Anti-Christian violence escalating in Sri Lanka

( [email protected] ) Mar 01, 2004 10:16 PM EST

Christians in Sri Lanka are facing mounting pressure with an escalation of violent attacks and an increase in demands for anti-conversion legislation.

Last year, a total of 91 attacks on Christians and churches were recorded, and so far this year, 41 incidents have already been documented.

"The persecution of Christians in Sri Lanka, through both violent and legislative means, causes us deep concern," said Stuart Windsor, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) National Director for the United Kingdom. "The rise of militant, violent Buddhism, and the disregard for human rights, must be stopped before it spreads further. We urge the government of Sri Lanka to take action to stop the violence and to reject anti-conversion legislation, and we encourage efforts by moderates to engage in reconciliation between the Christian and Buddhist communities."

On February 15, three churches were attacked in one night. Prior to the attack, the pastor of the Apostolic Church in Boraluwewa was warned that his church would be attacked. The local authorities were notified, however they failed to provide protection, or to even investigate the threats. On the night of the attack, a crowd of about 100 people with two vehicles demolished the church and the staff living quarters. In addition, all personal belongings were set on fire. The same mob also attacked Gethesemane Church in Boraluwewa, destroying their worship center.

The third incident took place in Kurundugaha Hathapma Anuruddhagama (Karandeniva), in Galle. A gang of ten, armed with swords and a gun, attacked the home where the Calvary Church worshipped. The owner of the house was attacked with a sword, but escaped with minor injuries. His wife was trapped in the house and was threatened by the gang. She was told that she would be killed if the worship service continued. The household informed the Elpitiya police the next day and asked for protection, but so far none has been provided.

These incidents in February are the latest violent anti-Christian movements that have developed in Sri Lanka in recent years. The rising anti-Christian sentiment has been a consistent concern, following the mysterious death of one of the leading Buddhist monks in the country, the Venerable Gangodawila Soma who died during a visit to Russia in December 2003. Most Buddhist organizations in Sri Lanka allege that his death was the result of a conspiracy by the rector of the Russian university, who is a pastor, to kill Ven. Soma.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that they are currently working with a cross party group of UK Members of Parliament (MPs) to table an Early Day Motion (EDM No. 210 Attacks upon Christians in Sri Lanka) in the House of Commons. The EDM proposed by the UK MPs calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to respect religious freedom. In Sri Lanka, Christians account for about 7.5 percent of the population.

(Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)