Even as the Bodu Bala Sena prepares to reignite its anti-Halal campaign today, the threats to religious freedom continues around the island with several incidents reported against Christian places of worship between January-September 2013.
A report compiled by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka based on information received from member churches and affiliates counts 35 incidents of threats to religious freedom and outright attacks on Christian places of worship and religious leaders. All the information has been verified as far as possible through interviews with the victims, church leaders, eye witnesses and police and through site visits by NCEASL staff, the Alliance said.
There are more than 35 incidents reported, but not all of them is published due to security concerns, sources told Colombo Telegraph.
Following is the full report:
Incident Reports Jan-Sep 2013
Attempted Act of Arson on Pastor’s House in Hambanthota
On the 02nd of September 2013, at approximately 2.35 a.m., a group of unidentified persons threw plastic bags filled with kerosene and petrol at the house of the pastor of the Assembly of God Church in Agunukolapalassa in the Hambanthota district. The intention of this appears to have been to set fire to the premises. However the attackers ran away, when the pastor and his family, who were awakened to the noise came out of the house. . Evidence of lit matchsticks were found outside the premises. A police complaint was made (complaint number C156/12).
It is notable that the pastor has been facing a series of similar incidents of threat and intimidation in the recent past.
Threat of Attack against Church Cancels Sunday Service
On the 07th of September 2013, the pastor of the Praise Prayer Lanka Church in Rathmalana in the Colombo district, received a call from the police station notifying him of information they had received of a threat of attack against the church by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). On the 08th of September at approximately 6.30 a.m., about 25 police officers arrived at the church premises and provided protection for the church. They also turned away the members of the congregation who were coming to attend the church service. The service therefore was effectively cancelled.
It is notable that on the 26th August 2013, local police officers informed the church that prior approval needs to be obtained from the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs in order for the church to function in the said area (although by law, there is no such requirement).
Prayer Gathering in Meegoda Attacked by Mob led by Buddhist Monk
On the 08th of September 2013, at approximately 11 a.m while a group of 30 to 40 Christians were gathered together for prayer at the Jeevana Diya Church in Kadjugahadeniya in Meegoda, a mob of about 30 villagers led by three Buddhist monks forcibly entered the premises. They destroyed all the musical instruments in the premises and caused damage to furniture and glass windows. The pastor who was leading prayer was assaulted by one Buddhist monk who hit him on his the head with a guitar until the guitar broke and the pastor fell unconscious to the floor. The pastor’s mother who attempted to intervene and begged the monk to stop assaulting her son was scolded in derogatory language and was beaten by some members of the mob. Both the pastor and his mother who is a heart patient, were admitted to the area hospital following the attack.
The others gathered at the meeting were verbally abused by the attackers who told them that this is a “Buddhist village” and demanded that the prayer meetings are stopped immediately.
Police officers arrived at the scene after the mob left the premises. No arrests have been made so far.
Read more here.
Pastor and his Family Assaulted by Mob and Buddhist Monk
On 23rd June 2013, at approximately 9.45 a.m., the pastor of the New Life Church in Neluwaththuduwa in Hanwella while on his way on a personal errand was followed by a Buddhist monk who began to shout at him in derogatory language and went onto physically assault him. The monk picked up a fallen coconut branch and assaulted the pastor. The pastor who fled and ran towards the said church, was pursued by the Buddhist monk. When he neared the church, the pastor found a mob of about 20 young men gathered outside the church premises. They surrounded him and began to assault him, falsely accusing him of assaulting the Buddhist monk. The mob then forcibly entered the church, which has a congregation of about 70 persons and disrupted the worship service that was in progress. They began to assault the devotees who were praying and also caused damage to the musical instruments in the church.
The mob went onto assault the pastor’s 19 year old son and his 3 year old son. The 3 year old sustained minor head injuries. One member of the mob also attempted to hit the pastor’s wife with a wooden club, but she was protected by some members of the congregation. The police who arrived after being alerted to the attack, went onto disperse the mob. The pastor and four other members of the congregation who sustained injuries were taken to the police station and questioned on the incident. The Buddhist monk together with some of those who carried out the attack were present at the police station. The Police warned the monk and the attackers that such attacks are in violation of the law. The pastor went onto lodge a police complaint and a case was filed in the Magistrate Courts.
It is notable that one week prior to the incident the same Buddhist monk had met with the village school principal, instructing him to remove the pastor from the village school committee.
Denomination Endorsed by Parliament, not Good Enough for Local Authorities?
