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Bodu Bala Sena (BBS = Buddhist Power Force)

Buddhist groups including the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS or Buddhist Power Force), Ravana Balava (Ravana Power), Sinhala Ravana (Sinhala Echo), and the Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa (Sinhala National Force), which claims ownership of the Sinha-Le (Lions Blood) campaign continued to promote the supremacy of the countrys ethnic Sinhalese Buddhist population and propagated views hostile to members of religious and ethnic minorities.

Tensions flared up between the two communities because of the rise of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist groups following the end of the country's nearly three-decade war. These groups include the monk-led Bodu Bala Sena, which has links to Buddhist hardline groups in Myanmar. They are widely perceived to have the support of former President Mahinda Rajapakse, and accuse the Muslims, who make up 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million population, of forcing people to convert to Islam and of destroying sacred Buddhist sites.

Buddhist nationalist groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena, described as seeking the enforcement of Buddhist predominance in Sri Lanka", promote the supremacy of the ethnic Sinhalese Buddhist majority and denigrate religious and ethnic minorities, especially via social media. The president of the Bodu Bala Sena, Kirima Wimalajothi, told a meeting 28 September 2014 that Sri Lanka was "not a multi-cultural country but rather a nation for the Sinhala Buddhists" and threatened to topple the government unless it stopped "Muslim extremism". For many Sri Lankan Buddhists, a true Sri Lankan is a Sinhala Buddhist. This is not only a powerful normative influence throughout Sri Lanka, but also within the larger South and Southeast Asian Buddhist societies. Buddhist nationalist rhetoric was wedded to violence in the Sri Lanka civil war and in its aftermath.

In the 16th century, the Tamil invaders made every effort to destroy the Buddhist books; but the priests subsequently sent a mission to Siara, and properly ordained priests were imported from Amarapura in Burma. By the 18th century, Buddhism had regained its aendency. In the 19th century, the priests have ieen actively diffusing a-knowledge of their creed. They have printing presses, from which tracts, pamphlets, and aerials issue in great numbers. They presented some new arguments and inferences; and the defiant and blasphemous expressions which they contain against the sacred name of Jehovah was probably the most awful ever framed in human language.

In 2004, Buddhist monks formed the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU, the National Heritage Party). A new party running an all-Buddhist monk slate of candidates (an unprecedented occurrence), the JHU took nine seats and almost six percent of the vote in the 2004 election. Its performance makes the JHU a big player in the next Parliament and would seem to make the party a societal force. The monks had not yet clearly articulated their positioning on major issues and it is uncertain exactly what they stand for.

Shortly after the civil war ended in 2009, two Buddhist monks broke off from the Jathika Hela Urumaya and formed a new organization called the Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force). The Bodu Bala Sena has been training young monastics since 2013. They have been trying to change the way people see what it means to be a Sinhala Buddhist--what does it mean to be a Sri Lankan.

There has been increasing violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka since 2012, mirroring events in Buddhist-majority Burma, which has also seen a surge of attacks by members of the majority community against Muslims. In Burma, hardline Buddhist monks had been at the forefront of campaigns against Muslims.

On 16 June 2014 clashes between Buddhists and Muslims killed three Muslims and wounded at least 75 people in southern Sri Lanka. The violence in the coastal towns of Aluthgama and Beruwala followed a rally by the hardline Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena, and was reportedly triggered by a local dispute. Residents say BBS supporters set several homes on fire and attacked mosques. Authorities imposed a curfew in the popular tourist region. Sri Lankan Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem accused his own government of not taking measures to prevent the unrest. He said authorities allowed the BBS to hold their gathering without providing extra security for Muslim residents. The BBS, which has been engaged in an anti-Muslim campaign, is said to have support from the government.

A Myanmar monk accused of inciting violence against Muslims and a hardline Buddhist group in Sri Lanka said on 30 September 2014 they would work together to rally other Buddhist groups and defend their faith against militant Islamists. Ashin Wirathu, who once called himself the Burmese bin Laden said the agreement with Sri Lanka's Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or Buddhist Power Force, was the first step in a broad alliance against conversions by Islamists in the region. The deal gave no detailed indication what the groups were planning to counter. Both Bodu Bala Sena and 969 movement have felt that they must now come forward to derive practical and meaningful ways to address these burning issues which cannot be left for politicians to deal with, the agreement said.

The Bodu Bala Sena organization said that if the central executive powers are eliminated or downgraded in the new Constitution and the country divided into states with greater independent authority than the nine current provinces, [w]e will rally 4,000 Buddhist monks in Colombo and defeat the changes to the constitution. If the amendments are made while ignoring us, a river of blood would flow in the country. (M.R.M. Waseem, Sri Lanka: Bodu Bala Sena Threatens to Rally 4000 Monks in Colombo Against Constitutional Amendments, VIRAKESARI (Dec. 7, 2016).

On 14 June 2018, a Sri Lankan court jailed Gnarasara Thero for inciting violence against Muslims. Reuters journalist Ranga Sirilal reports Gnanasara Thero told reporters as he boarded the bus to take him to prison, I have done my duty towards the country. Why should I regret? The Sri Lankan government has taken very little action against the Bodu Bala Sena. Rajapaksa was waiting in the wing, much more supportive of the Bodu Bala Sena and other groups beside the Bodu Bala Sena.

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Page last modified: 25-04-2019 14:55:49 ZULU