Sri Lanka: Violence Against Christians Intensifies

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National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL)
Incident Report (period covering 14th February - 3rd March 2008)

Increased incidents of violence against Christians
During the past month, incidents of violence and intimidation of Churches and Christians reported a dramatic increased. The most brutal of these attacks was the killing of Pastor Neil Edirisinghe on the night of 17th February 2008. The attackers also shot and wounded his wife, who is still in a critical condition.

The following incidents of violence were reported to the NCEASL within the past week.

Christian's house stoned while Pastor prays for the sick
Jeevanaloka Sabhawa (Independent Church)
Weeraketiya, Hambanthota District
14th February 2008

The Pastor, his wife and two children were visiting the house of a sick parishioner to pray for him. While they were there, the house was stoned. The Pastor made a complaint to the Weeraketiya Police at approximately 10 pm. The Police questioned one suspect who admitted to the crime but refused to name the persons who had incited the attack.
The Pastor has been receiving anonymous threatening phone calls. The Church members face verbal abuse from villagers while on their way to the Sunday service.

Mob attacks worshippers returning from Sunday service; child of 10 assaulted
King's Revival Church
Mathugama, Kaluthara District
17th February 2008

In January 2008, the Pastor received information of a petition against the Church's existence. On the morning of 17th February, the Gramasevaka (local government official) visited the Pastor and queried some of the accusations made in the petition such as excessive noise from the service. The Pastor explained that his Church did not use any sound amplification for his services. The Gramasevaka stated that the Church could continue services and left.
The Sunday worship service was held as usual. During the service the Pastor became aware that there was a mob of about 50 persons gathered on the road leading to the Church, putting up anti-Christian posters. They were armed with rods. Fearing for the safety of the congregation, the Pastor instructed the congregation to leave in small batches. The mob hurled verbal abuse and threats at the passing congregation members. Some barred their way, pushing and pulling them. One man and a child of 10 years were assaulted and 2 women were manhandled and pulled by their hair. Some members of the congregation who belonged to the Tamil ethnic community were threatened that if they returned to the Church, they would be arrested and imprisoned.

The incident was reported to the Mathugama Police (Entry no. CIB I 226/235). The response was slow and the Pastor was asked to come for an inquiry on the 18th of February. The Pastor requested for protection for the following Sunday service, both verbally and in writing. However, the request was not granted. No arrests have been made.

24th February 2008
The Pastor informed the Gramasevaka that he would proceed with the worship service. Around the time when the congregation was due to arrive, a crowd had gathered on the road, armed with various tools and implements on the pretext of cutting the grass on the roadside (shramadhana). They threatened the congregation members and prevented them from attending the Sunday service. The Police was informed and arrived at the scene after a while. They advised the mob to disperse. No further inquiry has been made in to the incident.

In a previous attack on the 26th of January 2004, a mob broke in to the Pastor's house, beat him and tied him up. His wife and children were locked in a room and the house set on fire. The family escaped the fire. (Reported by NCEASL in 2004).

10 Bible School students attacked by masked gang; 9 treated for injuries
Believers' Church Bible College
Lunuwila, Putlam District
2nd March 2008

10 students of the Believers Church Bible College were walking from the Lunuwila Railway station at approximately 7 pm when they were met by a member of the Wennappuwa Pradeshiya Sabhawa (Provincial Council) who inquired as to their destination. The students continued on their way to the Bible College. They were accosted by a group of about 10 men on motorcycles, wearing masks who assaulted the students. They were beaten with fists and rods and kicked. More attackers arrived in a van and dragged one of the students in to the van where he was beaten very badly and kicked by a person wearing boots. The attackers left the injured students on the road and left. One of the students ran to the Bible College. He was followed by one motorcyclist who assaulted the security guard at the College and escaped.

It is reported that the Provincial Council member had later arrived at the gate of the College and threatened that the Bible College will not be allowed to function for more than a week. A complaint was made to the Koswatte Police. Entry no. CIB I 105/33 on the same day. 2 of the attackers were identified. 9 students were treated for injuries at the Lunuwila Government Hospital. 3 of these were transferred to the Marawila hospital for additional treatment.

Mob threatens Pastor with death
Opma Bible Ministry (HBI Ministries)
Udugama, Galle District
2nd March 2008

A crowd of about 200 persons arrived at the Pastor's house on the night of 2nd March 2008 and threatened the Pastor to leave the village or face death. The mob made references to the ethnicity of the Pastor's wife who is a Tamil lady, commenting that the Church could be accused of complicity in terrorist activity. His wife and 11 month old baby were in the house with him. A complaint was made to the Udugama Police, entry no. CIB I 144/34, for future reference. The Pastor and his family evacuated to a safe location as they fear for their lives.

Previously, in early February 2008, three men armed with clubs arrived at the Sunday school conducted by the Church and threatened the Church.

Church set on fire with Pastor and family inside
Zion Mount Prayer House
Mulaitivu District
3rd March 2008

During the early hours of the morning the Church was set on fire. The Pastor, his wife, child and 2 others were inside the building at that time. Initial confirmed reports reaching us indicate that they escaped the fire. Further information will be reported upon verification.

Approval of Church building plan revoked without reason
Foursquare Gospel Church
Kelaniya, Gampaha District
3rd March 2008

The Church is in the process of constructing the Church building with duly approved plans. On the morning of 3rd March 2008, the Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha informed the Pastor verbally that he is revoking the approval of the building plan and ordered construction to be stopped immediately. The Church was not informed of the reasons for this sudden reversal of decision.

NCEASL is very concerned by this surge of violence and intimidation of Christians.

Please pray for the Church in Sri Lanka - for strength, wisdom and unity within the body as the Church faces this very difficult time.

04/03/2008 NCEASL