A small Christian community in Paharaiya, a village in northwestern Sri Lanka, say they won't be seeking revenge against a group of radical Buddhists who destroyed their local church, and will continue to worship and pray — even if only under a tree.
Asia News reports that the 12 Buddhist attackers, led by a monk, have been freed on bail after they destroyed the Kithu Sevana (House of Christ) in Paharaiya on Jan. 5, which wa used by over 15 families and 20 other worshipers as a place to come together and pray.
"No attack can stop us. We shall continue to love God and pray under a tree," said Kamal Wasantha, a local farmer who is a member of the Christian community.
Wasantha insisted that despite the loss of their church, the Christians have no desire to seek revenge.
"We have not cursed them, and shall not attack them in retaliation. Judgment belongs only to God. We do our part: prayers shall continue under a tree," he said.
Talking about the day of the attack, the farmer said the Christians had begged the attackers not to damage their church, but still the Buddhists "came with wooden sticks, iron bars and knives and destroyed everything."
The Rev. Ranjan Palitha, one of the priests who has been helping the Paharaiya Christian community, revealed that the church had been threatened before, but only with verbal attacks.
"This is the first incident that has the proportions of a real disaster," Palitha said.
A complaint was filed at the police station in Karuwalagaswewa by the Christian community after the attack, but although as many as 200 witnesses had named the monk and the 12 attackers who destroyed the church, they were subsequently freed on bail.
Lakshan Dias, a Christian attorney, told Asia News "Sri Lanka has failed to uphold freedom of religion. The country's dominant ideology, that of Buddhist Sinhalese, undermines the minorities."
World CIA Factbook statistics show that only around 6.1 percent of Sri Lanka's Buddhist-majority population is Roman Catholic, while groups of other Christians make up another 1.3 percent of the share.
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors recently named Sri Lanka as the 45th worst place in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, with religious nationalism identified as the main source of oppression.
Open Doors noted that religious minorities, including Christians, have suffered at the hands of Buddhist groups.
"Radical Buddhist groups are still very much alive, but have currently stopped their actions against religious minorities. Nevertheless, mobs (often led by Buddhist monks) have continued to stop church services," the group explained.
Wasantha, who is a convert from Buddhism to Christianity, suggested that the growing number of Buddhists who are choosing to follow Jesus Christ is angering the radical Buddhist gangs.
"I cannot abandon my mission, just because of these malicious attacks by people who do not tolerate the 'great change' by some families in this village. They do not know the great blessings our community receives through prayer," he said.