On the 16th of March 2013, the pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Bulathkohupitiya in the Kegalle district received a letter dated 8th March 2013 from the Divisional Secretary stating that a committee appointed to look into unauthorized religious places had decided to close down such places of religious activity with immediate effect. The letter went on to instruct the pastor to close down the said church with immediate effect. The Assemblies of God is a Christian denomination incorporated under the Act of Parliament in 1947. Furthermore there are no legal provisions in Sri Lanka for religious activities to be approved by the state.
A letter was sent to the Divisional Secretary of Bulathkohupitiya highlighting these concerns, and emphasising the legality of the church structure. Following this there hasn’t been any complaints of harassment by the Divisional Secretary and others concerned.
Renovation of Residence Requires Permission of Religious Affairs Ministry?
On the 01st of March 2013, the police questioned the pastor of the Emmanuel Prayer Centre in Yakkala in the Gampaha district, with regard to the renovation of his residence, informing him that it is illegal and stating that he needed the permission of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs. The pastor responded stating that he had obtained permission from thePradeshiya Sabhava (local government authority), and did not require the permission of the Ministry as it was his personal residence that was being renovated. The Pradeshiya Sabhava however then revoked the authorization through a letter dated 26thFebruary 2013.
A case has been filed at the Supreme Court challenging the revocation of the letter by the Pradeshiya Sabha. The case had been postponed to the 13th of May.
On the 2nd March the Police informed him that a petition had been filed against the renovation of his house and his statement had to be recorded. The Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station informed him that they will be compelled to file a case against him, if there are any further petitions against him.
On the 03rd March the OIC informed the pastor that three further petitions had been filed against him, claiming that his prayer meetings are a disturbance to the village and hence action will be filed against him in court for breach of peace. He was further summoned to the police station on the 17th March and informed that the case against him will be filed on the 18th of March 2013 in the Magistrates Court.
Prayer Meeting Declared Illegal by Police & Divisional Secretariat
On the 17th of February 2013, at approximately 11 a.m., two police officers, the Grama Sevaka (Village officer) and five officers of the Divisional Secretariat, who are also reportedly members of the Bodu Bala Sena (A Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Organization), disrupted a prayer meeting which was in progress at the Christian Prayer Centre in Ingiriya, situated in the Kaluthara district. The prayer meeting has been conducted for the past seven years by the pastor with a group of 15-20 persons attending the meeting. They told the Christians gathered for prayer that the prayer meeting is illegal, claiming that they did not have prior approval to hold prayer meetings there.
The police officers instructed the pastor to come to the police station immediately, so that his statement with regard to a complaint that was filed against him by the Divisional Secretariat for conducting ‘unlawful’ prayer meetings can be recorded. The pastor was admonished by the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station for conducting prayer meetings.
The incident stems from a complaint made by some villagers to the Divisional Secretariat, accusing the pastor of unethical conversions. The Divisional Secretariat had in turn complained to the police. The police however, instead of making inquiries into the complaint of unethical conversion, arbitrarily declared the prayer meetings illegal. The pastor made a statement that denied the accusations levelled against him and claimed his legal right to conduct the prayer meetings.
Following this on the 18th of February 2013, the pastor met with the Divisional Secretary of the area and clarified that since he was conducting a prayer meeting prior approval from the government was unnecessary. The Divisional Secretary claimed however that in the event that there are more than ten persons gathering for worship, it will be considered a ‘church’ and prior approval must be obtained for such gatherings. This claim again however, has no legal basis and is against the Constitutional right to the freedom of worship that’s guaranteed in Article 14 (1) (e).
The NCEASL issued a letter to the Divisional Secretary on the 05th of March, raising the above concerns and inquiring on the basis in which the prayer meetings can be declared illegal. No complaints of harassment have been received up to date from the pastor following the letter.
Meetings on “Religious Harmony”, Convened by District Secretary Hambanthota
On the 10th of May 2013, in the Hambanthota district, the District Secretary (DS) (the highest official representing the Government at a district level) convened a meeting where local government officials, high ranking police officers from the province, an official coordinating the Christian Affairs Department at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana & Religious Affairs, Buddhist clergy and Christian clergy (including about three Christian pastors) for a meeting to address issues affecting religious harmony in the District. A letter dated 24th April 2013, under the signature of the Hambanthota District Secretary Mr. R.C. De Soysa titled ‘Activities carried out harming religious harmony’ was sent to some of the clergy, inviting them for the meeting.
