In the past year, Christian persecution on the island nation of Sri Lanka has dramatically increased. According to reports, over 30 churches have been attacked in the span of only four months. The reason for this dramatic increase in persecution is the recent rise of Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka. Making up 70% of the population, Buddhists have become concerned with the growth of the church. This growth, according to local Christian sources, has turned money away from Buddhist temples. Buddhist radicals are not taking to the streets and are using force to stop the growth of the church in Sri Lanka.
9/1/2013 Sri Lanka (Mission Network News) – Christian persecution on the island nation of Sri Lanka has seen a dramatic increase in the past year.
In the last four months alone, Open Doors USA, which closely monitors the persecuted church, says over 30 churches have been attacked by Buddhist extremists attempting to maintain Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage.
We spoke via Skype with a Christian leader working with Asian Access in Sri Lanka. For security reasons, we’ll call him ‘Brother Amos’. He confirms the reports. “Large numbers of churches have been attacked and many people think, when it comes to violence, it is the Muslims who can be violent against Christians. But that is not true, in our experience in this part of the world. The Buddhists can also be extremely violent.”
Why the spike in trouble from Buddhists? Violence seems to go against all their principles. Brother Amos explains, “With the Church beginning to grow, they feel very insecure. Their economy is hurting because people are turning to Christ. As a result of that, they (Buddhists) have turned against the churches and that is their belief, that by violence and by persecution, they can cause the growth of the church to be stopped.”
How is economy tied into this problem? The growth of the church means that people who used to be going to Buddhist temples aren’t, anymore. “The income that came to the temple from these believers of Buddhism has now been diverted to the Church. Some of the temples in rural areas are finding it difficult to survive because people are leaving Buddhism.”
There’s a political angle, too. “Our constitution says that every religion has a freedom of worship and expression and to propagate their faith”, explains Brother Amos. However, “70-percent of our people are Buddhist. So, the government is aware that if they go against Buddhism, that they will be thrown out of power very soon.” The government turns a blind eye to the attacks in order to appease the majority Buddhists, he adds.
Some churches have taken legal action and gotten favorable decisions, but is this a development in the right direction? On one hand, it’s an accountability question. On the other, the challenge of persecution puts the relevance of the body of Christ into play. Brother Amos says, “Our mandate is to develop leaders who become relevant to the soil and relevant to the nations. Part of being relevant to our nation now is to be able to face persecution. In the midst of persecution, one of the key factors has been helping our people to know that God still reigns and God is seated on the Throne.”