On the 8th of December 2012, a group of people, led by a Buddhist monk from the Buddhiyagama Temple in Hathamunayaya, forcibly entered the premises of the Jeewana Alokaya Church church in Weeraketiya. The pastor of the said church was informed that the church was not registered with the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs and therefore he could not conduct Christian worship without the permission of the Buddhist clergy. Further he was asked to close down the church and warned that if he did not follow their orders they would destroy the church. True to their word, on the 9th of December during Sunday morning worship, a mob of around 500 persons, led by Buddhist monks, attacked the church. For over three hours the congregation was physically and verbally abused, and their vehicles and belongings, along with the church property, were damaged and vandalized. The pastor’s children were threatened and he himself was pelted with rocks. The pastor was asked to give written assurance that he would close down the church. The police officers present advised him to comply with this demand and stated that they would be unable to protect him if he did not. Therefore, under much duress and fear for his own family and congregation, the pastor obeyed. It was after the mob assaulted two of the police officers, who attempted to stop them, that police re-enforcements as well as army soldiers were deployed to control them.
When the church continued with the Sunday morning worship service, despite the unlawful use of force and intimidation, the mob repeated these acts of violence the following week as well. This disruption took place in the presence of the police officers of the Weeraketiya Police Station, who were in charge of protecting the pastor and his family. Despite the complaints to the police and the police presence during this violence, there was no protection afforded to the congregation. The police inaction during these incidents caused the violence and agitation to escalate.
The said pastor lodged a complaint against the above actions on the 09th of December 2012, bearing reference CIB 2/72/99 and soon followed it up with a formal complaint on the 16th of December 2012, bearing reference CIB 2/210/200 at the Weeraketiya Police Station.
In addition to these official complaints, those affected addressed a detailed appeal dated the 15th of December 2013, to high-ranking Government officials. However to date, there has been no response.
In response to this situation, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance provided legal and monetary assistance to the pastor and his family.
On 18 March 2013, after the fundamental rights case was filed, the said pastor’s wife was assaulted. This took place when a mob of approximately 300 persons gathered and threatened to kill her if they didn’t drop the case. Despite these threats, they went ahead with the case and every two months court sessions were held. On the 21st of January 2014, over a year after the first incident, the Supreme Court granted leave to proceed based on the Freedom of Speech and Expression, Article 14 (1) (a) and the Right to Equality, Article 12 (1) and Article 12 (2) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka 1978.
The Supreme Court also highlighted the issue of police inaction during and after the attack on the 9th of December 2012 and suggested that there be disciplinary action against police officers who do not carry out their duty. The area police chief and all other relevant police officers connected to the attack on the church at Weeraketiya were ordered to appear in court on the 3rd of April 2014.
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