At the meeting, there were questions raised on legality of the churches. The meeting grew tense and lasted for about three hours, where members of the Buddhist clergy made various accusations against the pastors. The pastors however were not given much opportunity to speak. At the end of the meeting, the DS instructed the Police to have all the pastors from the District to be present at a meeting that was scheduled for the 16th of May (it was later postponed for the 17th of May). An indirect ultimatum was given to the pastors at the meeting on the 10th to show proof of the ‘legality’ of their ministries or they will be closed down – either legally or by the ‘law of the jungle’ (kelaa neethiyen).
On the 17th of May 2013, at the meeting that followed, all the pastors from the District who were informed by the police to attend the meeting were present at the meeting together with senior Denominational leaders representing two of the main Denominations present in the area. Others present at the meeting were the DS, other local government officials, police officers, an official coordinating the Christian Affairs Department at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana & Religious Affairs and Buddhist clergy from Hambanthota. One of the Buddhist monks present said that they have already closed down 17 churches. There were demands and threats to close those functioning in Hambanthota. After a volatile meeting of more accusations by Buddhist clergy and hostile comments from officials, the pastors and the church leaders present explained that the law of the land gives them a right to practice their religion anywhere in Sri Lanka and that the law does not require registration with the Ministry of Buddha Sasana & Religious Affairs. They also explained that some of the larger Denominations were in fact incorporated under Act of Parliament and have a long history in the country. The meeting closed with a decision that a follow up meeting will be held in three months. Although there was no decision taken to close down any church at this meeting, the situation in the district remains tense as result of the exchange.
No Church Can Exist in Hambanthota-Buddhist Monk
On the 17th of March 2013 while the members of the Harvest Church in Suriyaweva, in the Hambanthota district, were engaged in Sunday worship, a mob of about 15 persons led by four Buddhist monks entered the premises at approximately 10.45 a.m. They threatened the pastor to stop the worship service. The Buddhist monks shouted at the pastor and threatened him with death claiming “this is a Buddhist country and you have no right to engage in Christian worship services”. They accused the pastor of operating an illegal place of worship. One of the Buddhist monks called the police and the mob dispersed after the arrival of the police. The police officer instructed the pastor to be present for an inquiry on the 20th March 2013.
At approximately 8.00 p.m. that same day, unidentified persons threw stones at the residences of the members of the congregation. Though the police were immediately informed of the tense situation, they didn’t respond to the complaint.
On the 20th March when the pastor arrived at the police station for the inquiry, a large crowd including Buddhist monks had gathered at the entrance to the police station and demonstrated against the Christian worship services. They shouted death threats and verbally abused the pastor. During the police inquiry, Buddhist monks present stated that no church can exist in the Hambanthota District since it is a Buddhist area and threatened the pastor with death if he did not leave. The Officer in Charge (OIC) advised the pastor to discontinue the worship service temporally for his own protection. No action was taken against those who disrupted the worship service or those who threatened the pastor with death in the presence of the police.
Break-in and Desecration of Catholic Church in Moratuwa
On 05th June 2013, unidentified persons had broken into the St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in Angulana in Moratuwa during the night and attempted to burn the Blessed Sacrament by pouring petrol over it. According to news reports however, it had not caught fire and about 30 lit matches were found on the premises. A 143 year old statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been damaged and the sound system of the church had been destroyed in the break in.
Four perpetrators were later apprehended and according to media reports, released without charge, on the instructions of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church.
Anti-Christian Poster Campaign, Threat to Attack Pastor
At approximately 9.30 a.m., on 07th June 2013, the pastor of the King’s Revival Church situated in Ingiriya in the Kaluthara district, was visited by two police officers who questioned him about the church he pastored. The church has a congregation of about 60-70 members. The police officers also informed him that there were a large number of posters displayed on the streets of the town against Christian churches. The posters read – “We don’t need a church in the village, all we need is a Buddhist temple- chase the Christian pastor from the village”. Later on the same day, the pastor was informed by the police that there is a threat against him.
Anti-Christian Meeting and Threats against Pastors in Kegalle
A meeting was held on 15th June 2013 in the Gangavereliya village in the Kegalle district by Buddhist monks together with Buddhist and Hindu villagers, against Christians. Several posters were put up in the village about the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to restrict the activities of the churches and stop unethical conversions. At least one pastor in the area has received threats to stop worship services.
Mob Attack on Church in Batticaloa, Demanding its Closure
On 16th June 2013, while the Sunday morning service of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka in Sugankerni, Valachchennai in the Batticaloa district was in progress, a mob entered the church premises armed with clubs, knives and swords. The mob began to shout at the pastor and the members of the congregation demanding that they stop the worship service and close down the church. They beat up the worshipers and the pastor causing injury. Some of the injured were admitted to the Valachchenai hospital. The mob further caused serious damage to the modest church building.
