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Inter-Religious Conflict in Four Districts of Sri Lanka

Research Papers

Inter-Religious Conflict in Four Districts of Sri Lanka

The study draws from qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with women and
men from the districts of Mannar, Jaffna, Ampara, and Matara in Sri Lanka and unpacks
the intersecting domains of contestation among Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and
Buddhists including the agents and enabling conditions that fuel conflict. It adopts a
localised and context-specific lens to the analysis of inter-religious conflict as well as
conflict resolution mechanisms with a focus on the role of women’s participation.

The study discusses how inter-religious conflict manifests differently in the four districts
while the underlying reasons for conflict remain the same. It argues that conflicts stem from different types of encroachment of space, identity, and power of one ethno-religious community by another which is facilitated by national and regional enabling conditions such as institutionalised ethno-religious majoritarianism, religious extremism, regional ethno-religious nationalisms, business rivalry, cultural aspects such as caste and poverty. These dynamics also shape communities’ approaches to conflict mitigation differently. The study concludes that while misconceptions and prejudice against religious others exist, these manifest into violence primarily due to the impunity granted to/enjoyed by the ethno-religious majority in each district.

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