A gang of about 50 people, including Buddhist monks, forced their way into the Christian Fellowship Church in Ingriya, Sri Lanka, following the March 25th Sunday morning service. Pastor Sampath* had already left, but his wife was still in the church with a few believers who had stayed after the morning service.
The gang threatened the believers and demanded that they stop holding services. They also demanded the name of each believer and asked why they come to church. The believers replied that they had been healed after coming for prayers and received deliverance.
The mob then chased the believers away from the church. One of the church members called the police emergency hotline, but when the police arrived, they scolded the church members for “disrupting the peace in the village.”
On Sunday, April 2nd, the police brought members of the mob in for questioning regarding the complaint Sampath filed following the incident. Around 200 people gathered at the police station as they questioned members of the mob, including 20-25 Buddhist monks. The police asked Sampath if he had permission to hold church services, but he replied that the people came to his house for prayers for sickness and various other problems, and that he did not know he had to have permission for this purpose.
The police then asked him to stop what he has been doing, but Sampath replied that this is the work God has given him and he could not stop it. The police demanded that the he cease the services temporarily, but Sampath refused, despite threats describing dire consequences if he continued.
After the case was filed, the people in the station began shouting. They confronted Sampath and his wife, blocking their attempts to exit the station. When they finally got home, Sampath found that people had pelted stones at his house and smashed the windows.
The angry mob then surrounded Sampath’s house, shouting. When Sampath went out to face them, a man hit him with a pole.
Thankfully, another pastor from the area had called the police and 4 constables arrived at the pastor’s residence. They entreated Sampath and his wife to temporarily flee to a safe place.
They sought shelter at a believer’s residence. Under the instructions of the lawyer, they intended to move back to their home on April 4th.
Sampath had been serving the Lord in Ingiriya for the past 17 years. In 2002, a mob completely destroyed his church building. He did not take any action against the mob then, but rebuilt the church. To date, the pastor has been ministering to approximately 150 believers, of both Sinhala and Tamil ethnic groups. The majority are Hindu converts. About 50 people regularly gather for Sunday services.
During the past few weeks, there has been a rise in angry mobs threatening and persecuting various Christian Evangelical churches and pastors.
Please pray for healing for our brother Sampath and his wife.
We pray, Father, for Pastor Sampath and his wife, and for the other believers in the community of Ingiriya. Protect them, Father, and bring healing, both physically and emotionally. Give them the courage and wisdom they need to deal with the opposition they face and give them favor with the local authorities and the community. Thank You for their commitment to worship You and we pray that You will provide a way for them to continue. We do not know what happened when they returned home on the 4th, but You do; we take comfort that they are in Your hands of mercy and strength. Through this time of conflict, may Your gospel go forth in much power and authority that many might turn to You in faith and praise. In the name of Jesus, Lord of Heaven and Earth, Amen.
*Name changed for security