Sri Lanka Pastor Shot Dead Over Conversion; Wife Injured, Child Traumatized

Monday, February 25, 2008

By BosNewsLife News Center

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife) -- Gunmen in Sri Lanka shot dead a young Protestant pastor in a contract killing ordered by a husband whose wife converted to Christianity, a major newspaper reported Sunday, February 24, citing a police investigation.

Sri Lanka's The Sunday Times newspaper said 37-year-old Samson Neil Edirisinghe was returning home on his motor cycle in the eastern city of Ampara, 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the capital Colombo, when he was shot in the back by two assailants, who also critically injured his wife.

Their two-year old son apparently received minor injuries, but was in shock after witnessing the February 17 shooting, Christian sources said. "Pastor Edirisinghe was engaged in the Lord’s ministry in Ampara for many years. The attackers also shot his wife in the stomach [and] at last report, she was in the hospital in critical condition," said the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL).

"Their 2-year-old son who received a minor injury in the attack is also suffering from trauma." Edirisinghe, who was buried Friday, February 22, served as pastor of the evangelical House of the Lord Church. The congregation met at a facility of the local Young Men’s Christian Association, Edirisinghe taught English classes for the British Council organization, Christians said.


The Sunday Times quoted local police as saying that a businessman in Ampara, angered overhis wife's conversion to Christianity, had promised the two gunmen 100,000 Sri Lanka Rupees ($927) for killing the pastor. The suspects, who were soon detained, initially denied the incident, but eventually admitted they received 20,000 rupees (US$186) and were to receive another 80,000 rupees (US$743) if successful.

The businessman's wife, a former Buddhist woman identified only as Peshika, reportedly became a Christian two years ago after struggling through relationship problems with her husband and an attempted suicide. Peshika apparently told town residents that Pastor Edirisinghe had helped her to overcome her depression, while Buddhist monks had failed.

The latest killing underscored concerns over the plight of devoted Christians in Sri Lanka, where several individual believers and church leaders have been killed. Christians are also in the cross-fire amid an ongoing struggle between Sri Lanka's government-backed security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for an independent homeland in the northern and eastern parts of the island nation for over two decades.


On Sunday, February 24, a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber detonated his explosives, killing two members of a Tiger breakaway faction, officials said. The bombing occurred in the eastern district of Batticaloa when the bike-riding bomber rammed into a motorbike carrying the two members of the rival group.

In other violence, Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry said three soldiers and more than 40 rebel Tamil Tigers were killed in battles Saturday, February 23, as the government fights to gain control of rebel-held territory in the north.

The ministry reportedly said that the fatal clashes occurred in Wanni and Jaffna areas. Another five rebels and 26 soldiers were allegedly wounded in the fighting, but the casualty figures could not be independently verified. (With reports from Sri Lanka and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).

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