Anti-Christian violence continues in Sri Lanka

( [email protected] ) May 13, 2004 08:10 AM EDT

Christians in Sri Lanka continue to face violent attacks and intimidation, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Since January, over 45 churches have been attacked, and during the past year more than 140 churches have been forced to close due to the attacks.

In the latest incident, a gang armed with kerosene attacked the house of Pastor Kumarasiri of Peniel Evangelical Church in Hali-ela, Badulla, a predominantly Buddhist area in Uva province. At around 11:30PM on April 29, the gang prepared to set fire to the building, but neighbors prevented the arson, shouting at the attackers. However, the attackers were able to destroy the temporary structure in which services were held, and pulled down the concrete pillars of the new church building under construction. The incident was reported to the authorities, but so far no investigation has been conducted.

A few weeks earlier, on April 12, a gang also using kerosene bombs attacked another pastor’s house. The Assemblies of God church in Mahaoya, Ampara district has been the focus of intense opposition from the village Buddhist temple, and villagers have demanded that the pastor leave the area.

Also, on Easter Sunday, a Christian Fellowship Church in Kalutara district was attacked, and ten people were injured. The church had been closed for three months following an initial attack in late December, when a mob of 300 villagers prompted a riot at the church. It was on Good Friday that the pastor resumed services at the church, and on Easter Sunday, the mob demanded that church members leave the building. They reportedly threw stones, damaging the windows, and beat the pastor and other church members as they emerged. According to news agency Compass Direct, “parents tried to shield their terrified children, but despite this, a few children were among the ten or so people injured in the attack.”

Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW, expressed concern at recent developments in Sri Lanka. “The continuing anti-Christian violence and harassment by militants in Sri Lanka is extremely troubling. Although we welcome the efforts of the Government to restore religious tolerance, we are concerned about the rise of the JHU party and its intention to introduce anti-conversion legislation. We urge the government to oppose an anti-conversion law, and we encourage efforts to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, and promote reconciliation.”

Currently, CSW is in contact with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US State Department, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the European Commission in regard to the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka. CSW has also been working with Members of Parliament to introduce an Early Day Motion (EDM 210) on Sri Lanka in the House of Commons. CSW urges the international community to raise these concerns with the Sri Lankan authorities.