A house in the suburbs of Colombo city in Sri Lanka where Christian worship and prayers were being held was set on fire in the early hours of Sunday January 12th 2014 by “unknown” elements. This incident is separate to that of the twin attacks launched against two Christian churches in the Southern town of Hikkaduwa on the morning of the same Sunday.
Though windows and doors of the house were torched the fire did not spread as residents were able to douse the fire and prevent it from spreading further.
The arson attack targeted a house at Pitipane in Homagama located 23 km away from Colombo city municipal limits.
The house had been used as a place of Christian worship and prayer for the past fifteen years by members of an International church called generally as the Foursquare church.The name is a shortened form of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. The church’s name refers to the four-fold ministry of Jesus Christ as Savior, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon-coming King.
The Foursquare Church is an evangelical Pentecostal Christian denomination.It reportedly has a worldwide membership of over eight million worshipping in over 60,000 churches distributed in 144 countries.The Foursquare Church was founded in the early 20th century by the Canadian Aimee Semple Mcpherson known popularly as Sister Aimee.
The Foursquare church in Homagama functioned at a family home. It had received several warnings in the past that it should stop conducting Christian services and cease converting Buddhists into Christians.The church was also accused of obtaining international funds to engage in such work.
A serious threat was issued on Saturday January 11th 2014 when a notice was pasted on the outer wall saying it was a ‘‘final warning’’. It was signed by a so called organization calling itself the ‘‘Sinha Senankaya’’.The notice said that the converting of people from Buddhism to Christianity utilising foreign funds should stop immediately. If the warning was not heeded the organization would not hold itself responsible for loss of lives or destruction of property said the notice.
Alarmed by the poster threat church members lodged a complaint with the Homagama Police.Fearful of a possible attack some church members had also stayed at the house with members of the family.They kept awake anxiously and went to sleep long after midnight.
When residents and inmates of the house were fast asleep a group of unknown persons invaded the premises under cover of darkness and mounted an arson attack.As the fire began spreading the people in the house woke up and raised cries. The arsonists then ran away. The time was 2.20 am on Sunday January 12th.
The fire was doused and prevented from spreading due to the efforts of the people in the house.Though doors,windows and walls were scorched a major calamity was averted as the fire did not spread into the interior.
Complaints were duly lodged at the Police station. Police are reportedly investigating the arson incident.Predictably no arrests have been made so far.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org