Muslim extremists order Christian Tamils to convert or move out of traditional homeland in Sri Lanka
Many Tamil Christians and Hindus in Sri Lanka are being ordered by Muslim extremists to convert to Islam or leave the villages where their families have lived for generations.
Hindu Tamil rickshaw driver Jyothinathan Chandrasekhar, his wife, Vinojini, and their three-month-old child fled for their lives after jihadists burned out their home when they refused to convert. His rickshaw was also destroyed in the blaze on 31 August 2018.
The family lived in the village of Walathappatti in Ampara district, Eastern province, which for thousands of years has been the traditional home of ethnic Tamils. The majority of Tamils are Hindu, while around 20% are Christians.
According to local sources, Muslims came to dominate the area when they moved to new homes built for victims of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. The new Muslim community went on to stake its claim by renaming the village Islamiapuram.
Jyothinathan and Vinojini, who have since moved to another district, said nine of their relatives have been forcibly converted to Islam by the jihadists.
Violent clashes are reported to have taken place as Tamil families have resisted the extremists’ threats to convert. Local sources say Tamils in the entire Eastern province are being targeted.
The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, with Hindus and Muslims numbering an estimated 14% and 9% respectively, and Christians around 8%. The largest Christian population is found in the Tamil speaking regions in the north and east of Sri Lanka.