A Leading Christian Pastor of the Assembly of Church (AOG) and his wife have been brutally attacked by a mob of around 40 persons at Deniyaya in the Matara district of the Southern Province on August 9th.
The attack on the senior AOG pastor and wife was followed by another incident in Deniyaya where a woman church worker of the Methodist Church was threatened and abused by a mob which wanted her to leave the area.
The mob which attacked the Assembly of God church pastor and wife had arrived in a truck, a pajeiro jeep and three trishaws. One of the persons in the Pajeiro was identified as Thusitha Ranawaka the owner of Nathagala estates in Deniyaya.
Ranawaka had not been involved in the attacks directly but had allegedly used his vehicle to obstruct the pastor and wife on the road. He had allegedly observed the physical manhandling of the Christian couple from the Pajeiro and had followed the mob closely behind while the incident took place. His conduct amounted to a backing of the attack.
Ranawaka incidently is married to a sister of Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Economic Development minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Apart from Presidential brother in law Ranawaka, others involved in the incident were five Buddhist priests in yellow /saffron robes and the Pradeshiya Sabha secretary.
The pastor was accused of spreading Christianity in the area. There are around 500 Christians living in the predominantly Buddhist Deniyaya.
Reproduced below are two brief reports issued by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka(NCEASL) on the disturbing incidents at Deniyaya.
Pastor and wife accosted and beaten up by mob
Assembly of God (AoG) Sri Lanka
Deniyaya (Matara District)
9th August 2012
The Senior Pastor of the church who is also the Regional Presbyter for the AoG and his wife visited a church member and her daughter at approximately 1 in the afternoon. While they were on their way back home on their motorbike, they found the road obstructed by logs. The pastor moved the logs and they proceeded on their way.
A little further on at a junction, their motorbike was cut off by a powerful pajero vehicle, throwing the pastors wife on to the ground. They were then set upon by a large mob of about 40 men, accompanied by 5 Buddhist monks and the assistant secretary of the Pradeshiya Sabha (local government authority) who arrived in a truck and 3 trishaws. The mob advancing on them were carrying rocks and shouting ‘attack them’ , ‘kill them’.
They were joined by a man who was riding in the pajero vehicle identified as a brother in law of H.E. the President. The pastor was dragged along the ground and beaten by the men who shouted at him, asking who gave him permission to live in this area. The pastor had replied that he had resided in Deniyaya for many years and did not need anyone’s permission to be there. They accused him of spreading Christianity and threatened to kill him if he did not stop his Christian ministry. The pastor’s wife was scolded in very abusive language.
The mob then forcibly dragged the pastor and his wife to the house which the couple visited earlier. They shouted at the lady of the house and her daughter asking how much they were paid to convert to Christianity. They replied that they have been Christians long before they moved to Deniyaya and no one paid them to become Christians and it was an independent decision based on conviction. They beat the pastor again. The pastor and his wife managed to escape from the mob and made their way home. The pajero continued to follow them up to their home.
The pastor suffered injuries to his legs and body, but did not want to go to the hospital as they feared they would be followed and harmed further. A complaint was made to the Police regarding the assault.
Later in the night, the same pajero was seen driving around the vicinity of their house. The called the Police and the Police responded with a mobile unit.
The Pastor’s and his wife’s ID cards, his mobile phone, Bible and other documents were stolen during the assault. On 10th August, several persons including church members who’s numbers were stored on the pastor’s phone received bogus calls from a person pretending to be the pastor, asking them to come and meet him at various locations. The ID cards have been returned to the Police but the phone and the Bible are still missing.
Christian worker threatened
Methodist Church | Deniyaya (Matara District)
9th August 2012
Soon after the above incident of assault, the same persons made their way to the home of a lady Christian worker. She was threatened by them to leave the house before Monday. They scolded her in abusive language. Another church worker who arrived at the scene was also threatened and his ID card was taken. When the victims attempted to file a complaint with the Police, they were refused, but succeeded in making an official complaint. The Police later recovered and returned the ID card.
A tense situation prevails in the area with the minority Christian community of about 500 persons fearing further attacks led by persons who are clearly acting above the law.
The NCEASL has issued an appeal “Please pray for all the victims in the above incidents of violence”.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com