Sri Lanka: mob ransacks Catholic church

 A crowd of more than 20 men armed with bars and pointed objects ransacked a Catholic church in Mattegoda, a suburb of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo late Monday night. Statues and furniture were destroyed and many Bibles were burnt. This incident was the latest in a series of attacks carried out against the Christian community in recent months, the Missionary News Service report. Relations deteriorated between part of the Buddhist population and the tiny Christian minority - 7.5% of the population - since some Christian Evangelical groups were accused by the Buddhists of conducting "unethical conversions". The situation worsened with the sudden death in December of Buddhist monk Gandodavila Soma, who had lead a campaign against some Fundamentalist Evangelical sects. He died of a heart attack during a visit to Russia, but some Buddhists said his death had been caused by Christians. Monk Soma's followers called on President Chandrika Kumaratunga to introduce a law against forced conversions. "The Catholic Church is suffering the consequences of the invasive behaviour of fundamentalist evangelical sects", the Vicar Bishop of Colombo, Vincent Marius Joseph Peiris, told MISNA. He said that the Sri Lankan Catholic Bishops Conference has for some time tried to distance itself from them. While relations with the traditional Protestant and Catholic churches with the local community have always been amicable, he explained, some newly arrived fundamentalist Christian groups, used very aggressive tactics and some people in the community had retaliated by attacking all Christian churches. So far no one has been injured. Bishop Peiris said: "The current political crisis has also created an atmosphere of instability that makes the situation worse". He was referring to the institutional crisis created by the confrontation between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe for control of central powers. The government claims that about 30 Christian buildings have been attacked in various parts of the nation, but the Christian community say there have been more than 100 incidents. Source : MISNA

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