Sri Lankan pastor attacked by masked men; local authorities threaten to demolish church premises

October 15, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Sri LankaSri Lanka, October 09, 2014: A church service in Sri Lanka was disrupted by a mob on 7 September, one week after a brutal attack on the church’s pastor and his family left several people injured. Meanwhile, two other churches in the country are facing harassment by the local authorities.

A Barnabas partner reports that a group of around 80 people, led by a Buddhist monk, surrounded the church in Batticaloa District during a Sunday worship service. The assailants threatened the pastor with violence if the church did not cease its activities.

The intimidation followed a vicious attack on the pastor and his family on 31 August. The family were walking home, with another church member, after visiting a fellow Christian when eight masked men assaulted them with iron bars, cricket stumps and wooden poles studded with nails.

The pastor received a blow to his hip while his wife, the couple’s twelve-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, and the other believer were all brutally beaten by the group and later hospitalised.

During the attack, the pastor’s son managed to escape and contact the police. Only one of the assailants was arrested at the scene. This attacker was released only a day later, by order of a magistrate, on the grounds that he had to take a university exam.

Hours before the attack, 15 villagers had gone to the pastor’s home and shouted threats, falsely accusing him of making complaints about them to the police.

The pastor has also been harassed by a village leader, who prior to these incidents repeatedly contacted him about the church’s legal status. The official said that he had received an anonymous letter complaining about worship activities organised by the pastor and threatened that there would be consequences if the church remained unregistered.

CHURCHES FACE CLOSURE

Elsewhere in Sri Lanka, local authorities in Matale Ddistrict have threatened to demolish a temporary shelter being used by a church for worship services. During a meeting on 16 September, the chairman of the provincial council lashed out at the pastor and said that he would ensure that the shelter was demolished and that the church’s plan for a permanent building plan would never be approved.

The pastor had previously been questioned by the police, and on 24 August, a 30-strong group of opponents, including Buddhist monks and the chairman of the provincial council, protested outside a worship meeting at the shelter.

Police have also told the pastor of a church in Jaffna district that he must either gain official approval for the church or close it down. The church in question was established 17 years ago, and according to Sri Lankan law, there is no legal requirement for places of worship to obtain registration. However, an order was issued by the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs in 2008 that requires only “new constructions” of religious places of worship to register with the ministry.

– barnabas team

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