6-7% of the Sri Lankan population are Christian. There has been antipathy towards Christians from some Buddhists, often led by Buddhist monks, for a long time. A number of violent attacks were launched in 2002 and recently things seem to be getting worse. (here - March 08)
There have been mob attacks on churches
Calvary Church in Thalahena, Malabe, northeast of the capital Colombo, was
destroyed after a rumor spread that Christians had attacked a local Buddhist
temple. A mob of some 500 villagers had descended on Calvary church and
surrounded it as Sunday service was about to take place on July 6, persecution
watchdog group Release International recently reported. (here)
On the morning of August 3, as pastor Stanley Royston of the Assembly of God Church in Kalutara held his Sunday morning service Buddhist monks tried to storm the church with a mob. (here)
Attacks include: May 2008: Nugegoda; June 2008: Ampara, Middeniya; July 2008: Talahena, Malabe, Ingiriya - Sabaragamuwa Province, Matugama - Western Province, Weeraketiya - Southern Province; August 2008: Kalutara
Individual priests and pastors have been attacked.
Reverend Fernando from the Methodist Church in Ampara, was accosted by the three men at 4.40pm on 23 June. (here)
There have been disappearances and abductions:
Pastor Victor E.M.S. Yogarajan, 51, of the Gospel Missionary Church in the northern city of Vavuniya, his two sons – Daniel, 22, and David, 20 - and Joseph Suganthakumar, 20, have been missing since Mar. 2 , reported the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka on Friday. (here)
Mob violence has been co-ordinated by Buddhist fundamentalists in various districts
Four anti-Christian meetings were held in the area [Middeniya in Hambanthota District] from Friday 13 June to Tuesday 17 June, making Christians fearful of potential violent action against them. Following the protests, a Christian girl was assaulted by her fellow students. (here)
There is growing bureaucratic harassment and misuse of legal processes.
The latest modus operandi for oppression say sources, is multi pronged. First there are allegations of churches harbouring LTTE terrorists. The second is trotting out little known or non existent rules and regulations at Municipality level in order to curtail religious freedom.
For instance say sources, churches seeking to expand their building are told by the UDA that no expansion whatsoever can be carried out unless 66% of the local population approves of it. With only 7% Christians in the country, such an approval rating, given the enmity and insecurity that has been fuelled by a nationalistic government, would be nigh impossible. ...
Whenever an attack on a church occurs, the police and local government officials ask for the 'registration' of a church with the provincial council even though such registration is neither required by law nor indicated in any legally acceptable document. ...
Christians have allegedly been denied their right to a fair investigation. Law enforcement authorities allegedly resort to misusing the existing clauses of the Sri Lankan constitution to prosecute Christian workers. For instance, Section 81 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides for binding over those liable to cause a "breach of peace," is used unfairly to deal with situations where Christian workers have been the victims, permitting the perpetrators to go free.
Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which deals the abatement of a nuisance in relation to noise and environmental pollution, has been invoked to legally restrict church worship. Churches have been forced to close down or ordered to stop their meeting by police in many areas on the basis of a challenge to the legal validity of such places of worship.
Although over 200 cases of arson, attacks, assault, death threats and damage to property and lives against Christians have been recorded during the last two years alone, hardly any indictments have been initiated even though in many cases the attackers have been identified. Church workers, their families and believers have been harassed and threatened, especially in rural areas. Law enforcement authorities issue injunction orders under section 106 (1) of the Penal Code to stop churches conducting services. ...
Christian children attending state schools are openly denied their right to study Christianity; in certain instances, they are forced not only to study Buddhism but to also practice/follow traditions such as worshipping statues. The children of new converts have been denied the right to follow Christianity in their school on the pretext that the child's birth certificate indicates he is a Buddhist.
Christian children are refused access to some government schools on the pretext that there are no teachers to teach Christianity. The Catholic Principal of St. Joseph's Convent, Nugegoda, a Colombo suburb, was dismissed by authorities for adhering to the officially recognised 8% allocation for Christian children. (She has since been reinstated.) Government owned schools openly refuse to admit Christian children. (here)
And lower-level harassment
the congregations, mostly poor folk, are allegedly harassed in their day to day
lives, some unable to even buy groceries, rent houses, send their children to
the local school, get a Christian burial or carry a Bible in their hands. ...
Many Christians, particularly converts, living in predominantly Buddhist areas have been refused the right to a Christian burial. One such incident was featured on BBC. There are many instances on record where Christians have been refused burial by the local Buddhist priests who have proceeded to 'hijack' the body to perform Buddhist funeral rites forcibly. ...
Buddhist landlords are directly pressurised by the local Buddhist monks to evict Christian tenants/not to rent houses to Christians/to sell land to Christians.
In rural areas and some urban areas as well there is an effort to prevent Christians from leasing or purchasing property, violating the rights of Christians to live anywhere in the country. (here)
Christians are also caught up in the civil war between the Government and the Tamil Tigers. Carita Internationalis reported (via Reuters) that
Vatican City, 28 September 2007 - Fr Nicholas Pillai Pakiaranjith, a 40-year-old priest, has been killed in a claymore attack in Kilinochi, north east Sri Lanka, while delivering essential aid to people made homeless by the conflict. (here)
None of this can happen without official connivance or active involvement. The Sri Lankan Newspaper The Sunday Lead suggests:
A group led by Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse and supported by many of the UNP dissidents favour a moderate approach. Another more formidable group led by the likes of extremist thinkers like JHU's Champika Ranawaka having the support of the JVP defector group NFF led by Wimal Weerawansa and such groups as the Patriotic National Movement (PNM) are intent on working to a systematic plan
of destruction and oppression [of minorities]. ...
All police officers irrespective of their religious beliefs have been forced to contribute every month towards the Police Buddhist Fund under specific instructions from the current IGP. The JHU is reportedly planning to exert pressure on the government not to pay government pensions to Christian government officials on their retirement on the basis that Christians receive remuneration from NGOs. (here)
It all sounds very familiar from parts of 1930s Europe.