The family of a deceased Christian in Sri Lanka is devastated after they were forced to bury their loved one in a cemetery 23km away after an angry mob of around 200-300 villagers violently prevented them from holding the funeral in the village cemetery and also in the church grounds.
The mob first halted the funeral procession as they were entering the public cemetery in Santhively village, in the Batticaloa District, at around 5 p.m. on 16 October. They would not allow the pastor to conduct a Christian ceremony and said the body could only be buried following Hindu funeral rites.
The pastor then proceeded with the funeral at the church grounds since they could not use the public cemetery. The mob, however, stormed the church premises, breaking the fence and torching two motorbikes parked there.
After police arrived at the church, the mob dispersed. But fearing continued protests from villagers, the police obtained an order from the Magistrates Court to bury the deceased Christian in a cemetery 23km from the village.
The Sri Lankan constitution awards Buddhism “the foremost place”. A small and marginalised minority, Christians are frequently subjected to harassment, intimidation and violence.
Similar incidents hindering Christian burials have already taken place in Batticaloa District. At another church in the district, a pastor and his family were walking home with another church member after visiting a fellow Christian when eight masked men viciously assaulted them with iron bars, cricket stumps and wooden poles studded with nails in late August. The pastor received a blow to his hip while his wife, the couple’s twelve-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, and the other believer were all brutally beaten by the group and later hospitalised.