Imagine your church was destroyed by an angry mob. There was shouting, accusations, threats, violence. What would you do? Find another place to meet with your church family? Maybe lay low for a few weeks until things had calmed down?
Kamal Wasantha, a church leader from Sri Lanka, faced this very dilemma. But instead of going underground, he’s determined that the church still meets publicly.
“No attack can stop us,” said Kamal Wasantha, leader of the Kithu Sevana prayer centre. “We shall continue to meet and pray under a tree.”
The attack took place on 5 January, when a Buddhist mob attacked the church in Paharaiya, north western Sri Lanka. Reports vary on the size of the mob, but a local source reported that it was up to 200 people.
“First they threatened us verbally,” Wasantha explained. “Then they came with wooden sticks, iron bars and knives and destroyed everything.” People ‘begged the attackers not to damage the place of worship’, he said.
Their church was destroyed in the attack, leaving the Christian community of 15 families and 20 other worshippers with nowhere to meet. But they have no desire for revenge. “[We] shall not attack them in retaliation. Judgement belongs to God,” Wasantha said.
Sri Lanka is number 45 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List. Buddhist monks, who are influential in Sri Lankan villages, are the main source of persecution for Christians.
The church centre is 15 years old and had never been attacked before, though there had been verbal threats against the community. A local monk had threatened the church leaders with ‘serious punishment’ if they continued to meet. The church leaders went to the police, reporting the threats. A few days later, the monk and church leaders were called to the police station for a meeting. That night the church was attacked. Over 200 witnesses named the monk and 12 others as being involved, but as yet, they haven’t been arrested.
One of the factors which led to the attack is the fact that the church is growing rapidly. Also, all its members are converts from other faiths.
Wasantha, himself a Buddhist convert, said he ‘cannot abandon [his] mission just because of the attacks’. He added that there are people in the village who do not tolerate Buddhists changing their religion to Christianity.
One of the leaders, Adrian DeVisser said: “Persecution never destroyed a church and never will… Suffering isn’t new, and won’t be going away anytime soon. We have been through a civil war between two ethnic groups. Now that the war is over, it seems to me that the extremists would want to incite a religious war, and they want to use the Christians as the scapegoat for the problems in the country.”
Source: World Watch Monitor
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