Julia Duin, writing in the Washington Times's "Belief Blog," sites violence by Sri Lankan Buddhists against Christian churches. "Buddhism is treated as a state religion in Sri Lanka where Buddhist extremists attack Christian churches, according to the State Department's annual religious freedom report," Duin says. She also mentions an attempt to pass a law in Sri Lanka that would have banned conversions from Buddhism to another religion.
I understand there have been attacks by Buddhist nationalists against Christian churches in Sri Lanka. There is no excuse or justification in Buddhism for this. However, some Christian groups operating in Sri Lanka have not exactly helped Buddhist-Christian relations.
There is an ongoing problem with over-aggressive Christian proselytizing conducted in a dishonest and unethical manner by some conservative evangelical groups. Missionaries have targeted the poor with offers of money if they would renounce the Buddha, for example. They have distributed inflammatory literature, such as pamphlets condemning the Buddha as a reincarnation of Satan.
According to Christian Eckert, writing for The Lanka Academic, after the 2004 tsunami some Christian and Scientology groups presented themselves as humanitarian NGOs but primarily engaged in missionary work. They offered humanitarian aid, including food and new homes, in exchange for attending Christian worship services or Scientology readings.
I understand the Catholic and Anglican churches of Sri Lanka have spoken out against these "conversion" practices. Also, the anti-conversion bill Duin mentions would not have banned conversions entirely, but was intended to discourage coerced conversions. However, the bill was abandoned under pressure from the United States.
It doesn't help that Sri Lanka has been gripped by ongoing civil war since 1983. The main protagonists are the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority and a mostly Hindu Tamil minority. The conflict has hardened ethnic animosities and eroded Sri Lanka's traditional tolerance. Aggressively anti-Buddhist foreign missionaries are but fuel on an already hot fire.
All parties in Sri Lanka might do well to remember these words from the Dhammapada:
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'' in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased.
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'' in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased.
Hate is not overcome by hate; by Love (Metta) alone is hate appeased. This is an eternal law.