Monday 10 June 2013

Now it's Buddhists behaving badly

Source wnd,9 June

Buddhist clerics in Sri Lanka reportedly have launched a terror rampage against Christians that has included attacks ranging from verbal threats to beatings and church burnings.

And Christians say Sri Lankan authorities have done little or nothing to protect them.

Barnabas Aid USA Executive Director Julian Dobbs says the attacks have prompted fear among Sri Lanka's Christian minority.

"The Christians in Sri Lanka are under considerable threat and quite naturally with this many attacks there is considerable concern for safety among the Christians," Dobbs said.

Dobbs says the threats are wide ranging.

"The monks have threatened the communities; they've threatened to kill church leaders if they don't shut down the churches," Dobbs said.

Dobbs adds that since Christians make up only seven percent of the population, the Christians, both Anglican and Catholic, are keeping a low profile.

"The threats aren't directed specifically at Anglicans or Catholics, or the evangelicals. The threats are being made against the Christian community as a whole," Dobbs said.

One report from Sri Lanka says that the Sri Lankan government hasn't completely ignored the violence.

The Hambanthota district secretary reportedly had two meetings in May in an attempt to reconcile Buddhists and Christians.

An attorney who only identifies herself as Rebecca for security reasons attended both of the sessions and she told Open Doors USA that the Buddhist clerics used the meeting to accuse the Christians.

"There were questions raised as to the legality of the churches led by pastors. During the tense meeting, Buddhist clergy set forth various accusations against the pastors, but the latter were not given much opportunity to speak," Rebecca said.

Rebecca adds that the Buddhists have successfully closed a number of churches.

"One Buddhist monk said that they had already closed down 17 churches," Rebecca said.

A report by Christian human rights organization International Christian Concern puts the number at 18.

Rebecca adds that Christians in the meeting cited the country's constitution.

"The pastors and their leaders explained that the law of the land gives them a right to practice their religion anywhere in Sri Lanka and that the law does not require registration with the Ministry of Religious Affairs," Rebecca said.

"They also explained that some of the larger denominations were in fact incorporated under the Act of Parliament and have a long history of presence in this country," Rebecca said.

Even with those two sessions, Dobbs says the Christians are angry at the delayed reaction.

"The Christians are frustrated because of the authorities' inaction. It's taken over three months to investigate the various attacks," Dobbs said.

A statement from the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka attributes the violence to a strong sense of Sri Lankan nationalism.

"There is an open hate campaign directed against the religious minorities in this country," the NCCSL statement said.

Dobbs agrees that nationalism may play a part in the violence, but he adds that the monks sense a direct threat to their Buddhist religion.

"The attacks are mostly reprisals for people converting from Buddhism to Christianity. One monk did the unthinkable and engaged in self-immolation in response to the conversions to Christianity," Dobbs said.

Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra says the Buddhist anti-Christian campaign is likely a rebirth of violence reminiscent of the lengthy civil war.

"When the three-decade civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the government army ended in 2009, incidents of religious persecution in Sri Lanka went down," Dykstra said.

"But the tide of persecution seems to be rising once again, and a number of pastors expressed their anxiety over the evolving nature of religious persecution in the country, led mainly by Buddhist militancy," Dykstra said.

Dykstra adds that Sri Lanka barely missed being on the Open Doors World Watch List for 2013.

"Sri Lanka was only a few points short to make it to Open Doors' 2013 World Watch List, which ranked the 50 countries where practice of the Christian faith was most difficult," Dykstra said.

"It may be a different story this year, if the trends persist and the Sri Lankan government continues to turn a blind eye at the plight of the religious minorities in the country. Pray for the Christians there and pray that they can practice their faith in their churches without threats or attacks."

The NCCSL agrees and asks for Christians to intercede for their Sri Lankan brothers and sisters.

"We call upon the Christian community to be engaged in continuous prayer, especially upholding those directly affected and those who live and worship in vulnerable areas. We also need to pray for the perpetrators in a spirit of forgiveness and love," the NCCSL said.

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