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Pastor shot dead in Sri Lanka

CSW (1/17/07) – A pastor was shot dead by Sri Lankan security forces on 13 January in Jaffna, according to a report from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL).

Rev. Nallathamby Gnanaseelan, aged 38, was the Pastor of the Tamil Mission Church in Jaffna. He was a member of the NCEASL, and according to their report, he was not engaged in any political activity.

Rev. Gnanaseelan was killed on Chapel Street after he had taken his wife and daughter to hospital. According to reports, he was shot in the stomach and then in the head. His Bible, bag, identity card and motorcycle were taken away and he was left in the road. Sri Lankan security forces initially claimed he had been carrying explosives, and then said he was shot because he failed to stop when challenged.

In recent months there has been a dramatic upsurge in violence in Sri Lanka, particularly in Jaffna, as the conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government has escalated. According to the NCEASL, extrajudicial killings, abductions and disappearances have been widespread, and “the civilian population has been facing a severe shortage of food and medicine, enduring immense hardship and suffering.”

In a statement, the NCEASL said: “Thousands of people are arbitrarily arrested, tortured or ill-treated … We call upon the international community to raise their voices and prevent the massacre of the innocents in this country. The establishing of a United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka is an urgent need. The world cannot stand by and watch as this situation deteriorates, while every day, people pay with their lives.”

In addition to the deteriorating political situation in Sri Lanka, violence against Christians continues and the Sri Lankan Parliament is considering a proposed anti-conversion law.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “We offer our deepest condolences and sympathy to the pastor’s family as they mourn. While the Rev. Gnanaseelan’s murder may not have been primarily motivated by religion, it will only increase the tension for Sri Lanka’s religious minorities. We urge all sides to the conflict, including the Sri Lankan Government, the LTTE and paramilitary forces, to cease the violations of human rights, and we urge the international community to take action to bring the escalating conflict in Sri Lanka to an end.”