Attacks on minority faiths keep increasing in the majority-Buddhist island nation.
The South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka earned its place in the Guinness Book of World Records last year with the world’s tallest artificial Christmas tree, reaching a height of 72.1 meters, or about 237 feet.
The record-setting display was built by Arjuna Ranatunga Social Services, an effort led by legendary Sri Lankan cricket captain and politician Arjuna Ranatunga.
Located at Galle Face Green, a park in the capital city of Columbo, the artificial tree was erected as a steel and wire frame, draped with plastic netting, and decorated with 6 million LED bulbs; more than a million red, green, gold, and silver pine cones; and a star top spanning 6 meters (20 feet).
Though government official Mahinda Nanayakkara is a Buddhist—like more than 70 percent of the population in Sri Lanka—he was the one to present the idea of the tree to Ranatunga almost four years before it became a reality in 2016.
The Roman Catholic Church initially criticized the $80,000 project, with Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith calling it a “sheer waste of money.” (Sponsors mostly covered the cost.) The cardinal ultimately offered his support after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe intervened.
Hundreds of workers volunteered to assemble the giant tree—an effort to promote religious harmony, peace, and unity in a country long divided on religious and ethnic lines.
But one year after the news of the tallest artificial Christmas tree made it around the world, religious harmony on the island has not improved. According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), religious freedom violations have grown.
“After the new government came in 2015, we thought incidents will decrease. But to our surprise, they …