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Sri Lankan Christians targeted throughout January

South Asia

Sri Lankan Christians targeted throughout January

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Worshippers in Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Facebook, National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Christians were the targets of multiple instances of persecution in January 2018. Church buildings and services, including a funeral, were attacked or disrupted and authorities colluded with local Buddhists and in some cases Hindus to halt Christian meetings.

The catalogue of persecution compiled by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka recorded several attacks on services.

During a New Year service in Batticaloa, a group launched fireworks at the building and shouted obscenities. On 7 January, stones were thrown at a church building in Nittambuwa, damaging the roof.

A Christian funeral service taking place in Vakarai on 17 January was disrupted by a 500-strong  mob, who refused to allow a Christian to be buried at the cemetery. After the mob attacked police, they bowed to pressure from locals and the Christians were compelled to conduct the burial at a location 15km away under police protection.

In Dehiattakandiya on 19 January, the local Land Officer ordered a church pastor to stop holding services and threatened to reclaim church land if he refused. He was backed up by another local official. When the pastor refused, the officials contacted a local Buddhist monk and told him “the monks could now decide the course of action.”

Christians comprise eight per cent of the population in majority-Buddhist Sri Lanka and the country’s constitution gives “foremost place” to Buddhism.

Christians face frequent persecution, often from local Buddhist monks, while authorities discriminate against them, commonly claiming (falsely) that churches are legally required to register to hold services.