08/12/2019, 16.54
SRI LANKA
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After Buddhist monks beat Christian, Methodist bishop insists Christians are citizens of the country

by Melani Manel Perera

The assault has raised concern among Christians, already shocked by the Easter Sunday attacks. Methodist Church president says he trusts the justice system. In his view, Buddhists can enjoy their faith as they wish, and so should let Christians do the same.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – A young Methodist man was viciously beaten by a group of Buddhist monks in the village of Mahiyanganaya, central Sri Lanka, causing despair among the island nation’s Christians, already shaken by extremist violence on Easter Sunday, when 258 people died and the more than 600 wounded in multiple terror attacks.

In his appeal for peace, Bishop Asiri Perera, president of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka said: "We [Christians] are not foreigners. We are citizens of this country”.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate said the attack took place on 4 August. Four monks, members of a well-known radical group, broke into a private Methodist place of worship and attacked a student from the Evangelism Training College, hitting him hard on the head, stomach and back.

The young man managed to escape thanks to the help of one of the four monks, not personally involved in the assault. Hurt but conscious, he rode his motorcycle for 180 kilometers to reach the school where he studied, then was hospitalised.

Church authorities filed a complaint at the Hasalaka police station, but no arrests have yet been made.

"I have also written to the Prime Minister [Ranil Wickremesinghe] to ask for a rapid intervention and for the guilty to be punished,” said Bishop Perera. “This is not the first time this has happened; we have suffered discrimination in the past.”

"I have great respect for Buddhism, but such actions harm the name of Buddhism. I am very concerned about the erosion of our freedom to practise the Christian faith."

The bishop trusts the justice system. In his view, it is necessary that "police conduct an impartial inquiry and let us know who the real culprits are and to which extremist group they belong.”

The rule of law must prevail. It “should help us solve problems”. It should “be equal for all citizens, without any divisions on a religious or ethnic basis.”

The Christian leader notes that "Christians will maintain calm and peace, even in the face of the persecutions we are experiencing. At the same time, I invite you [Buddhists] to be respectful of Christians who live among you, in keeping with the noble teachings of the Buddha.”

"Christians have no intention of wiping out Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam. Christians only want to stay in this country. [. . .] You, Buddhists can enjoy your freedom as you wish. Let Christians practise our own faith freely, according to the county’s constitution."

In recent days another act of intimidation has caused concern among Christians: stones were thrown at the statue of Saint Sebastian, damaging the glass case that protects the saint's effigy.

The figure stands near the church of the same name in Katuwapitiya, one of the three places of worship hit during the Easter Sunday attack. Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, went to the scene and invited Catholics to remain calm.

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