Anti-Christian Violence Continues in Sri Lanka

Friday, May 14, 2004

May 14, 2004 (CSW) -- Christians in Sri Lanka continue to face violent attacks and intimidation following the parliamentary elections in early April. Over 45 churches have been attacked since January, and during the past year more than 140 churches have been forced to close, due to attacks, intimidation and threats.

In the latest incident, the house of Pastor Kumarasiri of Peniel Evangelical Church in Hali-ela, Badulla, a predominantly Buddhist area in Uva province, was attacked at 11.30pm on April 29 by a gang which threw kerosene and prepared to set fire to the building. While arson was prevented by neighbours shouting at the attackers, the group destroyed 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 police, but so far no investigation has been conducted.

A few weeks previously, on April 12, another pastor's house was attacked at 3.30am by a gang also using kerosene bombs. 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.

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. The pastor resumed services on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday, a mob demanded that church members leave the building. They 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.'

In the parliamentary elections on April 2, the United National Freedom Alliance won a majority of seats, but the Jathika Hela Uramaya (JHU) party of the Buddhist monks emerged as the third largest political force in the country, winning over 500,000 votes and nine seats in Parliament. After the results were declared, the JHU reiterated its objectives of establishing a Buddhist kingdom in Sri Lanka and introducing anti-conversion legislation.

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.

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."

For more information, please contact Richard Chilvers, communications manager, CSW on 020 8329 0045 or email or visit

CSW is a human rights charity working on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs. We also promote religious liberty for all.