09/16/2013, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sinhalese Buddhist radicals attack Protestant church

by Melani Manel Perera
A monk and four of his followers attacked the Pentecostal community in Meegoda, accusing its pastor of "forced conversions" and of "destroying" Buddhist culture. The police have ignored the complaints of Christians. "The attack is unmotivated," Buddhist Lawyer said. "As a Buddhist, I feel embarrassed because real Buddhism is not about attacking and killing."

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Tensions are rising in Sri Lanka because of the violence perpetrated by some radical Sinhalese Buddhists groups against Christian communities, whom they accuse of engaging in "forced conversions" and of trying to "destroy" Buddhist culture.

The latest incident occurred on 8 September when a group of fundamentalists attacked the Pentecostal Church of the Living Water in Meegoda, a village near Colombo.

"The attack was unmotivated," Buddhist lawyer Susantha Dodawatta told AsiaNews, because "nothing happened between the two communities in the area."

Pitipana Seelawansa Thero, a Buddhist monk who heads the Padukka Puraanas Viharaya Temple, led the attack, along with four of his followers: Rangana Jayarathna, Chandrapala, Sunil Perera and Damith Nilanga. None of them lives in Meegoda.

The attackers claim the church is unregistered and that conversions by Christians are a big problem for the village. Despite complaints by the pastor, Rev E K Pryantha, the police have not yet arrested the culprits.

"Such attacks," the lawyer said, "show that there is a political agenda that aims to unite the Buddhists. Everyone should have the freedom to change religion in this country. We Buddhists are the first to be harmed in our culture and religion from these petty actions. Whoever is behind this incident should not be supported. As a Buddhist, I feel embarrassed because real Buddhism is not about attacking and killing."

In the recent past, some radical Sinhalese Buddhist groups have targeted Muslims and Christians.

Two extremist groups, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the Sinhala Ravaya (Sinhalese echo), have led the attacks, ostensibly on a "mission" to protect the Sinhalese population and the Buddhist religion.

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