Churches Attacked in Sri Lanka While Extremists Aim to Make Buddhism the State Religion

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

December 8, 2004 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- The 'Believers' Church' in the village of Kammalawa in Kuliyapitiya came under attack on December 2. At about 5pm more than 100 people arrived at the church in western Sri Lanka and told the pastor to stop holding worship services.

He was warned that if he did not close down the church, they would kill him. Later that night, the church came under attack with a barrage of stones and rocks. The roof tiles of the church were broken, one door and several windows were also damaged. The police took three people into custody.

An Assemblies of God church in Yakkala (26km north east of Colombo) has been attacked several times by people throwing excrement against the walls of the church. The latest incident happened on November 14 at 2.30am. Engine oil was also poured into their well.

Meanwhile a constitutional amendment is being proposed by the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, declaring Buddhism to be the state religion.

The purpose of the bill (the 19th Amendment) as stated in the Gazette notification of October 29 is "A Bill to amend the Constitution of Sri Lanka; to provide for declaration of Buddhism as the official religion of the Republic; to provide for binding persons practicing Buddhism to bring up their offspring in the same (faith); to provide for prohibiting conversion of Buddhists; to provide for establishing a council to advise the President on such matters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto."

While declaring Buddhism to be the State religion, the bill goes on to say that other forms of religion may be practised, "in peace and harmony with Buddha Sasana". Freedom of worship for other religions is subject to public order and morals. Section 9.5 explicitly prohibits converting Buddhists into other forms of worship or to "spread other forms of worship among the Buddhists".

The Venerable Omalpe Sobhitha MP of the JHU, made a statement on television on December 1 making three demands of the government. These were the appointment of a Presidential commission into the death of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero, closing down all alcohol outlets in supermarkets and specifying a time frame for taking up the government's 'Prohibition of forcible conversions' bill in Parliament for voting.

The JHU issued an ultimatum to the government that if these demands are not met by 6am on December 12, the JHU will begin a fast-unto-death.

December 12 is a day of special significance, as it marks the first anniversary of the death of Buddhist monk, the Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero. The JHU has made

clear their intention to select this day to lay down their lives, as a mark of respect for the late monk.

There is growing concern that the anniversary of Ven. Soma Thero and the JHU's ultimatum will precipitate more violence against Christian churches, following the pattern of the aftermath of his funeral on Christmas Eve 2003. At that time dozens of churches were attacked.

CSW partners, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said in a statement: "There appears to be a deliberate attempt to re-kindle anti-Christian sentiments, disrupting the celebration of Christmas by the Christian community. There may also be those who wish to monopolize on this situation and create trouble. Please pray for the Church and for Sri Lanka."

Stuart Windsor, National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: "The church in Sri Lanka continues to face attacks from Buddhist extremists. Not only do such extremists cause suffering to Christians meeting for church services, but they are also looking to challenge Sri Lanka's constitution to make Buddhism the state religion. CSW condemns all such extremist violence and calls on the Sri Lankan government to protect religious freedom for all."

For more information, please contact Richard Chilvers, Communications Manager, CSW at or ring 020 8329 0045 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.