In the vacation paradise of Sri Lanka, Christians are subject to frequent harassment and attacks by Buddhist extremists. Pastor Balasingam and his family have experienced religious hatred first-hand. But they refuse to give in to the intimidation.
Since 2016, CSI has been supporting endangered religious minorities in Sri Lanka through its local partners. In addition to legal support, we provide medical and material assistance to victims of religious persecution.
Pastor Balasingam grew up south of the capital, Colombo. In the year 2000, the young man founded his first church in his home country.
The very next year Buddhist extremists attacked and destroyed the small building. Over the next few years Pastor Balasingam and his congregation worked hard to rebuild their sanctuary. But just three days after the construction was finally completed, a violent mob of some 1,000 extremists attacked the church. Pastor Balasingam and several members of his congregation were injured and spent time in hospital.
The courageous pastor, who has had to change his place of residence four times since then, remains strong in his faith and his commitment to his congregation. This despite constant threats and further brutal attacks. In 2012, for example, he had to be hospitalized again after another mob attack.
Church continues to grow
For years radical Buddhists tried to obtain a court ruling declaring the church building illegal. But since a legal intervention by CSI’s partners in Sri Lanka, the legality of Pastor Balasingam’s church, which has grown to around 200 members, is no longer in question. And after the church installed surveillance cameras, paid for by CSI, the pastor and his family feel safer.
Despite all he has been through, Pastor Balasingam is strong thanks to his unshakable faith and the support of his wife, “my rock”, as he calls her. But the situation remains tense. Balasingam knows that his family and church community could be attacked again at any time by a Buddhist mob.
Around 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population are Buddhist, just under 13 percent are Hindu, and Muslims and Christians make up 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
According to CSI’s local partners, the persecution of religious minorities has increased under the Sinhalese Buddhist government elected in August 2020. Increasingly, human rights activists are also being monitored, harassed, or detained without charge.