In 2001, Pastor Dayaratne opened Agape in Hambantota, southern Sri Lanka in response to the Lord’s call for him to take in children who have been abandoned, orphaned and abused. Agape grew from one little girl to more than a hundred. And regardless of age or background, Pastor Dayaratne and Sister Mala raised them as their own.
In 2010, Agape was recognized by the government as the best orphanage in southern Sri Lanka. But Hambantota, the province where the home is located, is a Buddhist stronghold. Not long after the home started thriving, jealous monks from the neighboring monastery began hurling accusations at Pastor Dayaratne.
Many times, law enforcers and children’s workers visited Agape looking for incriminating evidence, but they would always leave transformed and convinced after many conversations that the home was indeed a place of peace, laughter, and hope. But Dayaratne’s enemies would not rest. On March 23, 2013, they found an opportunity too good to pass up.
To supplement the financial needs of the children’s home, Dayaratne and Mala put up a vegetable patch and a piggery. The piggery was run by two caretakers and the vegetable patch was maintained by the home’s teenagers as a way to teach them about livelihood.
That March afternoon, Dayaratne’s naysayers cornered a group of Agape boys tending branches in the vegetable patch. They led the boys to the piggery, which was unattended at the time, handed them knives and forced them to chase the pigs. The neighbors also took a pig, slaughtered it and asked the boys to butcher the meat. All of this they secretly taped and sent to the Sri Lankan media.
The news aired. Dayaratne became to the whole of Sri Lanka the heartless child abuser, slave driver and predator his enemies had painted him to be. Even Christians believed the lies.
“The media didn’t give me a chance to explain. They didn’t give a chance for the children to say anything. They only published their side.” he shares. “I couldn’t use public transport at that time because I felt like the people around me would beat me or kill me. I remember when the problems were coming like fire. Bodo Bala Sena (the Buddhist extremist group) stood in front of the media and gave statements that they were willing to take in all of the Agape children.”
Not long after the character assassination, a court order was filed and the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) took all the children away.
It has been two years since the children were taken away. Some were brought back to their abusive families. Others left to fend for themselves on the streets. Some have also stopped going to school. All of them want to go back to Agape, to the safety and comfort of Amma and Thaatha’s loving arms.
Please pray for Pastor Dayaratne and Sister Mala; that they would not stop doing good and that they would not waiver in their faith. Their labor in the Lord is not in vain.