance, India and Nepal have witnessed the spread of the Hindutva ideology by extremist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates and Sri Lanka has seen the rise of the Buddhist nationalist ideology by groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).

In addition to persecution perpetrated by extremist groups, the religious freedom of Christians in the South Asian region has also been constrained as a result of government restrictions. These include laws requiring compulsory registration of churches, blasphemy laws and anti-conversion laws, which have been imposed discriminatorily against Christians and churches in this region. A Pew Research study on government restrictions in 2015 shows that legal restrictions imposed by governments have also been used as a tool by extremist groups to persecute Christians….

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