Renewed anti-Christian violence is reported in Sri Lanka.

By June 15, 2005

Sri Lanka (MNN)–There are reports of renewed Anti-Christian violence connected to two harsh religion bills in Parliament.

At least five churches have been attacked by mobs in the days since the last reading of an anti-conversion bill. That is in addition to the spike in attacks seen over the past two years.

According to persecution watchdog groups, at least 170 churches have been attacked and 140 closed down due to intimidation and threats. The worst violence occurred at the end of 2003 and early 2004, and had appeared to decrease after the Tsunami.

Voice of the Martyrs Canada’s Glenn Penner says it’s an obvious attempt to stamp out evangelism. “In the last month, we have seen an escalation of violence against Christians in Sri Lanka. Buddhist monks in particular, leading mobs, burning down church buildings, threatening Christians, to say, ‘Listen, you have leave. We don’t want you in this village. If you don’t stop telling people about Jesus, we’re going to drive you out of here for good.'”

A vote on one bill may be coming this month. Penner believes the government is taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. They want to see how the current proposal sits, if it is constitutional, and how much hue and cry it will generate in the international community. If the current bill fails, he adds, there’s another one waiting in the wings.

Sri Lanka’s Parliament is haggling over a ban on ‘unethical’ or ‘forced’ conversions. But the terms are too loosely defined, making the law open to interpretation, which would, in turn, severely restrict religious freedom in the country.

Penner says, while they’re deeply concerned at the latest developments, they won’t be intimidated. “Voice of the Martyrs works very closely with the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka. We’re also training church leaders in that area to be courageous witnesses for Jesus in this country. We just encourage Christians to continue to uphold these brothers and sisters in prayer. They’re wanting to take the Gospel throughout the country, and they’re prepared to do it, despite all of this violence.”

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