Year: 2019
World Watch List: 46
Score: 58
Leader: President Maithripala Sirisena
Population: 20.9 million
Christian: 1.9 million
Main Religion: Buddhism
Government: Unitary Semi-Presidential Constitutional Republic
Source of Persecution: Religious Nationalism
Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Sri Lanka through:
  • Emergency aid relief
  • Bible and Christian literature distribution
  • Socio-economic development
Source of persecution: Religious nationalism

Mobs stirred up to attack

According to the Constitution, Christians have the right to worship. But at the same time, it is duty of the state to protect and foster Buddhist teachings. Majority of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese Buddhists, and they do not welcome foreign influences on their lives. The Sinhalese life revolves around three things: the temple, the village, and the lake (referring to farming and irrigation). Anything outside this triangle is seen as an attack on this life, and so radical Buddhist groups led by monks fend off the attacks by stirring up mobs to attack Christians, as well as the Muslim minority.

Pastors and church leaders targeted

Villagers, police, and Buddhist monks monitor the activities of Christians in their village to know when to incite attacks against them or to find faults that they can accuse them of. Christians are also often threatened and intimidated to make them stop their activities or leave the village. Many times, attackers release false accusations against Christians to the media, and then attack the Christians based on the accusations. Pastors and church leaders are particularly targeted, and many have had to flee or go into hiding. Children can be punished or even fined if they don’t participate in Buddhist rituals at school.

There are Christian converts from Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu backgrounds in the country. They are seen as traitors of their communities, and face hostility, harassment, and violent attacks from their communities, especially in rural villages.

The big ethnic divide

In 1983, a civil war broke out between the Sinhalese and the largest minority group, the Tamils. Both sides suffered huge losses. The Tamils were finally defeated in 2009, and the war has ended, but the two groups have not yet reconciled. There is also friction in the Sri Lankan church due to the conflict. However, Christians are one of the very few groups in the country that may be able to bridge this ethnic divide – many churches have both Singhalese and Tamil members.


  • For pastors who are mocked and disturbed for conducting services. Pray that they will not waver in their faith, and that they will draw strength from the Lord.
  • For a change in the country, that the animosity against minorities will lessen.
  • For Sri Lankan Christians to see past their ethnic differences and unite as one church. Pray also that they can play a part in bridging the ethnic gap in the country.

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World Watch List

2019 Map