By Lorraine Caballero
Sri Lankan Christians cannot bury their dead in public cemeteries because Buddhist monks are stopping them from doing so, charity group Release International says.
The persecution of Sri Lankan Christians has now reached the level where Buddhist monks have joined forces with nationalists and prevented Christians from burying their dead in public cemeteries. Local government officials have also been shutting down churches and prayer gatherings in the country.
A prominent human rights lawyer, who spoke under conditions of anonymity, recalled one occasion wherein a Christian burial was interrupted by Buddhist monks. She said the monks suddenly began shouting that Christians cannot bury their dead in that location. The villagers around the public cemetery then came in with the police and drove the Christians out, telling them that they can bury their dead in a faraway place.
The said lawyer also told of an incident when two Buddhist monks interrupted a prayer meeting and began shouting and threatening the pastor leading the gathering. When the pastor filed a formal complaint with the police, he was told that it was his fault.
In line with the reported incidents of persecution of Sri Lankan Christians, Release International Chief Executive Paul Robinson released a statement calling for the acts of the Buddhist monks to be exposed.
“You don’t normally associate Buddhism with violence, but time and again we hear that it is Buddhist monks who are leading the attacks against the churches,” said Robinson. “And our partners have found the monks are being aided by pro-Buddhist authorities … This has to be brought into the spotlight.”
The persecution of Christians in Sri Lanka traces its roots to the country’s chaotic history of invasion, colonial rule, nationalism, and ethnic conflicts. In 2009, the minority Tamil Tiger rebels were defeated by the majority Sinhalese ethnic group. Christians became the new target of persecution after that landmark defeat, Christian Today (CT) reports.
A local religious lawyer who helps defend persecuted Christians told CT that the situation still has not changed even after a new government came into power last year. In fact, she said their organization has recorded more than 120 cases of persecution under the current administration, versus 52 in 2012.