In Sri Lanka, presidential election deepens religious divisions

Attacks targeting Muslims, widespread arrests following Easter bombings, and a divisive campaign deepen community fears.

Negombo, Sri Lanka – Sitting in the tiled courtyard of a silver-domed mosque in the western Sri Lankan coastal town of Negombo, Aslam Ghafoor said he fears that his neighbours no longer trust him.

“So many friends in my contacts,” the 54-year-old explained, gesturing to his mobile phone, “they are non-Muslims, and we have been living like brothers. [But] we can’t talk to them now, to ask how they are doing, because we have lost that connection.”

On April 21, at least 149 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted St Sebastian’s church in Negombo, one of six coordinated bombings that killed 269 people and wounded more than 500 others across the South Asian island nation.

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