Buddhists have carried out a campaign against evangelicals and churches in Sri Lanka warning them to cease their religious activities in majority Buddhist villages.
Ravana Balaya, a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization, visited more than 20 evangelical prayer services from July 15 to 19 in Polonnaruwa and told pastors to stop holding services and cease trying to convert Buddhists and Hindus, according to the Venerable Ittekande Saddhatissa Thero, General Secretary of Ravana Balaya.
“We have gotten hundreds of complaints from Buddhists and Hindus that evangelical pastors convert Buddhists to their religion and offer gifts and money to them,” he said. “If the evangelical churches fail to stop their mission, we will take legal action against their prayer centers.”
Thero said that 20 monks and Hindu priests were part of the campaign. “Some of the pastors agreed with us to remove their prayer centers from Buddhist villages, but some opposed the suggestion.”
In the past year, about 60 churches and evangelical prayer centers have been targeted. 120 had been attacked in 2013, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance (NCCA). “Many pastors have been beaten and threatened to halt their prayer meetings,” said Godfrey Yogarajah, General Secretary of NCCA. “People have logged complaints in police stations but it is very rare that culprits are identified,” he said. “Many of the mobs who have attacked prayer gatherings have been led by Buddhist monks,” said Yogarajah, adding that monks have faced no legal repercussions for these acts of violence.
The government launched a special police unit in April to address the rising religious tensions between Christians, Muslims and the Buddhist majority. Pastor O.S. Fernando, president of the Pastors’ Fellowship Group in Polonnruwa, denied allegations that evangelical groups had offered money or gifts to converts or potential converts. “We never convert by force [or] put up new houses to attract the faithful. It’s their own decision,” he said. At least some of the tension has resulted from misunderstandings. “While a pastor was putting up a new house, Buddhists monks had misunderstood that it was a new prayer center and so they lodged a complaint,” he said. “Over 150 people came with Buddhist monks to stop construction of the new building.” “Now the pastor has been given police security,” he said, but added that “many pastors fear to work in the area now.”
In two other incidents, Christians were taken to the hospital after sustaining injuries by a violent mob.
A pastor was knocked unconscious in a raid on his home on 12 May. His family and four other Christians were also attacked. In a meeting with the police about an incident when the four had been threatened for holding a prayer meeting in their home.
While waiting for the police, about 150 people surrounded the house and began shouting at them. 40 people broke through the security fence around the property; attacked the pastor’s van, forced their way into the house and attacking those inside.
When the police arrived ten minutes after the mob dispersed and took the Christians to the police station, held them for seven hours. No attempt was made to apprehend the offenders.
Christians filed a case against their attackers, and a magistrate subsequently reprimanded the police and ordered them to arrest the perpetrators.
In a separate incident, five monks and 20 youth stormed a prayer gathering at the home of a Christian family in Waththegama, Kandy district, on 15 May. Two strangers arrived and requested prayer, but was later found the mob had sent the pair as a set-up.
While a Christian was praying for them, the assailants burst in and attacked the Christians. They dragged the Christian to the Buddhist temple, and drenched her with water subjecting her to a verbal and physical assault. One attacker choked her, threatening to kill her and warning her not to return to the village. A case was later filed against her for unethical conversions.
The Constitution accords Buddhism the “foremost place” and commits the Government to protecting it, but does not recognize it as the state religion. The Constitution also provides for the right of members of other religious groups to freely practice their religious beliefs.
While the Government publicly endorses religious freedom, in practice, minorities such as Christians and Muslims are subjected to violence.
UN experts asked Sri Lankan government to take urgent steps to stop frequent racial and faith-based hatred and violence against Muslim and Christian communities by hardline Buddhist groups.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt said.
“Impunity and inadequate response from the police and judicial authorities aimed at protecting the lives, physical security, the property and places of worship of these communities may encourage further attacks and a risk of spiralling violence.”
Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsk said,
“The Government must end the violence and put in place urgent protective measures to ensure the personal security of all individuals belonging to religious minority communities living in the country.”
The Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, called on authorities to take urgent and firm measures to bring the perpetrators of killings to justice, and ensure the immediate adoption of robust protective measures.
Hate statements by Buddhist extremist groups have contributed to spread a climate of fear among Sinhala Buddhists, who constitute the majority population in Sri Lanka, and resentment towards minorities.
Jan 12, Hikkaduwa: A group of extremist Buddhist monks and laymen attacked two Christian religious centers today in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka’s tourist city in the south.
Buddhist Organizations in Hikkaduwa staged a protest in the area against Christian prayer centers operating in the region.
The monk-led mob resisted the police and destroyed the property hurling stones at the two prayer centers. The mob broke doors, windows and burnt religious signs and books.
Local media videoed the violence and broadcast in the evening news on TV channels.
The residents of these religious places were threatened and the police temporarily closed the main Galle Road as residents entered the Galle Road passing the Hikkaduwa town.
The Buddhist monks that led the protest said that the administrative authorities had ordered the prayer centers withdrawn.
However, the pastors in charge of these centers said they were registered duly and the eviction order is illegal.
The rising religious intolerance from extremist Buddhist monks-led organizations in Sri Lanka has raised alarms among the moderate public and if authorities fail to take adequate measures to curtail the violence the actions of thes extremist groups would have serious consequences, civil society leaders warn.
An annual survey reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the previous year. Syria had the highest number of deaths, more than the entire global total in 2012. In the list of killings, Syria was followed by Nigeria with 612 cases last year after 791 in 2012. Pakistan was third with 88, up from 15 in 2012. Egypt ranked fourth with 83 deaths after 19 the previous year.
“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other groups put the figure as high as 8,000.
Christianity is the largest religion in the world with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life. But they are also the most persecuted.
Open Doors published the 2014 World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. You can view the list here. Woefully, persecution is increasing in many of the countries on the list.
For the twelfth consecutive time, North Korea retained they’re spot as the most difficult country in the world to be a Christian. Christians found with Bibles or Christian related material are at risk of execution or life in the prison camps. Many have been separated from their loved ones never to be heard from again. Solely for their faith in Jesus Christ, up to 70,000 Christians have been imprisoned.
Somalia ranks behind North Korea and is now #2 on the list. Converts are policed and for fear of persecution, must secretly worship ‘undergound’ keeping their faith hidden. They are also under attack by extremists of al-Shabaab, a terrorists group trying to force Sharia law in the country.
Violence against Christians in Syria has seriously increased moving them from #36 in 2012 to #3 on this year’s list. The report claims more Christians have been martyred(at least 1213) in Syria than any other country.
The cause of persecution against Christians in 36 of the 50 countries on the list, is said to be from Islamic extremism.
This year, Central African Republic #16, Sri Lanka #29 and Bangladesh #48 have all been added to the list. Violence in these nations surged against Christians. Extremism and the advancement of Sharia law again relating to the increase.
Open Doors says,
Though these facts and figures are absolutely devestating, we know that our hope is in Christ and that He his faithful to hear the prayers of His people, says.
Islamist extremism is the worst persecutor of the worldwide church.
Your prayers and VOICE for persecuted Christians are needed more than ever. Inform others, ask you pastor to pray weekly with the church for our Christian family suffering for their faith in Christ.
Thank you for your prayers and interest in those being persecuted!
Christmas is a time of joy, but also of fear for Christians in rural areas of Sri Lanka.
Yamini Ravindran, National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka’s (NCEASL) advocacy officer, said, “Christmas is commercialized for the Christians residing in the main city areas; however, for most Christians in the rural or Buddhist-dominant villages it is a completely different scenario. It is an event filled with joy and fear for them. Joy to remember the birth of Christ—fear to conduct services boldly and fear of attacks against churches, pastors, or Christian members.”
Open Doors warned that Sri Lankan Christians may be under increasing persecution as Christmas nears in the mostly Buddhist nation. Citing recent reports from NCEASL, Open Doors said in a Dec. 19 email that “Christians in Sri Lanka are likely to take extra precautions as they hold their Christmas gatherings and celebrations this month.” The NCEASL noted several recent instances of persecution, including the Dec. 5 visit from authorities who told a pastor to “stop all religious worship activities taking place on his premises” in southern Sri Lanka, according to Open Doors.’
