By Mark Ellis —
Police are failing to respond to Buddhist aggression in western Sri Lanka directed against churches and in some cases are encouraging persecution of Christians.
When a mob led by Buddhist monks in Ingiriya assaulted the pastor of Kings Revival Church and three other church members on March 26th after a Sunday worship service, police failed to register the case, according to Morning Star News.
The attack occurred after the pastor left church and was hurrying home. It seems he had received an urgent phone call from a church member warning him that a van full of armed Buddhist monks were waiting for him at the top of a road.
The previous day at about 10 a.m., an unidentified person and two Buddhist monks had visited the pastor and questioned him about the legality of religious worship at his location.
During the confrontation, one Buddhist monk called two local officials who questioned the pastor. The officials demanded the pastor supply all church legal documents, threatening to take him to the police if he failed to produce them.
Government officials took photos of the pastor, a copy of his national identity card, and threatened his family using derogatory language, Morning Star reported.
After the next day’s assault, the pastor received credible information that the local official was part of the mob.
On March 27 the pastor went to the police station to file a complaint.
The police, however, made excuses and initially refused to register the complaint until they were pressured by the pastor’s lawyers.
The pastor continues to receive threats from the Buddhist monks and has gone into hiding, fearing physical assault.
Also in Ingiriya, police told the leader of the Christian Fellowship International Ministry on March 25 to stop holding worship services after a congregation member called police to report a Buddhist mob’s disruption of a worship service.
The mob of around 50 people led by three Buddhist monks forcibly entered the fellowship’s worship service and demanded that it cease, according to Morning Star.
“The mob then proceeded to ask the names of the Christians present and question them on why they had attended the worship service,” according to the alliance.
After a Christian called an emergency police hotline, two drunken police officers arrived, reproached worshippers for breaching the peace and ordered the pastor to the station for questioning. Accompanied by a lawyer, the pastor went to the police station on two occasions but was not granted a meeting with the Officer-in-Charge (OIC).
The pastor was summoned again on April 2, but when he arrived at the police station, he found a mob of some 200 people led by about 20 Buddhist monks. The OIC asked the pastor whether he had obtained permission from authorities to conduct religious worship activities, and he responded that he was unaware of such a requirement in the law.
The OIC asserted that he should immediately discontinue all religious worship, warning him that he would face severe consequences in the event he failed to comply, NEASL reported. When the pastor declined, officers took further statements from him regarding his refusal.
Police said they would file a case against the pastor for disturbing the peace, and afterward the mob began to shout threats at him and blocked him from leaving the station.
“The mob then deflated the tires of the pastor’s motorbike and put raw eggs into his helmet,” NEASL reported. “When the pastor finally arrived at his home, he found that stones had been pelted at his premises, causing damage to the property. Moreover, villagers then gathered around the house, shouting threats at the pastor.”
At one point the pastor came out of his house, and an unidentified person attempted to attack him with a pole. Responding to a complaint by another pastor, four police officers arrived and ordered the pastor and his wife to temporarily vacate their home for their own safety, according to Morning Star.
The pastor, who has conducted worship activities in the area for 17 years, and his wife, found shelter at another Christian’s home.
In 2002, a mob had destroyed the church’s previous building.
On April 15, at about 11:30 p.m., a group of people pelted the pastor’s home with stones for about an hour, damaging the property, the alliance reported. The pastor filed a police complaint. His house was stoned again two days later and he filed another complaint with police.
Church Building Destroyed
On January 5th, a mob of about 100 villagers led by two Buddhist monks, attacked and destroyed a House of Christ church in northwest Sri Lanka. Police decided not to prosecute the offenders, according to Morning Star.
In southwest Sri Lanka, a local official encouraged residents of Balangoda, Ratnapura District, to harass Christians and drive them out of the village, according to Morning Star.
In response, the pastor reduced the number of prayer gatherings held at his place of worship.
Order to Stop Worship
In Gampaha District north of Colombo, the capital, about 40 villagers led by seven Buddhist monks on Jan. 15 broke into the worship premises of Christ Freedom Church in Minuwangoda and demanded a halt to services.
“They went on to claim that the village was a Buddhist village, and demanded that the pastor discontinue his worship activities with immediate effect,” it reported. “The pastor responded by reiterating his fundamental right to religious freedom.”
Earlier the pastor had called the police emergency hotline at 8:45 a.m. when church members informed him of a number of villagers lurking nearby. Police did not arrive until 11:15 a.m., took a statement from the pastor and advised him to file a complaint. When the pastor arrived at the police station, however, he was informed that a villager had already filed a complaint against him.
Shortly before midnight that night, the pastor and his wife awoke to the sound stones striking their house. They were unable to identify the assailants. He called the police emergency hotline, and officers arrived at 12:10 a.m. and advised him to leave the village for the sake of his family, the alliance reported.
The following day, the pastor filed another complaint with police. Officers referred the matter to the village’s mediation board, and on Jan. 28 the pastor, his wife, and two congregation members arrived for an inquiry by the board. The board sided with the 15 other villagers present, demanding a stop to worship services.
The pastor refused to stop conducting religious worship practices, but agreed to settle the matter regarding the stoning of his home.
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