SANTA ANA, CA (March 13, 2001) — One Christian was seriously injured and 35 more were hospitalized when about 100 Buddhist extremists assaulted the congregation of the Sanasum Sevana (New Life) Christian Center as they prayed on Sunday morning, February 18. The church is located in Nurwarawatte, near Hinguragoda, 220 kilometers northeast of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.
Masked men had smashed up the church property in the early morning hours, and the pastor was holding a prayer meeting amid the devastation when suddenly the mob attacked, wielding machetes. Ironically, the pastor and some of the congregation had attended an Open Doors seminar, “Preparing for Persecution,” three weeks earlier. The incident represents the most violent attack on Christians by Buddhist extremists in recent years.
According to the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, the church’s pastor was threatened in early February by the extremist movement, Sinhala Urumaya. Representatives of the nationalist group, which believes that Sri Lanka should be a purely Sinhala Buddhist state, told the pastor to close the church and leave town or face the consequences. The church was located in the Pollonaruwa district, a Buddhist stronghold.
The situation is still extremely tense. Local sources claim mobs are preventing Christians from visiting the injured in the hospital, and that the extremists have issued death and rape threats to the believers if they continue to hold services.
To make matters worse, Higuragoda police at first refused to file a complaint by the Christians, telling them that they should not have built the 15-year-old church in the first place. But Sri Lankan President Mrs. Chandrika Kumartunga has ordered an investigation into the incident.
Local Christians claim that relations between the church and the general community have been cordial in the past, but that the extremists have whipped up a frenzy of anti-Christian rage. Protestants of Sri Lanka constitute less than one percent of the 20 million Sri Lankan population, but they are growing rapidly. Attacks on Protestant churches have increased sharply in the past two years. Thirty-four churches were attacked and many destroyed in the late 1990s.
In June last year, the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka invited 220 pastors from all over the island to listen to persecution specialist Brother Andrew, and invited his organization, Open Doors, to hold a series of seminars training pastors to cope with the challenges of increased persecution.
For more information on the ministry of Open Doors (who released this story,) write: Open Doors with Brother Andrew, PO Box 27001, Santa Ana, CA 92799 or call: (949) 752-6600. The Open Doors USA Web site can be found at .