False Allegations Against a Pastor in Hambanthota
At approximately 3.30 p.m., on 16th June 2013 the pastor of the Assembly of God church in Ambalanthota in the Hambanthota district, was on his way to the village shops when he came across a meeting held in the village by Buddhist monks from Sinhala Ravaya together with a group of villagers. A man from the village who was attending the meeting saw the pastor and identified him as a Christian pastor to the Buddhist monks who were leading the meeting. Some of the Buddhist monks demanded that the pastor come up on stage. Fearing that he may be assaulted, the pastor fled from the area and made his way to the local police station. The Buddhist monks however, pursued him to the police station and falsely accused him of photographing and videoing the meeting. The pastor denied the allegations to the Officer in Charge (OIC). Subsequently, police let the pastor return to his home.
This meeting was reportedly held as part of the march organised by the Sinhala Ravaya from Kataragama to Colombo, to collect signatures against cattle slaughter. It is notable that they set a Muslim owned beef stall on fire on 18th June in Tangalle – which is another coastal town in the South – during the march.
Subsequently on 17th June, the pastor received a telephone call from the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the local police station who stated that there was information of an attack to be carried out against him. At approximately 9.00 a.m., a mob of about 30 persons including five Buddhist monks surrounded the pastor’s premises, shouting threats against him. They demanded that the worship services should be discontinued. The presence of the police prevented the attackers from entering the premises. The police succeeded in sending the mob away. The pastor however continues to receive threats of attack almost every day.
Weeraketiya Christian Family, Still to Return Home Following Attack.
On the 18th of March 2013, the pastor of the church of the Jeevana Alokaya Church in Weeraketiya, in the Hambanthota district was in Colombo attending the hearing of a Fundamental Rights petition filed in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka (SCFR 19/2013) with regard to a violent attack on the said church that was carried out on the 9th of December 2012.
On this same day at approximately 5.00 p.m., the pastor’s wife and two children were returning home after visiting the shops when they were accosted by a mob outside their premises, led by approximately eight Buddhist monks. The family immediately went into their house and locked the front door. The pastor’s wife then noticed that the back door was broken and their belongings were strewn around. Frightened that the mob would enter the house and harm them, she called the police.
Following the call, four police officers arrived at the premises around 5.30 p.m. In spite of their presence, six Buddhist monks and two others forcibly entered the premises and tore down the Christian Scriptural passages and banners that were hoisted on the wall. They also removed the Bibles and set fire to them. Some members of the mob began hurling stones at the premises while the others climbed on the roof and damaged the roofing sheets. In the attack about 20 asbestos sheets were damaged, glass window panes were shattered, curtains torn down and furniture damaged.
A letter was delivered to the pastor’s wife by one of the mobsters ordering them to stop the Christian worship services with immediate effect. The mob refused to leave until this ultimatum was met. Unable to contain the mob, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station arrived at the scene and reproached the pastor’s wife, stating that the attack was a consequence of their Christian ministry. Fearing for the safety of her two children, the Pastor’s wife under duress make a declaration by loud speaker, apologizing to the mob for their Christian worship services and promising that they will cease holding such services with immediate effect. However, the mob did not cease to hurl stones at the premises, damaging the roof and shattering the windows. In the meantime the pastor’s wife was asked by the police to record a statement. While she was making her statement to the OIC, she was struck in the eye by a piece of shattered glass from a window.
The counsels handling the Supreme Court case (SCFR 19/2013), senior police officers, Members of parliament and media personnel were alerted about the attack while it was taking place. The Attorney General as well as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) were asked to intervene. The attack lasted for approximately three hours. After most of the mob was dispersed, the police were instructed to have the family removed from the vicinity for their safety. A few journalists arrived at the scene. It is reported that one reporter from an independent news agency was assaulted by the mob. A distorted version of the attack was later aired by one local station, claiming that the attack was carried out by Christians.
It is notable that on the previous day, the 17th of March 2013, in the late hours of the night the electricity connection of the premises of the pastor and his family of the Jeevana Alokaya Church was disconnected.
The pastor’s family was moved to a safe location outside the Hambanthota district. The pastor’s wife was hospitalized and underwent surgery to remove the glass particle that was lodged in her eye.
On the 19th March 2013, the police arrested approximately five persons in connection with the attack. Later that day a large mob that included Buddhist monks protested outside the police station, demanding their release. The mob hurled stones at the police station. It is reported that due to the attack on the police as well as orders given by a politician, the arrested were released from custody.
One month following the attack, the family are yet to return to their home.
