Sri Lanka protects church that was attacked by mob

Posted: Friday, February 23, 2001

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- The government sent police to protect a Protestant church attacked by a mob during a service, and President Chandrika Kumaratunga ordered an inquiry into the disturbance.

Carrying clubs and swords, the mob attacked the Christian Center church last Sunday, wounding 30 worshippers and damaging the building, said Godfrey Yogarajah, general-secretary of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance. Three victims were hospitalized.

Several dozen people were attending the service in the church in Nuwarawatte village, about 125 miles northeast of Colombo, the capital.

Police have taken three people into custody, said Kusumsiri Balapatabendi, secretary to the president. She said a special police team has been sent to the church to investigate and make sure there are no new attacks.

Christians make up about 7.6 percent of Sri Lanka's 18.6 million people. Buddhists are 69.3 percent, followed by Hindus at 15.4 percent. Muslims represent 7.6 percent.

Christians belong to both the major ethnic groups -- Sinhalese and Tamils. Despite 17 years of fighting between Sri Lankan forces and Tamil rebel separatists in the North and East, serious attacks on churches are fairly unusual.

However, Yogarajah said that Buddhist political groups have been showing displeasure with churches in the countryside, where Christians far outnumber Sinhalese Buddhists.

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