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Sri Lanka

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This church building in Sri Lanka was severely damaged in a mob attack  

Sri Lanka’s constitution affords Buddhism, which is practised by about 70% of the population, “the foremost place”. This elevated status is exploited by a powerful ethnic Sinhalese and Buddhist nationalist lobby, which demands rights and privileges for itself at the expense of other religions. The lobby, which is particularly opposed to Christianity, campaigns for the introduction of anti-conversion legislation that would hinder Christian activities.

This political pressure is accompanied by a violent extremist movement on the ground. At least 65 anti-Christian incidents, including mob attacks on churches, were recorded in 2013. Church leaders are particularly at risk of violence and harassment, and churches may be forcibly closed. Pressure from Buddhist monks closed down over 40 churches and house churches in Sri Lanka in 2013. While the government claims to uphold religious freedom, it does little to investigate or prevent attacks by Buddhist extremists.

Pastor Pradeep was out when a violent mob of Buddhist extremists descended on his home, which is used for worship. The assailants vandalised the property and threatened the pastor’s wife, who called the police, but they could not contain the mob. The attack continued for three and a half hours. This onslaught followed a series of other forcible attempts to end Pastor Pradeep’s ministry.

Christians face difficulties in building churches, and may be ordered to stop activities that have not been “authorised” by the state. The government plans to introduce legislation prohibiting “cults”; this could threaten evangelical churches, which are not recognised by the state.

Christians, who make up around 7% of the population, also experience discrimination in education. Many have continued to live in desperate poverty since their homes and churches were destroyed in the 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009.

Christianity has a long history on the island, pre-dating the arrival of Westerners by many centuries. Tradition claims that Sri Lanka was first evangelised by the apostle Thomas. Small Christian communities existed on the coasts of Sri Lanka during the succeeding centuries, but Christianity made significant progress only from the sixteenth century. Despite this long-standing presence, the faith is perceived by many Sri Lankans as a product of Western colonialism.

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    • Heavenly Father, we pray for Kim Jung-Wook, a South Korean Christian who has been sentenced to hard labour for life in North Korea for “spying” and attempting to establish house churches in the country. We thank You that although prosecutors demanded the death penalty, this was commuted, but we pray that Jung-Wook will be sustained by You in his imprisonment and cruel treatment and will soon be released. We pray too for the dozens of North Koreans who were detained after Jung-Wook’s arrest in October on suspicion of helping him, and for the families of any who have already been executed. We pray for political change and religious freedom in North Korea, that it may be made legal to be a Christian and to take part in Christian activity. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

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