Pastor Falsely Accused of Hiding Explosives
On the 27th of April 2013, in the morning, police officers visited the pastor of the Believers Church in Aralanganwila, in the Polonnaruwa district and searched his premises, looking for hidden explosives. They informed him that they were acting on a tip off received by the police that he was hiding explosives. They found one hand grenade in a pile of sand in the garden, exactly where the anonymous caller had said it would be. The pastor was taken in by the Police for questioning. After having determined that the accusation was false and that the pastor was being framed, he was released after his statement was recorded.
Monks Stage Public Protest Against Church, Worshippers Attacked
On the 24th of March 2013, the pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Kottawa and the members of the congregation, were engaged in Sunday worship when at approximately 10.00 a.m., ten Buddhist monks and a group of over 100 persons surrounded the church premises. The Buddhist monks (reportedly from the Bodu Bala Sena) staged a sit-in protest blocking the main High Level Road. They agreed to stop the protest only if the pastor of the said church agreed to discontinue the services. Concurrently, some members of the mob forcibly entered the church premises and physically assaulted some of the members of the congregation. Two female worshippers were among those assaulted by the mob. The mob continued to shout threats and hurled verbal abuse at the pastor and the worshippers. The mob continued to disrupt traffic for several hours.
Some journalists were present at the location covering the protest. The protest was reported on by a few news stations, erroneously claiming though that the church was not registered. While the Sri Lankan law does not require places of worship to be registered, the Assemblies of God is a well-established Christian denomination incorporated under the Act of Parliament in 1947.
A police complaint falsely accusing four youth from the church of physically assaulting some Buddhist youth was lodged in the police station. The four accused youth were asked to give a statement in relation to same. The previous day, the 23rd of March, the pastor received information from the police that there will be a protest against the church and hence a few police officers were already present in the area. The police office instructed the pastor to stop the worship services temporarily for his protection.
A case was filed in the Magistrate Courts holding number B/ 3146 for breach of peace against the protesters and the pastor. The case was heard on 27th of March 2013 and postponed to the 5th of April 2013. The case is continuing.
Anti-Christian-Muslim Rally, Hate Speech – Forces Church to Close Down
On the 04th of May, at 2.00 pm, near the Sooriyawewa bus stand an anti-Christian and anti-Muslim public rally was organized by the Sinhala Ravaya group, the Buddhist clergy of the Sooriyawewa temple and local businessmen. Handbills circulated about the demonstration called upon Sinhala Buddhists to rally together to be made aware about the “Enemy forces of Buddhism and their activities”. Another handbill called upon Sinhala Buddhist businessmen to close shops, raise a Buddhist flag and gather together for a meeting about “Extremist missionary groups operating in Sooriyawewa against the Sinhala race and Buddhism”.
The pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Sooriyawewa in the Hambanthota district, was informed by the Police and the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officers that there is a threat of attack on the church following the above mentioned rally. Some persons who attempted to enter the church premises before the rally began were turned away by the police. During the rally, Buddhist monks spoke against Christianity and churches in a degrading manner, inciting hatred against them. Muslims too were verbally attacked. As the situation turned volatile police officers once again warned the pastor and his family to vacate the premises. The pastor and his family vacated the premises at 5.00 pm. The next day’s worship service was cancelled. The pastor was questioned by the police officers on the legality and registration of the church, and the number of persons attending the worship service etc.
The pastor was asked to come for two subsequent inquiries at the Police station on the 8th of April and on the 15th of April. The Police told the pastor that they had a legal right to have Christian worship services but advised that they close down ‘for their own safety’. However, at the meeting on the 15th April, the Officer in Charge (OIC) agreed that the church has a right to continue. The members of the church however are no longer able to meet for worship, as they did before, as they feel their security can’t be guaranteed.
Police Order Pastor to Stop Worship Services and Prayer Meetings
On the 27th of April 2013, the pastor of the HBI Opma Ministry in Deniyaya in the Galle district, received news that there will be a protest against his ministry. He was visited by the Police and questioned as to the registration of the church. He was ordered to stop worship services and prayer meetings.
Arson Attack on Pastor’s Premises
On the 24th of April 2013, part of a closed down shop space (room), situated within the premises occupied by the pastor of theAssemblies of God church in Sooriyawewa in the Hambanthota district, was set on fire during the night, by unidentified persons. An entry was lodged at the Sooriyawewa Police station on the 1st of May 2013 (No. CIB 204/08).
