After a civil war that lasted for almost three decades, Sri Lanka had enjoyed a decade of relative calm. That was shattered on Sunday, when more than 200 people were killed in a coordinated bomb attack.
In this context, recent events in the small island nation known for its tremendous natural beauty attracted more than two million tourists in 2018.
The country gained independence from the British in 1948 as the rule of Ceylon Reign and became the Republic of Sri Lanka in 1972.
Much of his story, however, was affected by sectarian tensions. And lately, it has become involved in much larger regional rivalries between China and India.
Population and ethnic groups
About 22 million people live in Sri Lanka, more than 70 percent of whom are Buddhists.
Smaller Ethnic and religious groups include Hindus (over 12 percent), Muslims (under 10 percent), and Catholics (about 6 percent). At least three churches were targeted by Sunday bomb attacks.
Despite their clear majority, Sinhalese-Buddhist nationalists have lately been raising concerns that minority groups, especially Muslims, are increasing in numbers and influence. The nationalist fervor has led to violent clashes.
The Tamil Tigers
A long history of deprivation of Tamil minority groups, most of whom are Hindu, was waged by the Sinhalese Buddhists in the 1980s for a civil war. 19659011] The Tamil Tigers, an armed insurgent group that turned out to be secular, launched deadly attacks, including some of the earliest suicide bombing tactics of the uprising. The Sri Lankan army then carried out brutal campaigns and concentrated mainly on the Tamil fortress in the northeast.
The civil war ended in 2009 after a large-scale army operation that defeated the Tamil Tigers and killed their leader.
There are no exact numbers of victims, but the United Nations has suggested that 40,000 civilians were killed in the last phase of the war alone.
Scars remaining after the war
The grievances surrounding systematic prejudice leading to civil war remain untouched.
Tamil families are still searching for thousands of people who disappeared during the war and trying to reclaim land still owned by the military. The health service is trying to address the overwhelming trauma of decades of violence.
With the rise of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, religious differences have continued to grow – and the country has experienced new waves of violence. An increase in intolerance was partly attributed to the triumph of some Singhalese politicians after the Second World War.
Fighting at the top
The country has also had political tensions at the top.
An attempt to overthrow the Prime Minister last year resulted in a continuing constitutional crisis that threatened to fall into violence. For a short time, the country had two declared prime ministers at the same time.
President Maithripala Sirisena fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last October. In his place he appointed former president and strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.
When it became clear that Mr. Rajapaksa did not have enough votes in Parliament to appoint him Prime Minister, Sirisena dissolved the body.
The two-month crisis brought the country to a standstill. There were clashes between the streets, where thousands of supporters marched on both sides, and the parliament, where the legislature broke into fist fights and even hurled chili powder on each other.
Mr. Rajapaksa finally went back and Mr. Wickremesinghe remained prime minister.