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Sri Lanka

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This church building in Sri Lanka was severely damaged in a mob attack  

Sri Lanka’s constitution affords Buddhism, which is practised by about 70% of the population, “the foremost place”. This elevated status is exploited by a powerful ethnic Sinhalese and Buddhist nationalist lobby, which demands rights and privileges for itself at the expense of other religions. The lobby, which is particularly opposed to Christianity, campaigns for the introduction of anti-conversion legislation that would hinder Christian activities.

This political pressure is accompanied by a violent extremist movement on the ground. At least 65 anti-Christian incidents, including mob attacks on churches, were recorded in 2013. Church leaders are particularly at risk of violence and harassment, and churches may be forcibly closed. Pressure from Buddhist monks closed down over 40 churches and house churches in Sri Lanka in 2013. While the government claims to uphold religious freedom, it does little to investigate or prevent attacks by Buddhist extremists.

Pastor Pradeep was out when a violent mob of Buddhist extremists descended on his home, which is used for worship. The assailants vandalised the property and threatened the pastor’s wife, who called the police, but they could not contain the mob. The attack continued for three and a half hours. This onslaught followed a series of other forcible attempts to end Pastor Pradeep’s ministry.

Christians face difficulties in building churches, and may be ordered to stop activities that have not been “authorised” by the state. The government plans to introduce legislation prohibiting “cults”; this could threaten evangelical churches, which are not recognised by the state.

Christians, who make up around 7% of the population, also experience discrimination in education. Many have continued to live in desperate poverty since their homes and churches were destroyed in the 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009.

Christianity has a long history on the island, pre-dating the arrival of Westerners by many centuries. Tradition claims that Sri Lanka was first evangelised by the apostle Thomas. Small Christian communities existed on the coasts of Sri Lanka during the succeeding centuries, but Christianity made significant progress only from the sixteenth century. Despite this long-standing presence, the faith is perceived by many Sri Lankans as a product of Western colonialism.

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    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that 55 Christians, almost all church leaders and converts from Islam, received Bible training at a three-day seminar in Kyrgyzstan that was supported by Barnabas Fund. The participants have virtually no access to Biblical training, and so the studies were a great boost to their faith and ministry. Meeting fellow church leaders, who are all dealing with similar issues, such as isolation and persecution from Muslim relatives and local Muslim communities, was also very encouraging to them and gave them the opportunity to build up a Christian support network. Pray that the Lord will continue to speak to them through the Bible passages they studied at the seminar, and that He will bless their ministries. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Christians and other minorities in Burma (Myanmar) are extremely concerned about a proposed religious conversion bill that will require people to seek permission from the authorities before changing religion. It is part of a package of four bills designed to “protect race and religion” in the Buddhist-majority country. The government says it is intended to prevent forced conversions. The draft says that forcing someone to convert would be punishable by a year in prison, while insulting another religion would be punishable by between one and two years in prison. Similar laws in force in several Indian states are used to threaten legitimate evangelism by Christians and as a pretext by Hindu militants to attack Christians, whom they falsely accuse of forcibly converting people. Pray this bill will not become law in Burma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Pray for the members of two churches in Yogyakarta that were attacked in separate incidents in June. On Sunday 1 June, members of Islamist groups and local residents threw stones at one church building, shattering the windows. Then on 29 June, three groups of masked intruders burst into another building in Pugaram, dressed in black and shouting “Allah is great”. They vandalised property and posters on display. This incident coincided with the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Pray for protection for Christians in the area and that the intimidation and violence against them will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

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