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19 January 2017

Sri Lanka enters the Open Doors 'world watch list'

Sri Lanka enters the Open Doors 'world watch list'

Sri Lanka has a troubled history in the light of Christian persecution, however things have taken a downward turn in recent months.

It has now entered the recently published Open Doors Top 50 world watch list for 2017, entering at number 45.

This country has a special place in my heart as it is where I am from. I was born and brought up in the UK and have only visited a few times. Due to the long and brutal 30 year civil war, more visits were not possible and most of our close family chose to leave the country.

Out of a population of 20.9 million, 1.9 million are Christians. Buddhism is the main religion of the country. Of course that aforementioned war has played its part.

This was an ugly war between the majority Sinhalese ethnic group and the minority Tamil Tiger rebels, and it finally ended in 2009. However the end of the war in turn left Christians in a vulnerable position.

A new government came into effect into 2015, and hopes were raised that this would mean a better environment for Christians, where they were previously heavily persecuted and attacked.

But the arrival of the new president Maithripala Sirisen hasn't made the situation better for Christians in this country. Miriam*, a religious liberties lawyer told Christian Today last year that Buddhist extremists have taken a more strategic approach with this new government and are persecuting Christians in the form of legal restrictions instead.

In one region, an orphanage run by a pastor and his wife has been ordered to close after Buddhist monks contacted authorities, harassing the couple for months beforehand.

They claim that Pastor Dayaratne Kodituwakku who runs the orphanage is a terrorist leader and that the orphanage is a "breeding centre for Christians". This orphanage was a beacon of hope for many children and an eyewitness Eva Kodithuwakku told the heart breaking story of the night authorities came and removed the children from the orphanage.

She said: "Sadly their lives have been ripped apart and their hearts broken by a handful of heartless selfish people with ulterior motives."

Open Doors reports: "Buddhist monks, who are influential in the villages, are the main source of persecution for Christians. Services and prayer meetings have been stopped and church buildings attacked by mobs, often led by Buddhist monks. Pastors are most vulnerable."

On 5 January, a church in Jaffna was burned down and the pastor and his family were threatened with violence if they went to the police to identify their attackers.

The police were told, but no intervention or action was taken by them. It is apparently well known by the church's congregation that local Buddhist religious leaders carried out the attack on the church. Yet nothing is being done.

Despite this, the pastor and his family are determined to carry on the work God has called them to do and are staying put.

These are just some of the stories coming out of the country concerning our brothers and sisters.  Prayers are desperately needed for them to have the freedom and liberty to express their faith in Jesus and live their lives in peace.

Prayer points:

″ For Pastor Dayaratne Kodituwakku and his wife as they continue to challenge the authorities on the closure of their orphanage.
″ For churches like the one in Jaffna to be protected from harm.
″ For Christians all over the country who meet in secret or otherwise to know God's comfort and peace.
″ For the government to recognise that Christians have liberty and freedom and to enforce that in all areas.

  * False name given to protect identity.



Image: CC0  Transaid