Monthly Archives: August 2013

“God Has Been Preparing Us” – Persecution of Christians Growing in Buddhist Sri Lanka

Many people – even Christians – are startled to learn that among the groups persecuting Christians are Buddhists.

Several Buddhist countries are on the latest Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians face the most hardships, including Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan and Myanmar.

But recently it has been Sri Lanka where Christians have been facing some particularly vile incidents of persecution.

Now the Baptist Press, which has excelled with some superb reporting on churches around the world that are under attack, has published an excellent feature, “Sri Lankan churches violently attacked, closed.”

It goes into great detail, and you should read it all. Here is a brief excerpt:

Sri Lanka is the world’s oldest continually Buddhist nation, and extremists told a TIME reporter last month that they want it to stay that way. As a result, persecution is on the rise. Attacks on Muslims have hit the headlines, but the increasing incidence of Christian persecution has received very little attention.

“People are afraid to step foot in a church or any religious place,” [Pastor] Perera [not his real name] says. “We cannot start new churches. Churches cannot rent or buy houses anymore…. 

“Our constitution gives us freedom of religion, but in practice it is Buddhist and there will not be any other religion welcome,” the pastor warns. “This [persecution] is going to spread quickly from one district to another.”

The veteran pastor is no stranger to persecution. The country suffered through two decades of civil war. Pastors had to walk the perimeter of their church building to check for landmines every Sunday morning. Before the 2004 tsunami hit the island, churches were burned, bombed and shut down. Things settled down and Sri Lanka disappeared off the World Watch List’s top 50 persecuted countries. 

But now, it has started up again. Almost every week, a church or Muslim business is attacked in some way or another. Despite this persecution, Perera assures that the church closings and attacks have not hampered spreading the Gospel. 

“God has been preparing us for this persecution all along. He knew!” Perera says, suppressing a chuckle of amazement. “He opened our minds to a new way of doing ‘church’ last year. Before this even started happening, we were training lay leaders to lead house churches in their homes.”

Christians Have Endured Far Worse Treatment From Muslims Than Vice Versa In Recent Decades But Have Largely Kept Quiet About It

Rupert Shortt, author of “Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack,” has a good piece in London’s Evening Standard newspaper, pointing out the hypocrisy so evident in commentary on the Middle East. That so often the West is blamed for Islamophobia, or even for many of the tragic events of the region. Yet the residents themselves do not recognize their own complicity in the intense and widespread persecution of Christians.

In conversation in Cardiff with an Afghan cab driver the following ensued:

But then my driver made the false move common in some circles. “This proves that all the West does is oppress Muslims. Who created Saddam Hussein? Who created Osama bin Laden? It was you guys.”

The standard replies to views as one-sided as these are familiar. I took a different line, reminding my driver that overall, Christians — starting with more than a million church members butchered by government forces in Sudan — have endured far worse treatment from Muslims than vice versa in recent decades but have largely kept quiet about it. When I pointed out that there is scarcely a country between Morocco and Pakistan in which Christians are fully free to worship without harassment, the cabbie eyed me with bewilderment.

His blind spot is shared by many a liberal secularist who would normally be among the first to speak out on minority rights. The reason for this malaise stems from ignorance, as well as a hierarchy of victimhood. Many assume that Christianity is a Western faith and therefore an import to the Middle East, rather than an export from it. The point is encapsulated by the anecdote about an American general who once asked an Arab Christian when his family had converted. “About 2,000 years ago,” came the wry answer.”