Sri Lanka’s climate of fear threatens peace.

By January 30, 2006

Sri Lanka (MNN)–An upsurge in the violence between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels has created a climate of fear that could jeopardize a fragile peace.

Although both sides returned to negotiations in an effort to end two decades of civil war, there have already been deadly ambushes and the threat of suicide bombers. And yet, word is that the people are ready to move the freedom struggle forward all over the north-east.

The violence has been a setback for ministries in the region. Security concerns can prevent church leaders from traveling to congregations, and evangelists from moving around.

On top of that, Christians go right across the ethnic boundaries. According to Voice of the Martyrs Canada’s Glenn Penner, “There are Tamil Christians, Sinhalese Christians who work side by side, working in the same organizations. This makes things really difficult for them sometimes, as they have family members on either side. And, Christians are sometimes seen as being disloyal to both sides.”

That difficulty has been increasing, though not directly related to the government problems. Penner says, “Terrorism, of course affects everyone, and the rise of Tamil Tiger attacks against the government is something that concerns them greatly. It affects the way in which they can minister, whether they can do evangelistic work, and freedom of travel begins to be affected.”

He cites recent information detailing three separate incidents of persecution against Sri Lanka’s Christian community since the beginning of 2006.

On January 1, the King’s Revival Church in Alawwa was subjected to verbal threats and abusive language as the pastor and a small group of Christians gathered for Sunday worship.

On the evening of January 21, a mob of approximately twenty men armed with sticks walked into the home of an Assembly of God pastor in Alpitiya. The mob demanded that the pastor stop all Christian activity. The worship service was held the next day as scheduled, but with police protection.

Following the worship service on January 22, a mob of approximately 500 militant Buddhists surrounded the fifty worshippers of the Assembly of God Church in Bolaththa, Ganemulla and demanded that they stop holding services. The militants threatened to return the next Sunday if services continued. Early the next morning, the pastor’s house was also stoned.

Aside from trouble from militants, Penner explains that this trouble always has impact on ministry. “Our partners, half their staff is Tamil, the other half is Sinhala. They get caught in the middle when these types of things take place. They have to be careful then, who they send to visit churches. If they send a Tamil to a Sinhalese church, there might be a little bit of tension.”

Pray that these threats and attacks in Sri Lanka will not cast a shadow of fear over the country’s believers.

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