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.”