Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists

Quick Facts

Place of Origin:  Sri Lanka is southeast of India and is located in the Indian ocean.
Religion:  Buddhism (70%), Hindus (12%), Muslims (9%), Christians (7%).
Population:  21.8 million
(Primary) Language:  Sinhala or Helabasa
(Secondary) Language: Tamil
Other Information:
  • Sri Lanka ("venerable island") is known as "The Pearl of the Indian Ocean." 
  • Sri Lanka has one of the longest-documented histories in the world.
  • Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in South Asia.
  • Sri Lanka is one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world. 
  • Sri Lanka is the first country in recorded history to have a female ruler.
  • Sri Lanka is the first modern nation with a female elected head of state.
  • Sri Lanka is the third most religious country in the world.

When did Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists first come to Canada?

Immigration to Canada began in the mid-1950s and increased in the late 1980s.  Until COVID-19, the GTA had experienced a steady increase in the number of incoming Sri Lankan college/university students into GTA who, upon completion of a 2-3 year college diploma or certificate, are guaranteed a work permit that leads to a job that leads eventually to inviting nuclear/extended family from Sri Lanka. 

Where do Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists predominantly gather in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)?

Concentrated populations are in Toronto, Scarborough, Brampton, Mississauga, Markham, Stouffville, and Durham region.
Population estimate in the GTA:  15,000

What are Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists' lives like?

  • Sinhalese Buddhist temples provide religious, social, and cultural centres within most communities. The Toronto Maha Vihara, formed in 1978 in Scarborough, is the oldest Sinhalese Buddhist temple in Canada, and the West-End Buddhist Centre, founded in 1992, is a prominent Sinhalese Buddhist temple located in Mississauga. Both are notable for their Dhamma schools, which cultivate Buddhist values among Sinhalese Canadians.
  • Many community organizations are found within the Sinhalese community. The Sri Lanka-Canada Association was formed in 1968 and is one of the oldest organizations in the Sri Lankan community. The Sinhalese Association of Canada, the leading Sinhala cultural organization in Toronto, was founded in 1998. The Sinhalese Association is well known for hosting a summer musical event known as sathsara ravaya, which celebrates the people and accomplishments of the Sinhalese community.
  • The Sinhalese community has a vibrant social and cultural life that revolves around events and activities organized by religious and community organizations. Some of these events include New Year festivals, Buddhist religious celebrations, sports events, theatre, and concerts.

What do Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists believe?

  • The Sinhalese are the largest ethnic group of Sri Lanka, comprising approximately three quarters of the population. According to Sinhalese chronicles, the Sinhalese, or "lion people," are the descendants of Prince Vijaya and his 700 followers who arrived in Sri Lanka in the 6th century BC after having been banished from Sinhapura in Bengal, Northeast India. The overwhelming majority of Sinhalese practice Theravada Buddhism, which was introduced to the islanders in the 3rd century BC.

for the  Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists in the GTA

  • Pray that GTA’s Sri Lankan Sinhalese Christians will become more involved and more intentional in evangelism efforts to their own people group in GTA.
  • Pray that GTA’s Sri Lankan Sinhalese Christians will become champions to address lostness among another near- or even far-culture people groups from South Asia living in GTA.
  • Pray for non-Sri Lankans believers and churches in GTA to become burdened about the lost state of so many thousands of GTA Sri Lankan Sinhalese so that they get into the gospel harvest.
  • Ask God to use believers trained in various tools for outreach to Buddhists (e.g., Global Gates Canada’s “Engaging the Nations” booklet, or the “15 Days of Prayer for Buddhists” tool) to find & befriend Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists and share life & the good news of Jesus with them.
  • Pray for physical and relational healing after a generation of civil war. There is resurgent tension between Tamil and Sinhalese Sri Lankans especially because of the Easter 2019 bombings in Sri Lanka.
  • Pray for growth and maturity for the indigenous Sinhalese-background Church in GTA & across Canada.

Prayer Resources

Urban Research Assisting Churches is a website that seeks to provide an accessible online portal for receiving and sharing tools, information, expertise, and resources related to engaging and embracing the diverse peoples of Canada. Click the Ureach Toronto Logo for more resources on Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhists.
Prayercast is a website dedicated to activating prayer around the world.
For prayer resources on Sri Lankan Sinhaleses Buddhists peoples, click the Prayercast logo.