A mob of around 100 people, led by two Buddhist monks, stormed the Sunday worship service of a church in Sri Lanka on 10 January and threatened to assault the pastor unless he stopped the service. And an authorised Christian burial in a public cemetery was disrupted despite a police protective presence.
“Who are you?” the mob shouted at the pastor of a church in Alawwa, in the Kurunegala District. “Is your church registered? In the event you continue this service we will physically assault you!” Several of the mob then attempted to attack a young female member of the church.
The previous Sunday, a villager had forced his way onto the church premises at around 9 am, during the Sunday worship service, and began to make a video recording of the service using his mobile phone.
When the church pastor attempted to file a complaint about the mob threats, the police officer in charge refused to lodge the incident. He told the pastor that he should stop all worship activities and said that the police would not provide the pastor or the church any protection.
A few days earlier in the neighbouring Puttalam District, a mob of Buddhist villagers began to gather in Serukele as a pastor was preparing to conduct a Christian burial at the village public cemetery at 9 am on 6 January.
Prior to the burial, a group of Buddhist monks had gone to the Assistant Government Agent’s office to complain against Christian burials in the public cemetery after they heard that local Christians were preparing a Christian burial there.
The pastor was denied permission to conduct the burial on the church premises, but police told the pastor to bury the body in a public cemetery close to the church. Police assured the pastor that they would provide protection during the burial.
Yet, in spite of police presence at the burial, villagers began to surround the cemetery. The police officer in charge arrived at the scene and told the pastor to conduct the burial in another village instead. Then, because Buddhist monks had protested, he then ordered the pastor to confirm in writing that he would not attempt to bury any more Christians in the public cemetery.
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, and Christian pastors are frequently harassed by police and local Buddhist monks.