Sri Lanka: Violent dispossession of Christian churches by Buddhists


Christians living in the island nation of Sri Lanka expressed bewilderment following a series of attacks and acts of violence perpetrated by Buddhist monks and their followers. Christians underscored the Sri Lankan government's appeal in favor of tolerance and religious freedom.
Sri Lanka was shocked after the attack on a Protestant church, on December 9, in Weeraketiya, in the district of Hambantota, the southern province of Sri Lanka. A crowd of about a thousand people led by Buddhist monks stormed the building and wounded Pastor Pradeeep. The crowd destroyed the church, destroying sacred furnishings, objects, and nearby parked cars. The attackers broke through a police cordon. The day before the accident, a group of Buddhists and monks Pastor Pradeep, warning him that without their permission, he could not carry out Christian worship in Weeraketiya. They also threatened to destroy the church. Pastor Pradeep rejected their demands, citing constitutional protection of the freedom to worship.
Throughout 2012, Sri Lanka's Christian communities of different denominations reported about 50 cases of attacks by Buddhists. In September, Catholic Bishop Rayyappu Joseph of Mannar - who had asked for a international investigation on the abuses committed by the government in the civil war against the Tamil rebels - was injured in an attack on a Catholic church in Karusal, a  district of Mannar.
In August, Buddhist monks occupied the premises of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the city of Deniyaya in southern Sri Lanka and transforming it into a Buddhist temple.
Over 70% of the 20.4 million people in Sri Lanka are Buddhists, and belong mostly to the dominant ethnic group, the Sinhalese. Christians are estimated at 8.4 percent of the population, and 40% of them belong to ethnic minority Tamils.
Among the violent Buddhist groups there is the "Buddhist Power Force" ("Bodu Bala Sena") that recently asked its followers to "defend the country from Muslims and Christians." The movement is part of the most powerful political party of Buddhist monks, the "Jathika Hela Urumaya" ("National Front of Liberation"), which is a partner of the coalition government. The party has already shown itself in the past to be very violent. A party militant assassinated Prime Minister S. Bandaranaike in 1958. 

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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