Police Orders Prayer Meeting to be Discontinued
On the 19th of March 2013, the pastor of the Assembly of God church, in Wallasmulla in the Hambanthota district, received a call from a person claiming to be a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer seeking to question him about his church. The pastor went to the local police station and was questioned by the police with regard to a prayer meeting that was being held at the residence of a church member and details of persons attending the meeting. He was cautioned by the police to be diligent due to the situation of religious tension prevalent in the country.
On the 24th of March 2013, in the evening, police officers visited the church member’s house where the prayer meetings were held and questioned her as to the legality of the prayer meetings. She was also summoned to the police station and warned of a possible attack on the prayer meeting and was advised to discontinue holding such prayer meetings. She affirmed her legal right to have prayer gatherings in her home and refused to discontinue the prayer meetings.
On the 06th of April 2013, police officers once again arrived at the residence where the prayer meeting was being held. The church member who was the owner of the residence however was not present there at the time. Her son who was there was instructed to come to the police station. The church member’s son, who is not a Christian and has no connection to the prayer meetings held in his mother’s house, was instructed to place his signature upon a document which stated that the prayer meetings will be discontinued in the premises.
On the 07th of April 2013, two officers from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) arrived at the premises and instructed the Church member to discontinue the prayer meetings according to the instructions of the OIC (Officer in Charge) of the area police station. The meetings have since been discontinued.
It has come to light that the neighbours have also been questioned by the police with regard to the prayer meetings. Following that they have been summoned to the police station and told that if the house where the prayer meetings are taking place is attacked, similar to the attack that took place in Weeraketiya (HYPERLINK HERE)– the mobs are likely to attack the houses in the neighbourhood as well. The police went onto tell them that informing the police if the pastor visits the said home or of attempts to resume prayer meetings, would be in their best interest.
Pastor Forced to Make Statement Discontinuing Services
On the 16th of March 2013, at approximately 10.00 a.m., a mob of over 500 persons that included Buddhist monks, staged a protest outside the premises of the Gethsemane Church in Watapola, in the Galle district, where a worship service was in progress.
Some of the mobsters, led by the Buddhist monks, forcibly entered the premises in spite of several police officers being present at the time. They shouted at the worshippers and threatened the pastor with death if he continued the worship services. The pastor, under duress, made a statement that he will discontinue the worship services.
Three days earlier, the pastor received information of a plot to protest against the worship services and had requested for police protection for the service. However, the officers present failed to stop the disruption of the worship service or the forced statement from the pastor.
Bodu Bala Sena Convenes Village Meeting to Stop Christian Ministry
On the 10th of March 2013, the Bodu Bala Sena (A Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Organization) convened a meeting, reportedly to discuss eradicating Christian churches and pastors ministering in the village. The pastor of the Assembly of God church in Agunukolapalassa, in the Hambanthota district, received information that his ministry was one of the main topics of discussion and a decision had been made to issue him an ultimatum of two days to discontinue his activities there.
At approximately 6.30 p.m., that day the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station visited the pastor’s residence and questioned him on the validity of his ministry. The officer warned the pastor that the meeting held earlier that day was aimed at stopping his worship services and instructed him to limit his worship services and prayer meetings to avoid any confrontation.
On the 11th of March 2013 at approximately 11.30 a.m., two officers from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) visited the pastor and questioned him further on the legality of the prayer meetings.
Mob Disrupts Meeting Claiming it to be Illegal
On 17th February 2013, about 30 Christians belonging to the Light House Church in Hatharaliyadda in the Kandy district gathered for a prayer meeting, at approximately 11.00 a.m. A mob of about 200 persons with two Buddhist monks disrupted the meeting and forcibly entered the premises, which belonged to a Christian lady, who was a member of the church. The monks threatened the pastor to stop the prayer meeting, claiming that he had no prior permission to conduct prayer meetings. The pastor subsequently called the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the local police station and the police officer informed the pastor that he would speak to the Buddhist monks. Following this the pastor lodged a police complaint (no. CIB189/296).
On the 20th of February 2013, the pastor was asked by the police to be present at the police station in order to reach an amicable settlement with the Buddhist monks. There, at the police station the pastor was confronted with three busloads of persons and about 20 Buddhist monks. In the presence of the police, the monks accused the pastor of conducting unauthorized religious activities and issued a veiled threat stating that if there was a violent attack, that they will not be responsible for it.
On the 22nd of February 2013, the pastor was asked to meet the Assistant Government Agent (AGA) of the area. The Buddhist monks were present once again and complained to the AGA that the prayer meeting did not have government approval. The AGA advised the pastor to obtain approval from the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs. It is important to note however that there is no legal requirement for such prayer meetings to be conducted.
