The Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, a Buddhist-majority country not known for religious violence or intolerance, are tapping into global worries about safety.
Experts who study long-term trends of religious intolerance and violence disagree, however, on whether things are getting worse, better or generally have remained level.
Even so, religious leaders say the attacks have come at a fragile time.
Religious institutions are losing power, and anger, tribalism and controversy boil away online every minute of the day. It’s hard to gauge or stop tensions from ballooning, they say, and the Sri Lanka attacks are a reminder of the risks.
Sri Lankan officials — with help from the FBI — Monday said the attacks were carried out by the National Thowheed Jamaath, a local Islamist militant group, with suspected international assistance.
“Here’s a nation that has pluralism and yet still had religious terrorism. It reminds you there isn’t one solution, no one safe place. It’s surprising,” said Ed Stetzer, who holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College and has trained evangelists across the world.
The attacks in Sri Lanka come as other incidents are fresh in memory. Those include the killings of 50 people at a New Zealand mosque last month, the October 2018 killing of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the deaths of at least 45 people during twin Palm Sunday bombings in Egypt in April 2017.
In the United States, churches and mosques have begun adding security infrastructure to their places of worship. At the same time, there are high-level interfaith and pluralism efforts going on between Christian and Muslim leaders and groups that didn’t exist a generation ago. Those include the creation of international religious freedom ambassadors in several Western countries, said Rabbi David Saperstein, who held that position under President Barack Obama. They also include the Marrakesh Declaration, a January 2016 statement by hundreds of Muslim religious leaders worldwide committing to the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries. The Southern Baptist Convention, the biggest Protestant U.S. denomination, has filed court briefs in support of religious freedom for Muslims.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST