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Incident Reports

The following are some of the incidents of violence against Christians since Christmas 2003. Many others have gone unreported.


 

January - December 2008

Incident Reports >>

Date

Area

Church

Description

14th February

Weeraketiya, Hambanthota District

Jeevanaloka Sabhawa (Independent Church)

The Pastor, his wife and two children were visiting the house of a sick parishioner to pray for him. While they were there, the house was stoned. The Pastor made a complaint to the Weeraketiya Police at approximately 10 pm. The Police questioned one suspect who admitted to the crime but refused to name the persons who had incited the attack.

The Pastor has been receiving anonymous threatening phone calls. The Church members face verbal abuse from villagers while on their way to the Sunday service.

17th February

Mathugama (Kaluthara District)

King's Revival Church

In January 2008, the Pastor received information of a petition against the Church's existence. On the morning of 17th February, the Gramasevaka (local government official) visited the Pastor and queried some of the accusations made in the petition such as excessive noise from the service. The Pastor explained that his Church did not use any sound amplification for his services. The Gramasevaka stated that the Church could continue services and left.

The Sunday worship service was held as usual. During the service the Pastor became aware that there was a mob of about 50 persons gathered on the road leading to the Church, putting up anti-Christian posters. They were armed with rods. Fearing for the safety of the congregation, the Pastor instructed the congregation to leave in small batches. The mob hurled verbal abuse and threats at the passing congregation members. Some barred their way, pushing and pulling them. One man and a child of 10 years were assaulted and 2 women were manhandled and pulled by their hair. Some members of the congregation who belonged to the Tamil ethnic community were threatened that if they returned to the Church, they would be arrested and imprisoned.

The incident was reported to the Mathugama Police. The response was slow and the Pastor was asked to come for an inquiry on the 18th of February. The Pastor requested for protection for the following Sunday service, both verbally and in writing. However, the request was not granted. No arrests have been made.

2nd March

Lunuwila (Putlam District)

Believers' Church Bible College

10 students of the Believers Church Bible College were walking from the Lunuwila Railway station at approximately 7 pm when they were met by a member of the Wennappuwa Pradeshiya Sabhawa (Provincial Council) who inquired as to their destination. The students continued on their way to the Bible College . They were accosted by a group of about 10 men on motorcycles, wearing masks who assaulted the students. They were beaten with fists and rods and kicked. More attackers arrived in a van and dragged one of the students in to the van where he was beaten very badly and kicked by a person wearing boots. The attackers left the injured students on the road and left. One of the students ran to the Bible College . He was followed by one motorcyclist who assaulted the security guard at the College and escaped.

It is reported that the Provincial Council member had later arrived at the gate of the College and threatened that the Bible College will not be allowed to function for more than a week. A complaint was made to the Koswatte Police on the same day. 2 of the attackers were identified. 9 students were treated for injuries at the  Lunuwila Government Hospital. 3 of these were transferred to the Marawila hospital for additional treatment. 

2nd March

Udugama (Galle District)

Opma Bible Ministry (HBI Ministries)

A crowd of about 200 persons arrived at the Pastor's house on the night of 2nd March 2008 and threatened the Pastor to leave the village or face death. The mob made references to the ethnicity of the Pastor's wife who is a Tamil lady, commenting that the Church could be accused of complicity in terrorist activity. His wife and 11 month old baby were in the house with him. A complaint was made to the Udugama Police. The Pastor and his family evacuated to a safe location as they fear for their lives.

Previously, in early February 2008, three men armed with clubs arrived at the Sunday school conducted by the Church and threatened the Church.

3rd March

Kelaniya (Gampaha District)

Foursquare Gospel Church

The Church is in the process of constructing the Church building with duly approved plans. On the morning of 3rd March 2008, the Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha informed the Pastor verbally that he is revoking the approval of the building plan and ordered construction to be stopped immediately. The Church was not informed of the reasons for this sudden reversal of decision.

20th April

 

 

Rev. Father M.X. Karunaratnam Chairman of the North East Secretariat on Human Rights ((NESoMR) was killed in a claymore attack, on Sunday the 20th of April 2008.

The attack took place on Mallaavi – Vavnnikku’lam road in Vanni near the Kuzhanthai Jesus Church at Vannivilaangku'lam at around 12.30pm on Sunday. It is reported that Father Karunaratnam used the road frequently as his residential prayer and counseling centre is located in Vavunnikku’lam and his vehicle was well known to those in the area.

Father Karunaratnam spoke up on behalf of human rights of the civilian population in the North East and also provided psychosocial counseling to those affected by the war and the Tsunami.

Father Karunaratnam is the third founder member of NESoMR to be killed. Two of the eleven founder members of NESoMR who were also Parliamentarians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) were killed in 2005. They were Mr. A Chandra Nehru MP for Ampara District and a local preacher of the Methodist Church and Mr. M. Joseph Pararajasingham, MP for Batticaloa, a devoute Catholic who was gunned down while inside the Church on Christmas eve.

17th June

Middeniya (Hambanthota District)

AOG Church

Four anti-Christian meetings were held in the area during 13th - 17th June. Banners and large posters were put up in the town and in buses. The banners read "Buddhists are in danger. Let's save Middeniya from fundamentalists" It invites people to attend a giant rally on the 22nd of June (Sunday) in Middeniya where they will "expose the great conspiracy". 

