Sri Lanka: Violent Persecution Increasing

Friday, January 10, 2003

Request for Prayer

By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- At the beginning of the 20th century (1900), Buddhism claimed a following of around 20 percent of the world's population. By the end of the 20th century it was down to 5 percent. This is largely because Buddhists have historically been found primarily in East and South East Asia, a region that has suffered severely from atheist-fundamentalist (Communist) persecution of all religion. Buddhism has not survived and revived as Christianity has. Now Buddhism is struggling to regain its position as the historic religion of East and Southeast Asia, and is seeking to re-establish and reassert itself through nationalist politics and aggression.

In Sri Lanka, Buddhism and Islam are growing at 1%, the same rate as the population. Hinduism is in decline primarily due to mass emigration of Tamils. However, at 3.9% Protestant Christianity is growing almost four times faster than the population, despite many Christians having emigrated. Though mainline denominations are actually in decline, independent evangelicals and Pentecostals have experienced great revival and are growing at 20%, thanks to the vision and courage of Sri Lankan evangelists and church planters. Buddhism reportedly loses some 23,000 followers each year to Christianity. Even so, Christians in Sri Lanka are a small minority and are nearly all located in the main cities. More evangelists are needed greatly to take the gospel into rural Sri Lanka.

Buddhists wanting to regain their historical pre-eminence puts them on a collision course with the growing evangelical church. Over recent years persecution against Christians has increased markedly. Churches are destroyed, Christian workers are violently attacked and some have been martyred. There are now moves afoot to introduce an anti-conversion law.

One of Sri Lanka's courageous church-planters is Mrs Indrani Abeysinghe (49), who grew up in Kirimetimulla, in the Buddhist region in southern Sri Lanka. She became a Christian as an adult while living away from the village, returning in the mid-1990s with her four children. Since 2001, she has run a house church in her home, now with some 20 believers. She has been threatened and intimidated, and her home has been stoned. Then at about midnight on Christmas night, 2002, the family was violently assaulted. Only by God's will they escaped with their lives. There is little doubt that the well organised attackers, who cut all electricity and wore masks to avoid being identified, were there to kill them. The family have left their home and are sheltering elsewhere. They are severely traumatised, yet Mrs Abeysinghe desperately wants to continue her ministry.


* Mrs Indrani Abeysinghe and her four young adult children, thatthey will recover from their injuries speedily and completely, and will know the Lord's comfort and leading. Praise God that no-one was killed.

* God to protect all his faithful, courageous servants in Sri Lanka who spread the Good News about Jesus at great personal risk.

* God to bless the evangelistic outreach so that many, including those who presently seek to kill, will come to know Christ.

"'The one (Saul) who used to persecute us (the church) now preaches the very faith he tried to destroy!'" Galatians 1:23

* the government to uphold freedom of religion and justice, and that plans for an anti-conversion law will be thwarted.

The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray specifically and regularly for religious liberty issues, and in particular to uphold the Church where it is suffering persecution.