A church pastor in Beliatta, in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota District, told police that he and his family were woken by a loud noise shortly after midnight on 1 August and discovered that part of the house and his three-wheeler rickshaw had been set ablaze.
He told police that he later overheard neighbours saying that the attack had been pre-planned and several had hoped to see the whole house burn. His three-wheeler rickshaw was completely destroyed in the fire.
The previous month, around a dozen Buddhist monks had gathered a mob of people and together they went to the pastor’s house to ask him about the church’s activities. Later the same day, stones were pelted at his home.
Sri Lanka’s constitution affords Buddhism “the foremost place”. Buddhist activists demand rights and privileges for their own powerful elite at the expense of other religions. Christian pastors are frequently harassed by police and local Buddhist monks.
On Sunday 6 September, four Buddhist monks forced their way into the village church premises at around 10.30 a.m. in Bandaragama, in the Kalutara District. They told the pastor he had no right to conduct worship services in the village, and proceeded to call the police station’s Officer in Charge (OIC).
Police later told the pastor that he needed to register the church with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and forced him to sign a statement that he would cease all Christian activity until this was done.
According to Sri Lankan legislation, places of worship do not require official registration. A Circular that was issued in 2008 demands government approval for new church buildings, but this requirement is misused to restrict existing churches, such as the church in Bandaragama where the pastor has been working for 20 years.