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Sri Lanka Evangelicals Attacked by Angry Mobs

The vast majority of Sri Lanka’s population is Buddhist, and recent years have seen a rise in violence from militant nationalist groups, often lead by radical Buddhist monks. These groups target pastors, churches, and even peacefully praying Christians for posing what they see as a threat to the national (i.e. Buddhist) identity of Sri Lanka. Authorities are either slow to respond or themselves perpetrators of attacks and discrimination against Christians.

7/2/2014 Sri Lanka (BosNewsLife) – Evangelical Christians in heavily Buddhist Sri Lanka are facing attacks and death threats with authorities reluctant to intervene, according to the organization representing them.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) documented several cases in recent weeks including in northwestern Mannar district where it said a pastor and several other Christians were injured after they were attacked by an angry mob for hosting prayer services.

Other believers involved in prayer services have also been attacked, including a Christian worker
of the evangelical Light House Church in the town of Waththegama in Kandy district, said NCEASL.

The woman was attacked May 15 while praying in a Christian family’s home where two strangers later
also asked for prayers. “While the Christian worker was praying for the strangers, five Buddhist monks
and 20 youth from the village stormed the premises and physically assaulted the Christians,” NCEASL said.

“The mob forcibly led the Christian worker to the Buddhist temple in the village and snatched her Bible and National Identity Card. At the temple, she was drenched with water, verbally abused by the mob, and threatened with death by a youth who strangled her neck and warned her never to enter the village again.”

Police, who arrived only later to disperse the mob, warned the Christian woman she would face court charges for “unethical conversions,” according to Christians familiar with the case. They did not identify her apparently amid security concerns.

And last month, police questioned the pastor of an Assemblies of God Church congregation in the town of Angunukolapalassa, in Hambanthota district, whether prayer meetings were still being held there after raiding the premises, the NCEASL said.

A police chief allegedly shouted at the pastor, who was warned to leave the village. The pastor responded by saying it was his “fundamental right to practice and observe” his Christian faith, Christians said.

After that June 6 incident, news emerged that officers from Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) visited a pastor of The Christian Fellowship congregation in Bulathkohupitiya in the
Kegalle district to question him over the “legality of prayer meetings” at his premises.

The attacks come amid wider concerns about religious militancy in the country.

“Although religious freedom is enshrined in Sri Lanka’s laws, the appearance since July 2012
of nationalistic and religious supremacist groups has increased pressure on all religious minorities,” said Open Doors, a respected advocacy group supporting reportedly persecuted Christians.

“Last year saw an increase in violent attacks against Christians and churches, mainly by Buddhist extremist groups, which are widely perceived as being tacitly supported by the government,” the group added.

In 2013, there were more than 50 attacks on churches, often by mobs of between 40 to 800 people, according to Open Doors estimates.

In at least one case last year, a pastor and his family had to flee for their lives as they were found on a death list, Open Doors investigators said.

“Usually monks arrive while the service is going on and demand the church`s immediate closure.”

It comes at a time when Christian refugees arrive in Sri Lanka from other trouble spots, including
Pakistan and India. Many refugees are known to have been returned, despite expected persecution in their home countries, activists have told BosNewsLife.


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