At approximately 3 p.m., the pastor received information of a plot to attack him and the members attending the prayer meeting being planned by the Buddhist monks and some villagers. The pastor informed the police of this. The OIC arrived and questioned some men loitering around in the premises where the prayer meeting is held. Instead of taking measures to prevent an attack on the prayer meeting from taking place, the police informed the pastor that if an incident occurs disturbing the peace, a case will be filed against the pastor for breach of peace.
Once again on the 04th of March 2013, at approximately 5.30 p.m., a mob of over 100 persons forcibly entered the house of the said church member, where the prayer meetings were being held. The mob dragged the lady to the community hall in the village and verbally abused her for being a Christian. She was threatened with a severe beating if she continued to hold prayer meetings in her home and demanded that she observe sil (Buddhist prayer). The pastor of the said church, who was informed of the incident, immediately informed the police. The police arrived at the community hall and dispersed the mob. They stated that the matter will be referred to the court.
On the 06th of March 2013 a court order was issued by the Magistrate, stating that religious activities can be conducted but should not obstructs others, should not entice those belonging to other religions or ethnicities, and should not disturb the peace in the area. The pastor was informed by the police that they may continue the prayer meetings.
On the 09th of March 2013, at approximately 5.30 p.m., a meeting was convened by the Buddhist monks and villagers opposing the said prayer meeting. A public protest against the prayer meetings and action against authorities supporting the prayer meeting were reportedly discussed at the meeting. Later that same evening the police informed the pastor to discontinue the prayer meetings, due to the threat of violence.
Church in Batticaloa Burnt Down by Unidentified Persons
On the 03rd of March 2013, at approximately 2.00 a.m., the wife of the pastor of the Living Voice of Life in Morakottanchenai, in the Batticaloa district was awakened by the sound and smell of fire. The church of the Living Voice of Life had been set on fire. The church has a congregation of about 100 people. The flimsily built temporary structure of the church of the Living Voice of Life had been set on fire and completely damaged as a result. The pastor had received several threats to stop worship services or the church will be burnt down. A case against the pastor had also been filed for breach of peace, with the aim of halting the worship services.
Causes no Disturbance or Harm; but Prayer Meetings must be Stopped-Police
An Independent Church in Vennappuwa, Gampaha was informed by the police that they will have a court order issued against them, if they continued with their church prayer meetings. This situation arose following the leveling of threats and attacks that were carried out against the pastor and the congregation by certain groups.
On the 03rd of February 2013, at approximately 3 p.m., while some members from the church gathered at a rented hall in Marawila for a prayer meeting, a group of about ten persons together with the parish priest of the Mudukatuwa Catholic church arrived and objected to the prayer meeting. The pastor was threatened that if he did not stop, he will be assaulted by the villagers.
On the 24th of February 2013, a similar situation arose when at approximately 3.50 p.m. a mob of villagers disrupted the prayer meeting, assaulted the pastor and forced the worshippers out of the building. On 26th of February 2013, an entry was lodged at the Marawila Police station (No. CIB 297/351 12.40) with regard to this assault. On the 3rd of March the Police informed the pastor to stop conducting prayer services, until the Officer in Charge (OIC) returns from leave and the matter is discussed with him.
On the 08th of March, the OIC of the police informed the pastor that inquiries revealed that the Christians gathering for prayer were not harming anyone or causing a disturbance. He stated however that since some of the villagers wanted the prayer meetings discontinued, the prayer meetings should be stopped with immediate effect. The pastor was also informed that if he continued the prayer meetings, a court order will be obtained against him, prohibiting the prayer meetings.
Prayer Meeting Disrupted by Mob, Pastor Injured
On the 24th of March 2013, while the pastor and about 15 other members of the Believers Fellowship church in Ambalanthota in the Hambanthota district, were engaged in prayer at about 10.20 a.m., 25 Buddhist monks from the Bodu Bala Sena together with a mob of about 50 persons forcibly entered the premises and disrupted the prayer meeting. The mob assaulted several persons who were engaged in prayer and caused damage to furniture and shattered the glass window panes. The pastor was hit in the eye with a rod causing injury.
The police was informed of the attack, but arrived two hours later after the mob had dispersed. The pastor was admitted to the Hambanthota government hospital for treatment. The damage caused to the premises is estimated to be over 100,000 Rupees. A police complaint was lodged by the pastor.
