Second Sri Lanka Church Attack in Four Days

( [email protected] ) Jan 19, 2004 01:22 PM EST

COLOMBO - Despite pleas from the nation’s president to stop attacks against Christian worship sites, and an enlarged police protection force for minority Christians, another Catholic Church in Sri Lanka was mobbed and vandalized on Sunday, January 18.

Attackers brought tyres and set fire to them at the door of the St. Anthony's church at Hokandara, just outside Colombo in an effort to enter the church building. Though police guards dispersed the mob, they vandalized the cross outside the building and defaced the area near the alter.

"The attackers had come in despite the armed police guard," said Priest Hishantha Perera.

The attempt was made barely two days after President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s call to stop the attacks against Christians; her plea was made a day after another Catholic Church in the region was set on fire.

These attacks on Christians escalated last month following the funeral of a controversial Buddhist monk, Gangodavila Soma, who led a campaign against religious conversions. Many of the Sri Lankan monks argue that Christian sects offer cash to the poor to persuade them to convert, and have demanded for a law to ban what thy call “unethical conversions.”

Soma’s death in Russia of a heart attack subsequently fuelled conspiracy theories despite an autopsy showing he died of natural causes. Dozens of Buddhist monks launched a sit-down protest in Colombo last month outside the Buddhist Affairs ministry, demanding legislation to ban conversions.

70 percent of Sri Lanka’s 18.66 million are Buddhist. Hindus make up about 15 percent and Muslims and Christians each account for 7.5 percent.