01/14/2017, 15.28
SRI LANKA

Buddhists destroy a church in Sri Lanka. Christians continue to pray under a tree

by Melani Manel Perera

The Kithu Sevana prayer centre is located in a village in north-western Sri Lanka. However, religious services are performed by clergymen who come from other places. On 5 January, a Buddhist monk and a dozen thugs attacked the centre. The latter "do not accept that some families converted. They don’t realise the blessing they receive through prayer."

Colombo (AsiaNews) – "No attack can stop us. We shall continue to love God and pray under a tree," said Kamal Wasantha, leader of a small Christian community in Sri Lanka.

He spoke to AsiaNews after their prayer hall was destroyed last week by some Buddhist thugs, headed by a local monk, who are still free.

Despite this, the community harbours no desire for revenge. “We have not cursed them,” Wasantha said, “and shall not attack them in retaliation. Judgment belongs only to God. We do our part: prayers shall continue under a tree."

Wasantha is a simple farmer. He leads prayers at the Kithu Sevana (House of Christ) in Paharaiya, a village in north-western Sri Lanka. The structure was a modest building where local Christians, around 15 families and 20 other worshippers, met to pray.

A group of Buddhists attacked it on 5 January. "First, they threatened us verbally,” Wasantha said. “Then they came with wooden sticks, iron bars and knives and destroyed everything."

People “begged the attackers not to damage the place of worship,” but "the Lord's house was pulled down in front of our eyes, as we asked God to forgive them."

Rev Ranjan Palitha, who comes every week from Chilaw (more than 90 km away) to help Wasantha, said that the centre was built more than 15 years ago. "It was never attacked before, only verbal threats. This is the first incident that has the proportions of a real disaster."

Revs Palitha and Adrian De Vissar celebrate the liturgy and lead the prayers every Sunday and Friday mornings. The two said that first inkling of what was going to happen came on 1st January, as they made their way home.

"Our car was blocked by the Buddhist monk of Gothamiramaya, who used foul language towards us. He then threatened more serious punishment if we continued to conduct liturgies."

After this incident, the two clergymen filed a complaint at the police station in Karuwalagaswewa and warned the Christian community.

On 5 January, police summoned the clergymen and the monk and the same night the attack occurred. Although about 200 witnesses named the monk and 12 others as the attackers, the latter were freed on bail.

Lakshan Dias, a Christian attorney, complains a lax attitude on the part of the police. They "know the names and facts about the culprits, who live in the same village. Sri Lanka has failed to uphold freedom of religion. The country’s dominant ideology, that of Buddhist Sinhalese, undermines the minorities."

"Many Buddhists have converted and now live experiences of positive and rewarding life,” said Wasantha, himself a Buddhist convert to Christianity. “I too when I got closer to God felt a great consolation."

"I cannot abandon my mission,” he explained, “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. "

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