Monday, December 17, 2012

Church Leaders Wounded in Attacks on Sri Lankan Churches

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SRI LANKA (ANS) -- Two church leaders were wounded in separate attacks targeting worship services in Sri Lanka.

According to a story from Barnabas Aid, on Dec. 9, a rock was thrown at the pastor of a church in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, as a large mob, including numerous Buddhist monks, stormed the building. The pastor was left with severe pain in his lower abdomen.

Barnabas Aid said the attackers overwhelmed eight police officers, who had been sent to the scene to oversee a planned demonstration by the monks against the church.

The mob vandalized church furniture and equipment, and also vehicles belonging to church members that were parked outside the building. Children were present during the attack.

Barnabas Aid said the day before the incident, a group of Buddhists, including a number of monks, had visited the pastor. They told him that he was not allowed to conduct Christian worship in Weeraketiya without the permission of Buddhist clergy.

When he insisted that it was his constitutional right to do so, Barnabas Aid said they incorrectly claimed that the constitution had now changed. They gave the pastor an ultimatum that either he stop holding services or else they would destroy the church.

In an earlier incident, Barnabas Aid reported, a Sri Lankan bishop who has been threatened for speaking out against the regime's abuses was wounded in an attack on a church in Karusal, Mannar district.

Stones were thrown into the building during a service on Sept. 7, and firecrackers reportedly lit at the scene.
According to Barnabas Aid, Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar, was leading the service at the time and sustained minor injuries. Two young worshipers were assaulted by the attackers when they went outside to investigate.

Barnabas Aid said the bishop has been a leading figure in defending the rights of the Tamil people in north and east Sri Lanka. He suffered serious abuse during the 26-year long civil war in which the government fought the Tamil Tigers. Open threats have been made against him.

Barnabas Aid provides hope and relief for the persecuted church.

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