Arson Attack on Church in Vahaneri, Sri Lanka
"I live in Sungaankerni, a village in Vaahaneri. Around 30 of us hold worship service here. The hut where we meet for worship was set on fire, on 17th August 2018 around 12 midnight. I was informed at 12 midnight that the hut was burning. But as I couldn’t come at that time I came in the morning and saw that everything was burnt.
We do not know who set fire to the place of worship. All the furniture and the utensils used for the Holy Communion were burnt. Now the 30 of us, having lost everything, we meet under a tree to hold the worship services.
We made a police complaint, but they didn’t site this place yet. It has been 2 months since we made the complaint.
We find it very difficult to have worship services under the tree during rainy days because we have many children. Because of that people are reluctant to come for worship during rainy days as it is difficult for small children.
Even though we underwent this unfortunate situation, we still love the people of our village. We do not want to quarrel with them.
Instead, we like to live in peace. Our fervent appeal is that similar situations should not arise again."
Mob disrupts Funeral service in Vaharai, Sri Lanka
“We have lived in Vaharai all our lives. It was our grandfather who brought us up and took care of us from our childhood. 15 years ago, our grandfather felt ill and was taken to the hospital often but he was still sick. On the 18th of January 2018, our grandfather died due to his sickness. From the beginning, we faced a lot of problems when we go to church. People used to throw stones during the worship service and tease us on the road. We faced many such difficulties.
This issue over the burial ground was a huge problem in our village. The Hindus have a cemetery but not the Christians. This is a major issue for us. Even though the cemetery that is there in the village is a public one, due to the religious differences we were not allowed to bury my grandfather’s body in the cemetery within the village. They gathered all the villagers and created trouble not allowing us to take the body to the cemetery. Then our pastor allowed us to use a piece of land which is about 1 acre within the church premises to be used as a Christian cemetery. In January 2018, some officials from the Divisional Secretariat visited the land and approved it to be used as the cemetery, after which around 4.30 in the afternoon we took the remains of my grandfather for burial through the main road.
Again, people protested and stopped us from burying the body and forced us to keep the remains on the ground and obstructed us. It was a very depressing situation for us. Until today we cannot forget that moment. They did not let us bury the body and said that they will dig up the corpse if we bury in that cemetery, even though we went with the police protection. As they did not let us bury the bod, we took our grandfathers remains back to our home. Then we dig up a pit within our land to bury the remains as there was no other way. At this time people from the church came and asked us to bury in the Christian cemetery at ‘Marngkerny”. Around 6 pm, we finally took the remains to Marngkerny which is 18 – 20 km away from our village. Now our grandpa’s remains are buried there. This is a problem not just for us, but it is a problem and challenge for all Christians in this village until today. Also, it is very saddening as we all were born and bred together in this same village, but we are given no respect from them.
We are not angry with them, but we are really sad. Their mentality is different but we, as Christians who have accepted Christ, must forgive them. Even today if they talk to us, we too respond. We live in unity, but they don’t treat us the same way and discriminate us as we are Christians. But we speak to them where ever we see them. We can do anything if we are united. In the village or this country Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims should live in Peace to take our country to a better place.”
Mosque attacked by Mobs in Digana, Sri Lanka
“Last year 2018, on the 5th of March our Masjithun Jummah Mosque was attacked during the riots that took place in Digana.
Even though we have past 9 months since then, we have not been able to restore our mosque and you can see the ruined state of it until now. You can see that the doors, the windows and the outside of the mosque had been destroyed completely. And on this side where the entrance is for people to enter through, it is covered with cardboards; the damages are so bad that it cannot be refurbished. It has been attacked to such an extent.
These are a few of the many pictures taken soon after the attack on our mosque. They stacked tires and burnt them. Our holy scripture Al – Quran was thrown on the ground and was burnt. The rooms used by the priests of our Masjithun mosque, the area where the teachings take place, everything was wrecked, and you can see in these pictures that the religious books, texts, and Al – Qurans were also burnt and destroyed.
This is where the Petrol bombs were thrown at. Even the electricity supply is now disconnected here. This area was used as an office room and it contained furniture for the worth of approximately 8 lakhs. And all of which was burnt to ashes.
Even though we experienced the riots, I would say that the people of the majority community and the minority are living in harmony without any differences and as brethren.”
A Reflection by Venerable Dammajothi Thero
“Every single human and every single living being on this earth loves to live a peaceful life free of any trouble and with freedom.