Click to read more at World Mag
Church services disrupted= Golathwaye Church Galmuruwa (Puttalam District)
13th October 2013- At approximately 09.45a.m. while the Sunday worship service was in progress, 2 Buddhist monks together with another youth from the village forcibly entered the premises where the worship service was being held. The Buddhist monks together with the youth shouted “Christianity is a western religion, stop all prayer meetings”. The Buddhist monk threatened the pastor and the congregation of serious consequences which they will face in the event the worship service activities are not stopped with immediate effect.
14th October 2013- A police officer visited the pastor’s premises and informed him to meet the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the area police station. The OIC informed the pastor that a police complaint has been lodged against him claiming that Buddhist statues have been desecrated by him in the village. The pastor denied the false accusations which were lodged against him and explained that he has not done any act of that nature. The OIC informed the pastor that an investigation will be conducted looking into the complaint filed and instructed the pastor to stop all worship service activities. However, the pastor explained to the OIC his Fundamental Rights to practice and observe his belief.
Villagers complain against the Church Church of Glory Kegalle (Kegalle District)
11th October 2013 A complaint against the pastor was made by a neighboring villager to the Municipal Council stating that an unauthorized church had been founded in the village. The mayor informed the pastor that he would be visiting his premises and to ensure that the church is closed down.
Pastors premises attacked Gospel Power Mission Church Kandalama (Matale District)
6th October 2013- At approximately 10:45pm, once the pastor and his family had fallen asleep, an unidentified group of persons began to pelt stones at the pastors’ residence. Some of the stones caused damage to the glass windows of the premises.
A police complaint was lodged, holding complaint number 61/88/CID 2.
4th November 2013- At approximately 10:45pm, a group of unidentified persons began to attack the pastors’ premises by pelting stones at his house. The attack continued until 11.30pm, the police officers were informed, upon their arrival the attack ceased. The pastor was informed to lodge a police complaint. Once the police officers left the premises, around 1:15am, the attackers once again began to pelt stones at the premises which continued until 1.30am. A police complaint was lodged, holding number CID 1-149/71. The pastor has an ongoing case filed in the Magistrate Courts claiming his church as an unauthorized place of worship. Fearing further attacks, the pastor is holding prayer meetings in various different locations. A congregation of 127 members attend the church.
Buddhist monks and villagers degraded a Christian member at a meeting Four Square Church Sevanagala (Monaragala District)
12th October 2013- A meeting was organized by the village Buddhist monks together with the villagers of Sevanagala. The Christian member was informed to be present at the Buddhist temple in the village. Upon the pastors arrival, around 20 villagers together with the Buddhist monks who were gathered together began to use derogatory language against the Christian member. The villagers shouted “Don’t bring Christianity to this village” and “This is a Buddhist village; you have no right to be here; you don’t belong here”. The Christian member left the meeting stating his right to belief, explaining that he has caused no harm to the village.
14th October 2013- Offence of arson committed against Christian member by unidentified group
At approximately 2 a.m., the Christian member and his family were awakened by a fire; their tractor had been set on fire by an unidentified group of persons. This tractor being the only source of the members livelihood, they attempted in vain to save the vehicle. However, it was completely damaged by the fire. The police authorities were immediately informed of this incident. Whilst inspecting the premises, the police officers found a petrol can and traces of petrol within the premises. They further noted that an attempt had also been made to burn down the house with the Christian family inside. A police complaint was lodged following which the police officers warned the villagers and spoke against this offence. However, no arrests have been made to date with regard to this offence.
Buddhist monks threaten a Christian member to stop prayer meetings Anuradhapura (Anuradhapura District)
30th September 2013- At approximately 10 a.m., a mob led by 15 Buddhist monks and 15 other villagers forcibly entered a Christian members premises. The mob began shouting threats stating “We will demolish this house if you don’t stop conducting prayer meetings”. The mob gave an ultimatum to the Christian member to stop prayer meetings conducted in the premises within 3 days, declaring that they would destroy the premises if the prayer meetings continued.
