The Sunday Leader

Freedom Of Worship Denied Violating Article 10 of the Constitution

By Megara Tegal

Ushering in the New Year with acts of violence and intolerance, attacks and harassment of Christian and Muslim communities have been reported from across the country within the first few weeks of January. A clear indication of the rampancy of acts of violence based on religion in Sri Lanka, was the attack on two Christian churches last Sunday. In fact, research carried out by Pew Research, revealed that Sri Lanka is one of the countries, world over, that experiences the highest degree of social hostilities involving religion, placing Sri Lanka among countries such as Syria, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Lebanon. However, the targeted communities in Sri Lanka have not reacted to the acts of violence and harassment, as many are afraid that it would aggravate the situation.

Not above the law

While on several occasions arrests have not been made, in the latest hate crime in Hikkaduwa the Galle Magistrate called for the arrest of all the perpetrators identified, including several Buddhist monks. “26 names were mentioned in court, out of which 10 were Buddhist monks. The court called for the arrest of all 26 persons”, informed police spokesperson SSP Ajith Rohana. He added that the arrests will be made and justice will be served. The next hearing is to be held on 27 of January. The Additional Magistrate reproached the police for not arresting those involved, including the monks, sooner and ordered media institutions to provide unedited video footage to the police for further investigation.

Vocal activist and member of Citizens for a Secure Sri Lanka (CSSL), Visakha Tillekeratne says the attacks are reprehensible. “This should not be allowed to happen. I believe any religion that carries out such acts requires introspection of their religious structure. The Buddhist monks who carry out these acts of violence should be disrobed; disrobing is a part of the Buddhist teachings which is implemented for misconduct. What is more is that it is appalling that these monks are allowed to carry out such crimes with police protection. Even with the incidents that took place in Hikkaduwa why was there a delay in arresting the monks who clearly participated in the attack? We are strongly of the view that Buddhists should write to the Mahanayakas about implementing the practice of disrobing errant monks,” she said. Tillekeratne went on to say that it is not surprising that Sri Lanka has been ranked high in social hostilities involving religion, as it is becoming an increasingly unsafe place.

Violence targets Sunday mass

The attack in Hikkaduwa took place last Sunday (12) as a mob led by Buddhist monks stormed Churches in Hikkaduwa, tearing them apart. The mob demanded the closure of the two churches, Calvary Free Church and Assemblies of God (AOG) Church, charging that the religious centres were not registered. According to reports the Police had reassured the mob that the churches would be closed within two weeks. Contrary to these claims, the Pastors informed The Sunday Leader that they are registered and they have all the necessary documents for verification.

However, reassurance by the Police proved to be of little value to the feral mob that proceeded to destroy furniture and set ablaze the Bibles and religious literature found within the church premises. The situation remains volatile as sources state that Pastors and several others attached to the churches have gone into hiding fearing for their safety.

The Pastor of Calvary Free Church, Ranjan Perumal, related events from the attack stating, “At 8.45a.m. we held our service as usual and a mob of about 200 people accompanied by about 20 Buddhist priests attacked us. They hurled large stones at the church and they smashed all the windows. And then they came in and destroyed all the equipment- sound equipment and computers. The police could not stop them, but they helped us evacuate through a rear exit. Even though we were no longer on the premises they continued to vandalize the building, and broke into the office and smashed all the office equipment, safe, furniture and fences all around”.

Monks deny involvement

An organization of Buddhist monks known as the Hela Bodu Pawura, were identified to have incited and taken part in the mob violence last Sunday. The monks denied the accusation levelled against them, claiming that they had organized a peaceful protest against the churches as they had defied the law by not ceasing religious activity following a police ban. Events retold by Hela Bodu Pawura, are entirely different to what has been reported. Maintaining their innocence the priests claimed they were attacked by members of the church during their peaceful march, this in turn enraged their protesters who went on to attack the church. The Monks asserted that they did their best to stop the protesters from committing acts of violence.

Video evidence however contradicted these claims as local news channels aired footage of monks removing signs, throwing bricks into windows and destroying church property.

