Pentecostalism, Open Economic Policy and Sinhala Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka


  • Koji Kawashima Kokushikan University



Buddhism, nationalism, open economic policy, social change, gender


With the introduction of the open economic policy, Sri Lanka became closely connected with the global economy bringing about considerable difficulties to its people. In addition, with the disintegration of the rural community and the dysfunction of family, traditional social and religious systems could not efficiently cope with the growing needs of Buddhists. Under these circumstances, the Pentecostal churches attracted more and more people. Moreover, open economic policy brought about an asymmetrical relationship with the West. With the rapid rise of foreign aid and NGOs, a large number of Sri Lankans came to feel that they were increasingly dependent on the decisions made outside Sri Lanka. As a result, the deep-seated fear that Sinhala Buddhists had of losing their majority status re-emerged. Some activities of Christian NGOs with rather ample foreign funds were misidentified, intentionally or unintentionally under these circumstances, with the general evangelical works of Pentecostals. A discourse of “unethical conversion” was circulated, by which the Sinhala Buddhist nationalists succeeded in inciting the mobs and gaining tacit support from the government and the masses.

Author Biography

Koji Kawashima, Kokushikan University

Koji Kawashima is professor of history at Kokushikan University in Tokyo. His research interest concerns religion, nationalism and politics in South Asia, especially Christian influence upon ethnic communities in Sri Lanka.


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How to Cite

Kawashima, K. (2017). Pentecostalism, Open Economic Policy and Sinhala Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka. PentecoStudies, 16(2), 202–215.