Threats Against Churches in Sri Lanka on the Rise
April 04, 2013
During the past six weeks, Christian Aid Mission has received several reports of threats being directed toward pastors and churches in southern Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lankan Christians are facing problems,” stated a ministry contact in a recent email to Christian Aid´s South Asia director. “Buddhist groups are working against Christians. Already some churches have been closed down in the south.”
Church vandalized by persecutors
Christian Aid Mission provides assistance to several church-planting ministries in Sri Lanka, some of which base their outreach in the southern part of the island nation where Christians and Muslims alike have faced pressure from extremist Buddhist groups.
The correspondence is one in a string of reports from local contacts who are asking for urgent prayer as hostility toward Christians heats up. While no one has been reported injured or killed, the warnings have been taken seriously.
On March 27, a ministry partner was hosting a regular monthly meeting of Christian workers at his home when he received a phone call from another Christian brother. Local authorities showed up at a house church during a worship service and demanded those present to come to the police station for questioning. Another pastor was warned by police that they were going to come and check out his church too.
Believers meeting outside in a village
In mid-March a pastor and his family had to flee their home when they received threats from a group led by Buddhist monks. The same group visited five more churches and warned the pastors not to hold any more services or religious meetings.
In February, a ministry leader in the country reported an ominous gathering of close to 1,000 people who surrounded a Christian church one Sunday morning. The group, which included 50 Buddhist monks, carried weapons and was poised to attack. The pastor notified police immediately and law enforcement arrived on the scene before the situation got out of hand.
The leader said of the incident: “The Buddhist monks asked the pastor, ‘With whose authority are you doing Christian work in a Buddhist village?’ The pastor replied, ‘We have authority, but I can´t tell you now.’”
Missionaries walking to unreached villages
The pastor and representatives for the Buddhist group were asked to attend a police inquiry four days later, but no charges were filed.
The leader´s ministry works with two main churches and some branch churches in that area. “Please pray for God´s guidance and protection for church pastors and believers. We need your prayers,” he said.
A worship service at another church was interrupted in early March, this time by an outraged village leader who was opposed to the gospel. Two weeks before the incident, 27 Hindus had accepted Jesus as their Savior and participated in a water baptism service.
“The village leader came to Sunday worship time and shouted, ‘You are inviting our Hindu people to your church. Hereafter, you can´t do this.’ He also reported the church to the administration manager,” said a local ministry worker.
The situation was later resolved peacefully.
Two decades of civil war between Sri Lanka´s Sinhalese Buddhist majority and the Tamil separatists in the north ended in 2009, but tensions continue. Recent threats by extreme Buddhist sects have raised concerns that a new wave of attacks against Christians may be coming.
According to the Voice of the Martyrs web site, more than 250 Christian churches have been damaged or destroyed in Sri Lanka in recent years.