SSP Rohana denied claims made by a source that the police arrested five persons last Wednesday in Hikkaduwa and that they were subsequently released following the assembly of a mob outside the police station. According to the source after taking the suspects to the police station, the temple bells were rung and a large mob had gathered at the temple.

They then went to the police station and surrounded the building. Meanwhile, the police were asked by a minister whose identity has not being revealed, to release the five persons who had been arrested.

SSP Rohana, said that the five persons were taken to the police station for interrogation and released soon after, adding that the other events mentioned above did not occur.

Previous acts of violence

Calvary Free Church has been targeted many times before. Pastor Ranjan Perumal elaborated: “I’ve been in Hikkaduwa since 1996, and in 2002 they assaulted me, and smashed up the place. The priest who led that mob was also present today. Then in 2003 a whole bunch of priests, about 20 of them attacked the house in which the services were going on and attacked the lady of the house. There is an ongoing court case since 2003”.

Another incident that took place last Sunday (12) was an arson attack on a Christian prayer center in Pitipana, Homagama that has been in operation for 15 years, according to media reports. According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, Assemblies of God Churches in Angunukolapalassa and Hikkaduwa, and the Lighthouse Church in Hikkaduwa were attacked on Christmas Eve last month.

A number of mosques in Dehiwela and Kohuwela were attacked in December as well. Little action has been taken to prevent such crimes by those in authority, despite the growing number of attacks over the past years.

The Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs informed The Sunday Leader that a meeting was held on Thursday (16) with the affected parties and the Prime Minister, to discuss the attacks on the churches in Hikkaduwa.

Sources at the Ministry told The Sunday Leader that it was decided that the matter requires in-depth analysis and further meetings will be held before the Ministry can decide what action should be taken.

7 Comments for “Freedom Of Worship Denied Violating Article 10 of the Constitution”

  1. Dismayed

    Damn liars in saffron robes. Cease respecting the robe blindly. Start assessing whether the individual deserves respect on a case by case basis. That will sift out the rot.


    To the illiterate mob in saffron robes – Buddhism is only a philosophy and not a religion, where Gautama Buddha taught the people – The Way of Life. But today certain people all around the world has turmed it into a religion for their own survival – same as Sai Baba. In another few years if the trend continues some people will call Sai Baba also a God. The only religions in the world are Christianity, Judaism & Islam and the split between these 3 happens because of the Old Testament and the New Testament (one says Eye For An Eye – which the Jews and the Muslims practice even today and the other says ‘Turn Your Other Cheek’ – which the Christians practice today) and all others are philosophies as no “religion” has told its followers to murder, rob, rape etc., The so called “religions” are there to keep us human beings on the right path – if not there is no difference between us and the animals. But then, all governments take a very ‘softly softly’ attitude as around 70% of the population are Buddhists and they cannot upset the Sinhala Buddhist voter base. So where lies the problem ????? Only Sir John Kotalawa had the guts to call a ‘spade a spade’.

  3. Buddhika Lokubandara

    Why cannot the monks attack Casinos, taverns and brothels which violate the Buddhist precepts?

  4. Manuelpillai

    It is abundantly clear that there is delaying tactics in taking action against those who blatantly do these things if they are Buddhist Priests.

  5. Dear Megara,

    Mob including Buddhist monks attack Christian centre in HikkaduwaI according to you tube the pastor says they started the church before 2008 they are not obliged to register .
    It Is shame for every Sri Lankan watching the video just reminded the 83 riots one generation has passed but the mentality remains the same as in 56

    The politicians are taking this country down if they don’t put a stop. what happened to SWRD will happen perhaps history is destined to repeat itself

    Good luck

    Namo namo martha ( In Tamil)


  6. Sri Lankan Buddhist monks are fallowing the Thaliban system to bully the Christions and the Muslims in Sri Lanka.

  7. Sudu Booruwa

    Balu Senawa – shame on the President who keeps mum on religious violence and also funding BBS and Ravana Balaya two factions who are extremists.
    This horan monks needs to be brought to justice – every citizen has the right to practice he/she ‘s religion.

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