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BosNewsLife (01/04/06) – Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka have fled at least one church following Christmas season violence which killed at least one politician and injured several other believers, BosNewsLife monitored late Wednesday, January 4.

Human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that it has established that Joseph Pararajasingham, a prominent Tamil and member of parliament for the Tamil National Alliance party, was shot dead “while attending a late night Christmas Eve service at St. Ann’s Catholic Cathedral in Batticaloa (Eastern Province).”

The attack was followed by violence on Christmas Day when “a mob of about 30 people accosted members of the King’s Revival Church in Alawwa [in] Kurunegala District [of] west central Sri Lanka,” CSW said.

“They threatened the pastor and warned the congregation not to attend the service,” during the incident, the group claimed. The militants also “told the pastor not to hold a Christmas service and warned they would attack again on New Year’s Eve. Many worshippers fled in fear,” said CSW, citing a report by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka.

Those who continued on their way to church were reportedly beaten up injuring three women, including one pregnant lady, and a man who was taken to hospital for treatment, CSW added.

Police reluctantly detained some people for questioning on December 29, after the incident was reported twice to them, the organization claimed. There was no immediate comment from police officials.

In a separate incident, five days before Christmas, the family of Mr Karunaratne, a deceased Christian, was refused permission to bury their relative in a local public cemetery, CVSW said.

Local Buddhists allegedly told the family from Uva Province in south eastern Sri Lanka , that they could not bury the dead man in the cemetery because he was a Christian.

Local police and authorities eventually intervened and the burial went ahead, but the initial refusal “is an example of continuing anti-Christian discrimination in Sri Lanka ,” CSW explained.

“We are most disturbed that this Christian community has been unable to celebrate Christmas in peace. We are also appalled that a family was initially denied permission to bury their relative in a public cemetery, simply because he was a Christian,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas, told BosNewsLife.

He said religious rights activists are pleased local authorities appear in both cases to have eventually intervened to uphold the law, “but we would urge the Sri Lankan Government at all levels to be proactive in ensuring protection for Christians, equal rights and freedom of religion for all.”

CSW also urged the authorities to bring “the perpetrators of violence to justice,” and to do “everything possible to eliminate extremism and intolerance.”