The pastor, his family and other Christians in the area are fearful that the meeting may result in a violent reaction against them. At the previous meetings held in the area, shop keepers have been ordered not to sell food to the Pastor's family and taxi drivers have been ordered not to accept hires from them. The pastor, his wife and 3 little children are virtual prisoners in their home.

The local Buddhist temple has also initiated a petition against the existence of a Christian church in the area, collecting signatures on the 12th June. It is reported that they intend to send the petition to the President.

23rd June

Ampara District

Methodist Church

On the evening of 23rd June 2008, at about 4.40 pm, the Reverend Father from the Methodist Church in Ampara (Eastern Province) was returning from a cell group meeting in Uhana when he was accosted by 3 men. They asked him to accompany them to a house claiming there were people there who wished to become Christians. Sensing it was a trap, the Reverend had requested that they come to the Church to talk to him if they wished to know more about Christianity. The 3 men then beaten him up threatening him not to return to that village. It is reported that the 3 men are Gramarakshaka Niladhari (Home Guards). The injured clergyman is receiving treatment at the Ampara hospital. He is reported to be suffering from headaches and bleeding from the nose.

This attack comes just 4 months after a Home Guard in uniform shot dead Pastor Neil Edirisinghe on the 17th of February, also in Ampara. The gunmen shot the Pastor's wife as well, leaving her critically injured. The accused remain in custody and the Court proceedings are continuing. The next hearing is scheduled for today (24th June).

6th July

Thalahena, Malabe (Colombo District)

Calvary Church

On 6th July 2008 (Sunday) around 7.30 in the morning the Pastor and some others entered the Church and noticed that the cross was damaged. Sensing that something was wrong, they notified the Police who arrived and inspected the site.

The worship service commenced at 9.30am with around 100 congregation members. During the service, around 5 Buddhist monks charged in and demanded that the service be stopped. The Pastor led the monks outside to settle the matter so as not to alarm the congregation since children began crying in fear. At the same time, the bells in the surrounding Temples began pealing. It is reported that a false rumour was spread that Christians had attacked the temple, and a mob of about 500 villagers surrounded the Church.

The monks threatened the pastor that there was no need for Christians in the Village and that they will destroy all churches. By this time the Police was alerted and arrived on the scene. However, the three officers were unable to control the unruly mob and called for reinforcement from neighbouring Police Stations. Fearing violence, the Pastor and the Police sent away the congregation. Shortly thereafter the mob including the monks entered the Church and completely destroyed everything within, with only the walls left standing.

The mob turned on the Pastor and 5 workers, beating them with clubs and rods. An eyewitness reports that a Police Office who attempted to shield the Pastor also received blows. At present the Pastor sustained injury to his eye and his father was injured in the arm and were hospitalized for treatment. The others sustained minor injuries. 

It is reported that two suspects have been taken into custody in relation to the incident.

17th August

Pannaladi, Norachcholai (Puttlam District )

AOG Church

On the 17th August 2008 (Sunday) the Church was set on fire during the night. The modest building was completely destroyed by the fire. A group of persons who visited the Pastors house earlier that evening and threatened him are suspected of having carried out the arson attack. A Police complaint has been made and 3 persons were arrested and later enlarged on bail.

23rd September

Mailankulama (Puttlam District)

Prayer Tower Church

On 23rd September 2008 (Tuesday) at about 8.00 a.m. a group of about 60 persons led by a Buddhist monk and a local politician arrived at the premises and set fire to the half constructed hall which served as the Sunday School. Members of the Church who live in the vicinity arrived at the scene and attempted to stop the arson attack were assaulted by the mobs. The attackers threatened children who had also gathered there but their parents took them away to safety. The Pastor informed the Wanathamulla Police and the Police dispatched 2 officers to the scene. However, they were not able to bring the large mob under control for some time but eventually succeeded in dispersing them.

Later in the day an entry was made in the Police station by the Pastor at which time the he was informed that they are unable to make any arrests since the attackers are not to be found in the village.

Around midnight the same day, some of the attackers returned and threatened the Christian families not to send their children to the village the school next day, or they will kill the children. A Church member who attempted to protect the building was also threatened with death. Fearing for the lives of the children, the parents did not send the children (about 20) to school the following day. The Church member who was threatened with death has also made a complaint to the Police.

6th October

Negombo (Gampaha District)

 

Pastor Sebamalai Gunesh (33 years) of Elohim Gospel Church, Orugodawatte was reported missing on Monday 6th October 2008 while he was returning home after a religious meeting held in Kadawatha. His body was discovered on 8th October 2008 in Ragama. He was married and had a son (4 years) and a daughter (2 years). His funeral was held today (10th October 2008) and was attended by a large crowd.

6th October

Colombo District

 

Pastor Sebamalai Gunesh (33 years) of Elohim Gospel Church, Orugodawatte was reported missing on Monday 6th October 2008 while he was returning home after a religious meeting held in Kadawatha. His body was discovered on 8th October 2008 in Ragama. He was married and had a son (4 years) and a daughter (2 years). His funeral was held 10th October 2008 and was attended by a large crowd.

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