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Clergyman assaulted in Ampara

6/23/08 Sri Lanka (NCEASL) – On the evening of 23rd June 2008, at about 4.40 pm, the Reverend Father from the Methodist Church in Ampara ( Eastern Province ) was returning from a cell group meeting in Uhana when he was accosted by 3 men. They asked him to accompany them to a house claiming there were people there who wished to become Christians. Sensing it was a trap, the Reverend had requested that they come to the Church to talk to him if they wished to know more about Christianity. The 3 men then beaten him up threatening him not to return to that village. It is reported that the 3 men are Gramarakshaka Niladhari (Home Guards). The injured clergyman is receiving treatment at the Ampara hospital. He is reported to be suffering from headaches and bleeding from the nose.

This attack comes just 4 months after a Home Guard in uniform shot dead Pastor Neil Edirisinghe on the 17th of February, also in Ampara. The gunmen shot the Pastor’s wife as well, leaving her critically injured. The accused remain in custody and the Court proceedings are continuing. The next hearing is scheduled for today (24th June).

Ampara has turned very hostile to Christians in recent months. Anti-Christian posters appeared in the area condemning the Christian faith and miraculous healings. Clergymen ministering in the area report that religious tensions are being roused by some Buddhist groups.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance strongly condemn this attack. We call upon the Inspector General of Police and the Government to carry out an immediate, impartial investigation to establish the identity of the attackers and bring them to book. If it is established that the attackers are indeed members of the Gramarakshaka Niladhari auxiliary force (Home Guards) trained, armed and maintained by the Government of Sri Lanka for the purpose of protecting civilians it is imperative that the Government takes immediate action to restore discipline among Home Guards, preventing such horrific crimes from recurring.

Please uphold the injured Reverend, his family and the Christian community in Ampara in prayer.

Please also pray for the court proceedings on the murder of Pastor Neil and for the recovery of his widow.