Leaders Condemn Attacks on Sri Lanka Churches

Voice of the Martyrs: Two incidents in recent weeks demonstrate that religious tensions in Sri Lanka have not abated.

Two incidents in recent weeks demonstrate that religious tensions in Sri Lanka have not abated, a Christian persecution watchdog group said Wednesday.

In the most recent attack on July 16, a group of hooded men attacked the Sri Kurusa (Holy Cross) Church in the town of Pulasthigama, smashing the furnishings and completely destroying the building by setting fire to it.

According to the Voice of the Martyrs, two young men in the building at the time and were beaten. One, Angel Rukmal Fernando, 19, was admitted to the Polonnaruwa hospital.

The attack was widely condemned by politicians and religious leaders, including the Buddhist leader, Pahamune Sumangala Thero.

VOM-Canada Spokesman Glenn Penner told the Christian Post, “The Voice of the Martyrs continues to be concerned over the wanton destruction on church property and assaults on Christian believers by militants who, while falsely accusing Christians of inciting conversions through material gain, seem to think that physical attacks to achieve their ends are completely justifiable.”

“We call upon the Sri Lankan government to do all diligence in protecting religious minorities in rural areas in particular and prosecuting those who responsible for the attack on the Holy Cross Church and other recent incidents of religiously motivated persecution,” he added.

At a July 19 Parliament debate on the attack, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse vehemently condemned the attack, calling it a cowardly act and saying that the culprits should be brought to book as early as possible, according to Sri Lanka’s ColomboPage news agency.

He further said that all citizens in this country should have equal rights to profess their respective faiths, and “we should leave no room to set fire to any such place of worship.”

The Prime Minister also noted that the chief incumbent of the Somawathie Chaithya in Polonnaruwa had condemned the “dastardly act”.

“We are determined to take firm action on such matters. As Buddhists we would never tolerate this type of things,” the Premier said.

During the debate, Gampaha district UNP MP John Amaratunga proposed that the government inquire into the attack on the church – a motion seconded by former Speaker Joseph Michael Perera.

Nine days prior to the attack against the Holy Cross Church, a church in the Batticaloa District’s Kayankerny region was damaged in the early morning of July 7 when dynamite detonated in three places around the foundation of a newly constructed building, according to a report from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL). Damage was reportedly made to the walls, roof and floor of building.