Sri Lanka: Mobs Attack More Churches

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

(Compass Direct News) -- Buddhist militants attacked two church services in Sri Lanka on November 12 and hit Christian workers returning from a funeral. On Thursday (November 16), they also doused a female church member with a container of burnt oil.

Police were called to both church attacks but their presence proved ineffective.

Christians say the government has turned a blind eye to these attacks for too long. A statement issued today by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) called on the government and law enforcement agencies to actively uphold each citizen’s right to freedom of worship.

Mob Revisits Church

One mob prevented members of an Assembly of God (AOG) church in Yakkala, Gampaha district, from attending Sunday service.

The mob of some 100 people, including four Buddhist monks, pasted anti-Christian posters on several buildings in the neighborhood and blocked the road leading to the church. According to NCEASL, some in the crowd were armed with clubs.

The mob threatened and verbally abused Christians who attempted to pass by. Only one or two church members managed to reach the church, where they told the pastor why his congregation had not arrived for morning worship.

The pastor called for help and two policemen arrived. They were unable to control the mob and called in 12 other officers. When these reinforcements came, witnesses said those in the mob who were carrying clubs surreptitiously threw them away.

Four days later, as a young Christian woman arrived at the pastor’s home to ask for prayer, a man standing nearby doused her with a container of burnt oil. The woman has since made a police complaint identifying the attacker by name.

The AOG church in Yakkala was also attacked on October 29 (See Compass Direct, “Sri Lankan Christians Cry for Justice Amid Anarchy,” November 14). The pastor had asked for police protection, but told NCEASL that no concrete action was taken to prevent further harassment. After the November 12 attack, the church decided to suspend services temporarily.

Church Threatened

Also on November 12, a mob of about 35 people – including 12 Buddhist monks and a local government official – walked into the Sunday service of the Mizpah Prayer Ministry in Nawalapitiya, Kandy district, demanding that the service cease immediately.

The mob jeered at the congregation and scolded them, using abusive language. “We were threatened that if we gathered together for worship again, the building would be flattened,” the pastor told NCEASL.

Two journalists, who identified themselves as Nimal Bandara of the Ravaya newspaper and Weeraratne from the Lankadeep newspaper, then took video footage and photographs as the mob chased the congregation out of the building.

A church member called police, but when they arrived – an hour after the attack began – the mob had gone.

A few hours later some of the mob returned, including one person carrying a wooden club. They threatened the Christian workers who were still at the church, hitting one of them and breaking several chairs.

The church filed a complaint, but at press time no arrests had been made.

Attacked after Funeral

On the same day, four Christian workers attended the funeral of a church member in Anamaduwa, Puttlam district. As they returned home, several men accosted them and warned them not to return to the village. The men also punched the workers and threw rocks at them.

The pastor of the church in Anamaduwa reported the incident to police. During a subsequent police inquiry, the attackers accused the church of disturbing the neighbors with loud noise during services.

The pastor rejected this accusation, pointing out that the worship service was held for only one hour per week and that most of the neighbors were Christians.

Eventually both parties agreed to settle the matter amicably, and the attackers promised not to attack the church again.

Plea for Government Intervention

In a statement issued today, NCEASL officials said they were “alarmed at the manner in which unruly elements used violence and force against minority Christians engaging in prayer and worship.”

They also said the state had turned a blind eye to such excesses for too long, and urged the government and law enforcement agencies to “actively protect the fundamental rights of each citizen to practice their religion of choice without harassment.”

Copyright © 2006 Compass Direct