June 25, 2013
Christians in Sri Lanka Targeted in June
Sri Lanka saw six cases of religious atrocities in the month of June alone, all of which took place in the eastern and southern districts of Hambanthota, Batticaloa, Kegalle and Kaluthara. “After a relative lull during the month of May, incidents of religious persecution once again increased during this month,” according to the June 2013 Incident Report of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), an umbrella organization of evangelical churches and denominations in the Sinhala-Buddhist majority country. In Hambantota District, 135 miles southeast of capital city Colombo, Buddhist monks accused an Assemblies of God (AOG) pastor of taking pictures and videos of their meeting on June 16. The accusers were members of an extremist group, Ravana Balaya, and the said meeting was held as a “protest against Christians” according to NCEASL. At approximately 3:30 p.m., the AOG pastor was on his way to the village shops and was merely passing by the meeting when the Ravana Balaya monks spotted him. They forced the pastor to come up on stage, but the he fled from the area and went straight to the police station. “However, the Buddhist monks pursued him to the police station,” reported NCEASL, “and falsely accused him of taking pictures and videos of the meeting. The pastor denied the allegations to the Officer in Charge (OIC).” The next day, on June 17, another pastor in the same district was attacked at around 9:00 a.m. Five Buddhist monks and some 30 locals surrounded the pastor’s place and hurled threats at him. The assaulted pastor continues to receive threats almost on a daily basis. NCEASL has documented 45 incidents of religious persecution between January and May this year, a steep increase from 2012’s total count of 52.
Syrian Christians Caught in Crossfire
Syrian Christians are the victims of disproportionate violence and abuse as sectarian violence continues to engulf Syria, says a new report. Christian women are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse, while Christian men are facing pressure from both sides to join the battle, according to Vulnerability Assessment of Syria’s Christians, coordinated by the World Watch List’s Dennis Pastoor with analysis from political commentator Nicholas Heras. The result, the report claims, is that Christians are scared to engage in public displays of worship, while proportionally more Christian refugees are leaving Syria than any other religious or ethnic group. Vulnerability Assessment of Syria’s Christians acknowledges that many of the struggles facing Christians in Syria are shared by the entire population, but says Christians are “soft targets” and “particularly vulnerable” to some things, including hostility in refugee camps, targeting by Islamist groups and criminals, and confiscation of land. Christians are “caught in the crossfire of the strife between government and opposition forces and suffer violence from both parties,” writes Pastoor. Christians are not always targeted deliberately, he says, but this “does not mean they are not a vulnerable group…and implies they are in varying degrees liable to suffer specific threats.”
More than two years have passed since the beginning of the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces and the Free Syrian Army and the fight is increasingly taking the shape of a “jihad” against the Syrian government, writes Heras, as opposition forces are ever more “Islamized.”
Meanwhile Syria’s Christians are called victims of “systematic militarization,” which Heras predicts will become a “significant trend” in the near future. Vulnerability Assessment of Syria’s Christians predicts four possible outcomes to the conflict, the most likely being the eventual overthrow of the government by opposition forces “dominated by Islamists.” In this event, the report predicts continued sectarian violence due to the failure by opposition forces to completely destroy government forces and al-Assad’s supporters. The other potential outcomes predicted are: the al-Assad regime prevails but violence continues in the short-term; opposition forces take complete control of Syria and form an Islamic state – the “worst-case scenario for Syria’s Christians;” or the civil war continues but the sectarian element of the conflict is reduced.
(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).