News Sri Lanka | 15-7-2022

What impact is the crisis in Sri Lanka having on its Christians?


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(Photo) Sri Lankans queue for cooking oil; the severe shortage of food was a contributing factor in the mass protests against the government.

Sri Lanka is in political and economic turmoil. How is it affecting Christians and Open Doors local partners? To what extent are believers persecuted in the country? And what good news is there to report? Read on to get the answers to these questions and to find out how you can pray.

What’s happening in Sri Lanka?

Recent months have seen mass protests against the government because of soaring prices and a lack of food and fuel. This came to a head last Saturday (9 July), when peaceful protests in the capital, Colombo, drew crowds from across the island who wanted to oust President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. 

These later turned violent as protestors and police clashed with each other. The presidential palace was stormed and the Prime Minister’s home was set alight. Later that evening, the president announced that he would resign. 

However, tensions further escalated yesterday (13 July), when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa failed to officially announce his resignation. One person died in further protests and some 80 people were injured. President Rajapaksa has since fled to Singapore, with Ranil Wickremesinghe – who is now serving as acting president – declaring a state of emergency in the country. 

How is the crisis affecting Christians?

Many believers and pastors in rural areas are struggling to provide for their families. Some families have had to cut down to one meal per day. In extreme cases this only consists of a cup of tea. 

Thankfully, despite issues such as curfews, road closures and fuel shortages, Open Doors local partners have been able to provide emergency relief to families who have reached out to them for help.

Meanwhile, although some discipleship programmes have had to be cancelled, local partners have been able to lead events in other parts of the country. In many cases, believers have overcome transport problems to attend, such is their determination to gather with others.

To what extent are Christians in Sri Lanka persecuted? 

Sri Lanka lies just outside the top 50 of the World Watch List, at number 51. Although many Christians can express their faith with some freedom, certainly relative to other countries, believers can still experience pressure and persecution. 

The 2019 Easter Sunday bombings is the sharpest reminder of how risky it can be to follow Jesus in the country. 

Pastor Charles* can also attest to the challenges that can be faced as a Christian. He was hosting a wedding ceremony as his home in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province when an uninvited villager shouted, “Stop playing these hymns! I want you to play secular Tamil songs instead of these Christian hymns.” 

When the pastor refused the request, the man became aggressive, ripping away decorations, damaging furniture and even attacking the pastor.

Attempts to involve the police proved futile, and later that night Pastor Charles and his brother were brutally assaulted by some 15 people with wooden and metal poles. The two of them were rushed to hospital, only to find there was a shortage of medicine due to the economic crisis. 

They were transferred to another hospital, where Pastor Charles was given seven stitches on his head and his brother underwent a four-hour surgery to have screws and plates fitted to his legs and arms after sustaining severe fractures to them. 

Pastor Charles has been left deeply traumatised by the ordeal, even struggling to leave the house. Open Doors local partners have met with him to provide pastoral and prayer support.

What good news is there to report?

Despite the challenges posed by the present crisis, churches in Colombo and its suburbs have been doing prayer walks and small-scale community services to ease the tensions and bring hope.

Praba and her husband lost their son in an explosion in 2019, but they are finding reasons for joy and hope amid their grief. 

Meanwhile, earlier this year, one of the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombing got married! Rebekah’s sister, brother-in-law and nephew were killed in the attacks, and she suffered third-degree burns. But three years on from her horrific ordeal, she was celebrating after getting married to the son of a pastor.

And in a reminder of the difference your prayers make to our persecuted family, Praba shared how ‘people who had never even seen us were praying for us when we could not’.

She and her husband lost their eight-year-old son, Peter, in one of the explosions in 2019. Amid the ongoing grief, the family are finding reasons to be joyful and hopeful.

*Name changed for security reasons
Please pray
  • That Open Doors local partners will be given wisdom, strength and breakthrough as they seek to serve our Sri Lankan brothers and sisters who are in need.
  • That Sri Lankan believers will be able to attend programmes run by local partners.
  • That political and economic stability will quickly return to Sri Lanka.
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