World Watch List: 30
Leader: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Population: 21 million
Christian: 1.9 million
Main Religion: Buddhism
Government: Unitary Semi-Presidential Constitutional Republic
Source of Persecution: Religious Nationalism
Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Sri Lanka through:
- Emergency aid relief
- Bible and Christian literature distribution
- Socio-economic development
”Last year, my son Malkiya wrote an essay about the Apostle Paul. He wrote that he wanted to commit himself as a sacrifice to God as a martyr. And then last Easter, the bomb blast happened.”
– Pastor Kumaran, father of 12 year old Malkiya who was killed in the Easter bomb attack
Source of persecution: Religious nationalism
Secular in concept, Sri Lanka nonetheless has a constitution that gives Buddhism preferred status, and this Buddhist supremacy is a view widely shared in the country. Every Singhalese is understood to be a Buddhist.
The temple, the community, and farming together form a “triangle” of Sinhalese life. Nationalist Buddhist groups are determined to defend this life from what it considers to be threats, e.g. other religions. Together with Buddhist monks, these groups incite hatred against minority groups like Christians and Muslims, and attack them in mobs. Christians are often accused of ‘unethical conversion’, and then violently attacked. They experience difficulties in many aspects of life: church meetings are frequently disrupted, some schools refuse to accept Christian children, and believers often have to bury their dead in far away places as they are not allowed to do so in a public cemetery.
The pressure on converts
Believers from a Buddhist background face harassment and discrimination, and attacks from their families and communities. They are pressured to recant their new faith, as conversion is regarded as a betrayal. There are also believers from a Hindu background among the Tamil people in the northeast of the country, and others from a Muslim background who face the same situations.
The Easter attack
During Easter in 2019, three churches and three hotels were targeted with suicide attacks by a little-known Islamic group. The attacks killed 259 people and injured 500 more, many of whom were Christians.
- For the survivors of the Easter attacks in 2019, for strength and comfort for the targeted Christian communities. Pray also for unity among the whole Sri Lankan church.
- For the pastors in Sri Lanka who are mocked and frequently disturbed by their neighbours for conducting services. Pray that they would not waiver in their faith and that they’ll draw strength from the Lord when they feel weary.
That Christians will have the strength and grace to respond to their persecutors with Christlikeness.