1st October 2013- By phone, police requested the Christian member to be present at the police station for an inquiry at 9.30 a.m. However, shortly after the call, a police vehicle arrived at the Christian’s premises and without prior notice instructed her to come with them to the police station. At the police station, 7 Buddhist monks together with some other villagers were also gathered. The police officer instructed her to stop all prayer meetings conducted at her premises. The police officer further threatened her of arrest under the Emergency Regulations in the event more than 5 people gather at her premises. The Emergency Regulations were only in force in Sri Lanka during the time of the ethnic war and it was used against possible terrorist suspects.
The police officer together with the Buddhist monks forced the Christian to sign a document which stated that she will discontinue all prayer meetings held in her premises with immediate effect.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The people of Weliweriya are “still in shock” after soldiers attacked young people who were calling on the government to provide clean drinking water and stop pollution. During the standoff, soldiers fired on the Church of St Anthony. Some of them even aimed their machine guns at the upper torso of the mother superior in an attempt to get her to surrender protest organisers. The attack left three young men dead from gunshot wounds as they sought shelter in the church.
After a weeklong peaceful sit-in, the protest ended in a bloodbath on 1 August. Local residents had called on the authorities to shut down a textile factory that is polluting local rivers and to examine the water’s toxicity level.
Unable to stop the demonstration, police called in the army. Once on the scene, the military expelled the media and told people to go home. At first, it was thought that the fighting had ended with 1 dead and 15 injured. Today, the real scale of the atrocity has become known.
The three people who died are Akila Dinesh, a 17-year-old Buddhist who was cremated in religious ceremony on Sunday; Ravinash Perera; an 18-year-old Catholic who will be buried this evening in Weliweriya; and Nilantha Pushpakumara, a 29-year-old father of a year-old child, who was able to call his wife from the Church of St Anthony before he was killed. Forty-five other people were seriously injured.
Several eyewitnesses told AsiaNews that the soldiers fired on the crowd and chased a group of young people inside the Church of the Good Shepherd. Here, they started shooting at a wall to intimidate those present.
The attackers included police, soldiers, members of the government’s special task force and even the 58th Brigade, which was stationed in the north of the country during the war against Tamil rebels.
Residents complain about the military’s guerrilla tactics. “They came at dawn with special torches. What were they for?” some asked.
According to witnesses, the soldiers also fired on purpose at lampposts and destroyed the local generator just to create darkness in the area. Taking advantage of this, they launched a manhunt.
“Where are the protesters?” some officers asked Sr Kanthi, mother superior of the convent. She told them that they were not in the church where “ordinary worshippers were instead reciting the rosary”.
With their machine guns pointed straight at her, the soldiers threatened the nun and insulted her. “You Catholics are always doing these things,” they said.
“We cannot tolerate these attacks on innocent young people,” Sr Kanthi told AsiaNews.
As soldiers kept on beating the young protesters, the latter “were screaming from fear and pain,. We had never seen anything like it; it looked like a small war. I do not even know how many rosaries we recited to try to stop that tragic night.”
“God has given every human life itself. We strongly condemn these killings and attacks committed by men against other men,” said Fr Lakpriya Nonis, parish priest at St Anthony. “What is especially appalling is that they were chased into the church seeking refuge.”
“Every issue can be resolved through dialogue,” said Jagath Ananda Silva, secretary general of the Independent Education Employees Union, “but the government chose not to listen, and this has led to tragedy. Although there were provocations on the part of the protesters, a government cannot send in the army to shoot. It is a brutal and inhuman act that no one can tolerate.”
Catholic Church: army violence in Weliweriya unacceptable and unjustifiable
At victim’s funeral Card. Malcolm Ranjith, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, condemns the attack on behalf of all the bishops of the country. An armed raid on a church, he said, “is a sacrilege for anyone, the sanctity of the holy places must be safeguarded and those who enter in search of protection respected.” The cardinal urges the government to “punish the guilty, regardless of their rank or social status.” Read More