Violence Against Christians Escalates in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Christians are facing more intense persecution as mob violence becomes an increasingly seen trend in the country, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has told Christian Today.

As fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil rebels continues, mob violence against churches and individuals across the country has increased dramatically.

On 22 November 2006, the Lighthouse Church, Mawatura, Gompola in Kandy District, was attacked while the pastor and a church worker were inside. Rocks were thrown at the building, shattering the front window, and the church worker was seriously injured when a rock hit him on the head, CSW report.

Ten days earlier, on 12 November 2006, members of the congregation of the Assemblies of God Church in Yakkala, Gampaha District, were prevented from attending a church service by a mob of over 100 people, some of whom were armed with clubs.

Four Buddist monks accompanied the crowd of attackers and anti-Christian posters had appeared on the walls. Only two policemen were sent to the scene initially, but they were unable to control the crowd. They had to ask for re-enforcements twice before twelve other officers arrived, says CSW.

Four days later, a young woman from the congregation had a container of black oil thrown over her as she travelled to the home of the pastor and his wife, Christian Today has been told.

The church had been threatened in a similar manner two weeks earlier. However, one major concern remains the reaction of the local authorities, as in this instance police protection was not provided at all despite previous assurances. The church has temporarily stopped holding services as a result of developments.

In Kandy District on 12 November, the Sunday service at Mizpah Prayer Ministry was disrupted by a crowd of 35 people who were accompanied by 12 Buddhist monks and a Provincial Council member. The church's pastor reported that the mob threatened to flatten the building if the congregation gathered together to worship again, CSW has reported to Christian Today.

On the same day, four members of the Prayer Tower, Anamaduwa in Puttlam District, were threatened by a group of men as they returned from a funeral. They were told not to return to the village and were hit with fists and rocks.

CSW's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, tells: "At a time when ethnic violence is escalating in Sri Lanka, this recent spate of religiously motivated attacks is particularly discouraging. We call upon the authorities in Sri Lanka to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to practice their chosen religion with out fear of harassment by mobs and urge all faith communities to show tolerance and respect for one another."