The US-based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) with Website www.persecution.org told BosNewsLife that a monk and supporters of the radical Buddhist Sinhala Nationalist Party (JHU) attacked Pastor Pradeep of the Assembly of God Church Sunday, June 22, in the town of Middeniya in the country’s southeastern Hambantota District.
A JHU monk "gathered a mob of over 5,000 and attempted to enter the church after conducting a quick ceremony to re-name the road with a Buddhist title," ICC said. Police reportedly intervened, providing a barricade in an attempt to keep the pastor safe.
"However, the mob managed to break through, and it took forceful action on the part of the police to drive them away,” said ICC, which closely monitors the situation. The attackers allegedly decided to retaliate by distributing hate leaflets against the Christians.
Pastor Pradeep was reportedly advised by police to hold a scheduled Sunday church service and was warned to not step outside of his home. The pastor was quoted as saying that he is "afraid to leave home and have been unofficially told not to step out or else."
DRIVING OUT PASTOR
He was allegedly told by locals that he a monk of the JHU personally announced that within 14 days they would drive him out and claim the land on which the church now stands. There was no immediate independent confirmation from the JHU.
The reported attack is the latest in a series of reported attacks against pastors and churches in southern Sri Lanka. While Pastor Pradeep’s church was being attacked, Reverend Fernando from the Methodist Church in Ampara, a remote city 200 kilometers east of the capital Colombo, was apparently beaten up while returning home from a church group meeting in the suburb of Uhana. "He is currently receiving treatment for his injuries in hospital," said Britain based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), a major umbrella group, said in published remarks that the pastor "sensed that the men were trying to lure him into a trap, and asked them to come to the church instead if they wished to discuss Christianity. The men then attacked him, and warned him not to return to the village."
Reverend Fernando, whose name has also been spelled as Ravindra, was assaulted by three Home Guards, a force linked to the Ampara Police. They were apparently off duty and they threatened the church leader not to preach to Buddhists. The Methodist pastor is currently receiving treatment for his head injuries at the Ampara Hospital, several Christian rights groups said.
EVANGELICAL CHURCHES "ATTACKED"
Elsewhere the evangelical Gospel Tabernacle Church in the town of Ingiriya has been attacked while its pastor has been asked by police to stop holding services, ICC said.
It apparently came after reports that Pastor Jegan of the Kings Revival Church in Matugama, who ICC said has been attacked “many times”, is still unable to hold full services at his church. "A powerful JHU supporter has been successful in suppression of the religious freedom rights of Pastor Jegan and his congregation, with the help of the local police."
Pastors working in southern Sri Lanka see the attacks as only being the "tip of the iceberg," ICC said. "It is believed that the JHU is trying to again create religious strife after their unsuccessful attempts a few years ago." Militant Buddhist groups have pressured legislators to tighten laws banning "conversion" amid concerns over the spread of Christianity in Sri Lanka.