Sri Lanka - Religions



Of the total population, Buddhists constitute nearly 70% and are almost without exception ethnic Sinhalese; Hindus amount to 15% of the total population and are almost exclusively ethnic Tamils; Muslims account for 8% (and may or may not be Tamil speakers) and include the Moor and Malay communities; and Christians, accounting for 7%, are to be found in the Sinhalese, Burgher/Eurasian, and Sri Lankan Tamil communities (not to be confused with the so-called Indian Tamils, who were imported as plantation workers in the last century and are exclusively Hindu). A majority of Christians are Roman Catholic, with Anglicans and Baptists also significant, the latter the result of American missionary activity in the north in the 19th century.

The religious atmosphere is traditionally tolerant, and the issues involved in the Tamil insurgency are communal and ethnic rather than religious in origin. The 1978 constitution established Sri Lanka as a secular state and guarantees freedom of religion, while stipulating that Buddhism enjoys the foremost place in the republic.

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