By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Evangelical Christians in eastern Sri Lanka have expressed concerns about recent attacks by Hindu and Buddhist mobs opposing their faith.
Violence against a church and cemetery in the Batticaloa District came amid several reported attacks against Sri Lanka’s minority Christians by religious hardliners.
In one of the latest incidents last month, a funeral service in the Palliyadithona area was halted when about 50 villagers raided the cemetery, Christians said. They demanded that the funeral be conducted according to Hindu rites, according to Christian rights investigators.
“The pastor called the police, and the burial was finally able to take place two hours later, under the watchful protection of several officers,” added advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC).
The August 8 incident came just weeks after a group of 45 people, including a member of the Hindu temple's board of trustees, reportedly forced their way into the Jesus Witness Church in the Kommanthurai rea.
The July 19 violence erupted soon after the worship service had concluded, VOMC recalled.
“During the attack, the pastor and his family were assaulted, and the chairs were broken. The pastor's mobile phone was also damaged after he attempted to record the incident, which has since been reported to the police,” VOMC stressed.
Mob demonstrations often used to protest Christianity in Sri Lanka, said, right activists. “Although opposition often comes from the dominant Buddhist community, the two recent incidents in the Batticaloa District appear to have been instigated by Hindu leaders,” VOMC explained.
“These followers of Christ are now finding themselves caught between the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese population and the mainly Hindu Tamils.“
The violence comes while the majority Buddhist Asian nation is still reeling from last year’s Easter Sunday attacks in April 2019. Some 253 people were killed and at least 500 wounded during a series of bomb attacks by Islamic militants on churches and hotels.
Several other churches in rural areas were attacked or closed, and Christians have been assaulted, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Besides violence, Christians also face other pressures in Sri Lanka, according to a recent assessment by advocacy and aid group Open Doors.
“While Christians from more historical churches enjoy a little more freedom in expressing their faith, [Christian] believers from Buddhist backgrounds are treated as second-class citizens and can face slander and attacks,” the group noted.
It added that they could “face harassment and discrimination from their families and communities. They are pressured to recant their new faith, as converting is regarded as a betrayal of their ethnicity.”
Also, most state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, “so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism,” Open Doors complained.
Christians comprise over 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s mainly Buddhist population of roughly 23 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).