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Tip of the iceberg
The issue of child abuse by Buddhist monks is regarded as taboo in what is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country.

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We will take stern action against any child abuser irrespective of race, caste or the religion”

Anoma Dissanayake
CPA head
Against that backdrop, the 3 May conviction of Pahalagama Somaratana Thera - who runs children's homes in Sri Lanka - has come as a surprise, as well as a shock, to many expatriate Sinhalese Buddhists in the UK.

Supporters of the monk were reported to be so convinced he would be acquitted and released that they planned a grand welcoming party for him during Sri Lanka's important Vesak Buddhist festival.

There are concerns that Thera's conviction may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abuses in Sri Lankan Buddhist temples.

While in some cases monks are not directly accused of carrying out the abuses, they have been accused of failing to stop them.

Most Sri Lankan Buddhist temples have a constant stream of boys and adult male helpers who live there for short periods. It is not at all unusual for temples to seek help from youths in nearby villages to prepare for religious ceremonies and in the general day-to-day running of the buildings.

This, say critics, provides an ideal climate for abusers to take sexual advantage of vulnerable and impressionable boys mostly under 16 years old.