Lord Buddha Preached that which live on this earth including the humans are fearful of punishments, they get scared, they are afraid of death.
If I’m scared of getting punished or if I’m afraid of death, thinking the other person will also feel the same. I should never make another person scared or never attempt to kill them, is what our Lord Buddha has preached. Therefore, it is not right for us to act based on our bitter feelings.
In this country, we are living as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burgers, and Malay with our ethnic identity and also as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, Christians and Malay based on our Religious identity. Likewise, we are living in this diverse society.
In such a scenario, I also see that there are several occurrences where the harmony among this diverse society is challenged in this country.
One such situation is where several groups with fundamentalist thoughts spread their ideology and fundamentalist acts within this country and it is a fact that I want to mention especially at this point.
I also see that some political parties are trying to create national friction among the people of this country.
Therefore, as a member of the National religious and reconciliation committee of the parliament, I suggested that, before the country obtained the Independence all the nationals such as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims Burger and Malay worked together and studied together in one school without any issues. But today because of the political parties and different ethnic groups, people are divided. Which is a very dangerous situation.
Similarly, there are schools that are named after their ethnic identity that is also not a healthy situation. Therefore, I suggest that through the ministry of education we should formulate a curriculum where all the children despite their ethnic and religious identity could be together and learn together.
We should also provide the space for the different religious and ethnic groups to fulfill their aspirations and religious activities within this curriculum. That is what is important, not their religious or ethnic differences.
Where in each class groups children of all religious and ethnic backgrounds could be together and learn together fulfilling their religious activities and doing the day to day activities together is important. Instead of sowing seeds of Ethnic, religious, caste, and party discrimination into the small minds and hearts of these children, teaching them to treat all the people as humans is important.
Teaching them to treat all of the people equally and making them live in the society will enable our country to blossom and eventually we will be able to become a developed nation. That is our aspiration and blessings are for. At this time, I humbly request the people of Sri Lanka and also the people of the world to think about it.”
Mosque attacked by Mobs in Digana, Sri Lanka
“This is the Pallekale, Masjithun Jummah mosque and it was built during 1980s. Since then all from this area come for worship here as it is situated by the roadside. Now this mosque is in a pathetic state due to the incidents that took place last year, March 5th.
Now we don’t have a place for worship or even to hold our Sunday school. We never thought that we would experience such a situation. Even though they hate us we don’t hate them. Its ok if we were hit by them.
All our belongings and properties were earned through our hard work over a long period but now all of that has been destroyed. We have put up a shed to pray and to have our classes, we have 8 classes that are of 2 hours and two slots of 1-1/2 hours. On Fridays, we do not have a place to worship. We worship on the road, but the nearby people disrupt us with loud noises sometimes they even hoot at us. But we do not fight with them.
All that we say is that we do not have proper protection. We still didn’t receive any compensation. we were able to lift our heads with the little help we got from our people. We are now debtors to the world. We have been giving so much through our businesses but now we have become debtors to the banks and other sources.
We need to get our reparations and we need to rebuild our Mosque too. It has been eight months since this incident happened. But until now no one visited or sited this place to see what needs to be done. We have been drawing reconstruction plans for the past 8 months. But someone would always find faults. This is the situation we are in now. But we are patiently waiting, and we want to somehow complete the renovation of our mosque, this is our goal.
Our prayer is that, that no one should ever experience a similar situation. This attack was carried out by our own village people. We don’t discriminate by the religion, though I’m a Muslim my wife is a Sinhalese. We have been married for the past 38 years and we are leading a life in harmony. But we never even dreamt that our own villagers would carry out such an act of hatred.
It was a planned attack. They passed by my shop without attacking it the first time. but again, they came back and destroyed it. I submitted the video evidence of this. We uploaded it in Facebook and other social media, but no use. We gave the same to the CID and the Police, but no proper action was taken.
Even if we do not receive justice, all that we want is to prevent such incidents in the future, provide protection and pave the way for all of them to live in harmony. Be it a Sinhalese, a Tamil, a Muslim or a Malay; no one should experience this kind of act in the future. That is my prayer by day and night. Because we were born naked without anything and when we die, we will be wrapped in just a piece of white cloth. Therefore, we do not care when and where we die but the truth needs to be told and that is why I say these from this Mosque. These incidents should never be repeated to anyone.”