By BosNewsLife News Center
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife) -- There was mounting concern Tuesday, March 13, about the whereabouts of an evangelical Sri Lankan pastor, his two sons, and another Christian young man who disappeared this month amid intense fighting between Sri Lanka's government forces and the independence seeking Tamil Tiger rebels, Christians said.
Pastor Victor E.M.S. Yogarajan, 51, of the Gospel Missionary Church in the northern city of Vavuniya, his two sons, Daniel, 22, and David, 20 and fellow Christian Joseph Suganthakumar, 20, dissapeared March. 2, said the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) in a statement.
The missing men were reportedly last seen in the central-west city of Negombo, where Yogarajan called his wife on the night of March 1, local Christians said. Police officials reportedly said they had no knowledge about the location of the missing pastors and the young men.
It comes amid growing concern that Christians are in the crossfire as Sri Lanka once again stumbles into all-out civil war. The Christian Post newspaper quoted the Asian Human Rights Commission as saying that disappearances in Sri Lanka occur "at the rate of one for every five" hours. â€œThis is indeed a shocking trend for any nation, particularly for a Democratic nation such as Sri Lanka with an elected government,â€ the NCEASL said in a letter, appealing for help.
Christian rights investigators said they were concerned that Christians are increasingly becoming targets of kidnappings. "The deaths and disappearances of Sri Lankan church leaders have been increasing at an alarming rate following the renewed outbreak of civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers," said The Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM), which investigates cases of Christian persecution.
In January, an NCEASL pastor, Nallathamby Gnanaseelan, was reportedly shot dead by security forces on the streets. 38-year old Nallathamby Gnanaseelan, who leads the Tamil Mission Church in Jaffna, was shot and killed January 13 by Sri Lankan security forces in Chapel Street after he had taken his wife and daughter to hospital, the NCEASL said at the time.
Sri Lankan security forces reportedly claimed he had been carrying explosives, and then said he was shot because "he failed to stop" when challenged. His killing came shortly after a mission group said 16 civilian Tamil Christians including seven children were killed January 2. About 60 others were by aerial bombing at in the Mannar area, said Salem Voice Ministries.
Churches have been targeted as well, including in December when a grenade was thrown at police guarding a church conducting Christmas service with some 500 people inside, Christians said. The Tamil Tigers were accused of throwing the grenade that killed a policeman and wounded three others, The Christian Post reported.
Attacks on churches are not new to Sri Lanka . Since 2002, large mobs â€“ often led by Buddhist monks â€“ have led a string of attacks on churches in the south. Buddhist clergy have also campaigned for a national anti-conversion law, modeled on similar laws in India, to restrict the growth of Christian churches, human rights groups and local churches say.
In June the navy reportedly fired and threw grenades at a church building housing 3,000 people taking refuge from a battle between the LTTE and the navy the previous day. Among those that died was a 75-year-old woman while nearly 50 others were reportedly injured.
Two separate anti-conversion bills are still making their way through parliament, although the renewal of civil war have apparently brought a temporary halt to the campaign. Some 70,000 people have been killed and nearly half a million displaced by Sri Lankaâ€™s ongoing conflict, according to United Nations estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Sri Lanka),
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