Buddhist extremists accused of persecuting Sri Lanka Christians

(Photo: opendoorsuk.org)Opendoorsuk photo of a girl showing Sri Lanka's rank in Christian persecution.

Buddhist extremist, Ravana Balaya, has warned evangelical Christians to stop their religious activities in Polonnaruwa, a town in the Northern Central Province of Sri Lanka.

Ravana Balaya went to more than 20 evangelical prayer meetings from July 15-19 to demand that pastors stop converting Buddhists and Hindus in the area, UCA news reports.

Venerable Ittekande Saddhatissa Thero, general secretary of Ravana Balaya, defended the group's actions.

He said Ravana Balaya has received hundreds of complaints from Buddhists and Hindus that the pastors offer gifts and money to convert Buddhists.

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Pastor O.S. Fernando, president of the Pastors' Fellowship Group in Polonnruwa, denied these allegations.

"We never convert by force [or] put up new houses to attract the faithful. It's their own decision," he said.

Persecution of Christian churches is not new in Sri Lanka.

In 2014, about 60 churches and evangelical prayer centers were targeted while 105 were attacked in 2013, according the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL).

"Many pastors have been beaten and threatened to halt their prayer meetings," said Godfrey Yogarajah, general secretary of the NCEASL.

In January, the Assembly of God and Calvary churches in Hikkaduwa, a tourist town 112 kilometres (66 miles) south of Colombo, were assaulted by Bodu Bala Paura or Buddhist Shield.

Thirty monks and about 200 laymen carried flags and anti-Christian placards while shouting derogatory words against the churches.

They then attacked the roofs and windows with stones, while destroying computers, furniture, and burning Christian literature, including the Bible. Estimated damage amounted to 2 million rupees ($153,580).

World Socialist wrote that nobody has been arrested despite court orders to arrest 24 identified suspects.

Early this month, a mob of villagers led by two Buddhist monks forcibly entered the Good News Ministry in Mawallawatte in the Ratnapura District during the middle of a worship service, the news service reported.

The monks shouted at the pastor demanding him to stop the prayer meetings or they would demolish the place. They also removed the Bibles and banners inside the church.

The government of Sri Lanka mainly consists of pro-Buddhist advocates and laws.

Earlier this year, the government prevented monks from acquiring driver's licenses in a bid to control the identity and image of Buddhism. They have also deported western tourists with "blasphemous" Buddha tattoos.

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