Complaint by Monks, Leads Police to Order Temporary Closure of Worship
Complaint by Monks, Leads Police to Order Temporary Closure of Worship Services
On the 21st of March, the pastor of the Heavenly Vision Church in Kurunegala, was informed by the police of a complaint lodged against him by Buddhist monks, with the accusation that he was conducting healing services and unethically converting villagers. He was instructed to attend a police inquiry the following day. On the 22nd March, at the police inquiry, there were several Buddhist monks and villagers present. The Buddhist monks insisted that the pastor must discontinue worship services as this he stated is a “Buddhist village”. The pastor denied the accusation of unethical conversion. The police instructed the pastor to discontinue the worship service temporally until the Officer in Charge (OIC) investigates the complaint. The pastor was made to place his signature on a document which stated that he will stop the worship services temporarily.
On the 23rd of March, the members of the church submitted a petition to the police that as per the rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Sri Lanka, they are free to engage in worship and that the order to stop worship services is a breach of this right.
Do Not Encourage or Permit Buddhists to Attend Prayer Meetings-Buddhist Monk
On the 19th of March 2013, two young female members of the I am the Way (Margaya) church in Sevanapitiya in the Pollannaruwa District, were accosted by five Buddhist monks as they were entering the church premises to attend a prayer meeting. They were questioned as to why they do not attend the Daham Pasala (Dhamma School) conducted in the Buddhist temple. A cameraman was present with the monks and proceeded to videotape the two young ladies being questioned. The monks went onto question the pastor of the church as to the legality of the ministry and threatened him not to encourage or permit any Buddhists to attend the prayer meetings.
Mob Disrupts Service, Beats up Pastor and Threatens Congregation
On the 24th of February 2013 at approximately 3.50 p.m., a mob of about 50 persons forcibly entered the worship service of theJesus Good News Ministry in Wennappuwa in the Puttalam district. The mob assaulted the pastor and threatened to set the premises on fire and assault the members of the congregation. The pastor and the members of the congregation were forcibly evicted from the premises and the doors were locked by the attackers. It is notable that the owner of the premises, who rented the space to the church for the services, had no objections to the services being held there. A police complaint was filed with regard to the incident. Three weeks prior to the above incident, the pastor of the said church was visited by a few individuals from the village and advised to stop worship services with immediate effect or face a mob attack.
Anonymous Caller Threatens Gospel Tabernacle Pastor
On the 14th of February 2013, at approximately 11.30 a.m., the pastor of the Gospel Tabernacle Church in Grandpass, Colombo received an anonymous call, threatening him with death if he did not immediately stop holding worship meetings. The caller further threatened to burn down the premises where the worship meetings are held and also threatened to solicit the Bodu Bala Sena (A Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Organization) to attack the pastor and the members of the congregation. It is notable that the church while holding a congregation of approximately 75 members, has been conducting services for the past five years.
Threats Scare Owner from Renting Hall to Church
On the 10th of February 2013, the Bodu Bala Sena (A Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Organization) held a public meeting, in which they spoke against the owner who rented a hall to the Calvary Church, Malabe, in the Colombo district to hold prayer meetings. Following this the staircase and entrance to the said rental hall was defaced and a threatening message was received, forcing the church to cancel the Sunday meeting. The owner of the premises, fearing repercussions stopped renting the premises to the said church.
Church Name Board Damaged by Monks
On the 29th of January 2013, at approximately 6.45 p.m., three Buddhist monks forcibly entered the premises of the New Lifechurch situated in the Ratnapura district and damaged the church name board. The church has been functioning in this village for 15 years, with a congregation of about 50 persons.
Fear of a New Church in the Area Causes Uproar
On the 21st of January 2013, at approximately 7 p.m. a group of about 75 persons, protested outside the residence of the pastor of the church of Glory to Jesus Christ in Kurukkupane, in the Puttalam district, accusing him of building a church. The situation was diffused after some members from the village community came forward and explained that the pastor was merely renovating his home and not building a church.
Christian Worship in Pollanaruwa Disrupted by Mob
Though the Christian community belonging to the Assembly of God Church in Muthugala, Welikanda of the Pollanaruwa district, have been meeting for the past seven years for worship, without any hindrance; on the 06th of January 2013 this practice was disrupted.
While a group of about 60 Christians were gathered together for prayer at the church, a group of about 40 persons and a Hindu priest entered the premises at approximately 3 p.m. The mob attempted to drag the pastor outside and assault him. However, the church members succeeded in rescuing him and hid him from the attackers. The mob began to assault the church members with rods and poles. In the ensuing scuffle, three worshippers and one attacker suffered injuries. The Welikanda police produced both parties before the Magistrates Court on the 07th of January 2013. The judge reminded both parties that according to the Constitution of Sri Lanka everyone has the freedom to practice their religion and advised both parties to refrain from further conflict.