Three Sri Lankan Christians needed hospital treatment after they were ambushed and attacked by a 50-strong extremist mob, led by three Buddhist monks, on Sunday 2 February.
The three were among a group of Christian friends, including a pastor, his wife and son, who were attempting to leave the village of Ihala Yakkura, Polonnaruwa district, after being threatened in an incident earlier that day.
As the group drove away from the village they found the road blocked by felled trees. When their cars came to a halt, the Buddhist mob descended in an ambush attack. The extremists assaulted the pastor’s son and the other Christians, including women, and damaged their vehicles.
The pastor managed to flee with his family and drove directly to the nearest police station to raise the alarm. The three injured Christians were later admitted to hospital for treatment.
In an intimidating confrontation earlier the same day, around 150 Buddhist extremists, led by four monks, had marched on a house church in the village during morning worship, and demanded an end to the service. The monks threatened the pastor and, using obscene language, ordered him to leave the village and never return. They claimed Ihala Yakkura was a “Buddhist village” where Christian worship activities would not be permitted.
A senior police officer and a local government official at the scene falsely claimed that the pastor needed to register the church premises, which are owned by members of the congregation, and obtain permission to conduct a worship service.
Police arrested five people the following day, however, the monks involved in the incidents were not taken into custody.
Christians in Sri Lanka are frequently harassed and attacked by Buddhist extremists, often led by monks, and their church services disrupted on spurious claims that churches are legally required to register to hold services. Bishop Asiri Perera, president of the country’s Methodist Church, said Christians are not being treated as equal citizens in their own country when he raised concerns about police inaction following the brutal beating of a Bible college student in August 2019 by extremist monks.
Barnabas Fund, barnabasfund.org