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Buddhist extremists target Christian churches in Sri Lanka

Dec 30, 2003, 22:16 Digg this story!
Sri Lankan churches came under attack again this Sunday by organized groups of Buddhist extremists led by influential monks, according to Police sources.

Two Christian churches were attacked amid mounting inter-religious tensions according to the police. This incident - which comes four days after unrest at a cremation of a controversial Buddhist monk who know for stirring Sinhala nationalist sentiments - is the latest in a pattern of violence against churches in Sri Lanka, police sources further told TNS.

Another church in Sri Lanka came under attack on the early hours of December 20th. Officials attached to the Jesus Lives Evangelical Ministry complex at Kirullabokka said that six unknown men had arrived in an auto rickshaw carrying petrol bombs, which were later thrown on the roof of the premises that resulted in the entire building being destroyed. Damage was estimated at half a million rupees.

In spite of eyewitness accounts of the auto rickshaw in the vicinity of the church before the incident, Southern media down played the attack on the church. The media quoted police officials as saying that the no evidence of a bomb attack had been found so far and speculated that the fire could have been caused by an electric shortage.

Meanwhile, Christian Affairs Minister, John Amaratunga, said that he is aware of the attacks against the Christian community. He said that he believes that the recent attacks against a church in Kurunegala and other attacks are part of a well-organised campaign.

The Minister's comments come in the midst of talk about legislature banning “unethical conversions” of Buddhists.

Buddhist monks, members of National Sanga Council began a "death fast" against religious conversions

The call for “unethical conversions” to be banned was made at a convention of 1,500 Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka's capital on September, according to church sources. The demand followed a ruling by the country's Supreme Court in July that Christian groups cannot register as social charities since their work contravenes the Sri Lankan constitution, sources further stated.

Article 9 of the Constitution holds that the state should give "foremost place" to Buddhism and that it is its duty to "protect and foster" Buddhism.

Meanwhile, following the weekends attack on two churches, Buddhist monks of the National Sanga Council began a "death fast" against “unethical conversions” yesterday before the Ministry of Buddhist affairs.

Earlier in the year, a Methodist church in Rathgama suffered an attack by Buddhist monks. Eyewitness accounts say that a crowd of 50 Buddhist monks and a number of young people were moving toward the church but the police had been alerted to intervene.

The monks then issued an ultimatum to the Christians to tear down their church by Saturday, August 2, said resident Christians. If this was not done, they would return with a force of 400 monks and burn down the church themselves. One of the monks also threatened that of a total of 18 churches in the district would be destroyed, residents further said.

Mobs later attacked five churches in the southern district of Galle over the weekend of August 2nd. According to the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL), the organized attack on the churches is part of the government’s plan to introduce anti-conversion legislation.

The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over violence against church targets.

“Over the past two months in particular, several churches have been attacked and on some occasions church workers beaten up,” said the council statement.

“We are appealing to the government and those responsible for law and order to [protect] innocent people to worship and ensure their fundamental right to practise their religion,” further said a spokesperson for National Christian Council of Sri Lanka.

At least 65 churches have been attacked this year and 15 came under attack in December alone according to a national church group.

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