Sri Lanka, officially the Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island nation located in South Asia, formerly known as Ceylon. It covers an area of 25,332 square miles with a population of approximately 20 million. The administrative capital of the country is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte while the commercial capital is Colombo. Sri Lanka is a semi-presidential sovereign state governed as a single power, with the central government being supreme. It is semi-presidential in the sense that there is the president, the prime minister, and the cabinet who help run the affairs concerning the country. It is an ethnically diverse multicultural country with a rich Buddhist heritage.
Religious beliefs in Sri Lanka
Buddhism has been considered the state religion in Sri Lanka since 70.2% of the general population believes in Buddhism. Buddhism was introduced to this island country in the third century, and the kings of the country played a major role in its maintenance, spread and revival and in the 19th century a modern revival took place which sought to improve education and Buddhist learning. In the 16th century, wars broke out with the arrival of missionaries who tried to convert the population to Christianity, which led to the weakening of their monasteries and their monks. They then make contact with Burma so that ordained monks are brought to restore Buddhism. Wars between the Portuguese, Dutch Europeans and the natives of the country continued, and the missionaries won, resulting in the popularization of Christianity while the Buddhists were discriminated against. In the late 1800s, beginning in 1880, Buddhist schools were established to encourage and promote Buddhism as well as publications to increase people’s interest. This led to the reconstruction of shrines and the flourishing of religion and culture as well as the development of the center of Western Buddhist scholarship.
Hinduism is the second most populous religion accounting for 12.6% of the total population. Statistics show that predominantly Tamils make up this population and since Tamils have migrated into the country since independence, their number has dropped from 25% to 12.6% currently. These Tamils of Hindu origin are mainly located in the northern region of the country as well as in the commercial capital of the country, Colombo. During Portuguese rule, several indigenous Tamils were approached to convert to the Catholic religion, with others even going so far as to be threatened with death threats.
Islam in the country began to grow in the 7th century with the arrival of Arab traders who by the 8th century had taken control of the Indian Ocean and Middle Eastern trade routes. Most of the traders settled in the island nation which encouraged their spread. They decreased considerably after the arrival of the Portuguese who ruined their establishment as well as their trade routes, but during the 18th and 19th centuries, Muslims from India and Malaysia who came to Sri Lanka allowed their increase. They now form 9.7% of the entire population.
Roman Catholic Christianity
Christianity forms the least number of people in the country at 6.1%. The Dutch introduced Christianity before the arrival of the Portuguese who consequently left an unforgettable legacy, most Christians being Catholics.
Other forms of Christianity
1.3% of the general population of Sri Lanka are Protestants who were mainly converted by the Dutch after the departure of the Portuguese.
Atheism in Sri Lanka
According to the census conducted in 2012, 0.1% of the general population does not believe in any religion and therefore could be considered atheist. Thus, only a very small percentage of Sri Lankans are non-believers. Religion plays an important role in Sri Lankan society and strongly influences the culture of the people of the country.
Religious beliefs in Sri Lanka
|Rank||belief system||Share of population of Sri Lanka|
|4||Roman Catholic Christianity||6.1%|
|5||Other forms of Christianity||1.3%|
|6||Other beliefs or no beliefs||0.1%|