By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
HIKKADUWA, SRI LANKA (Worthy News)-- Two churches in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka were vandalized Sunday by a mob led by Buddhist monks, according to International Christian Concern.
When parishioners of the Assemblies of God Church in Hikkaduwa met for services Sunday, about 250 Buddhists led by their monks shattered the church's windows and broke down its doors. Police protecting the church took no action as the mob proceeded to smash pews, destroy musical instruments and set fire to Bibles and hymnals, forcing the congregation to flee. The mob then moved on to nearby Calvary Free Church and attacked it as well.
Local police intend to arrest 24 people including eight Buddhist monks on charges of vandalism, trespass and unlawful assembly. In their defense, the monks claimed that local authorities had already ordered the churches to shut down; these authorities are being increasingly pressured by the Sinhalese Buddhist lobby, which is violently opposed to any Christian activity in the country.
According to Barnabas Aid, churches must obtain permission to operate in Sri Lanka from the Buddhist and Religious Affairs Ministry, even though religious groups are not officially required to register with the state; this is proving problematic for Evangelical churches as they aren't even recognized by the Religious Affairs Ministry.
"Religious intolerance and Christian persecution has skyrocketed in Sri Lanka over the past 18 months," said William Stark, ICC's Regional Manager. "Driven by Buddhist nationalism, Christians and their places of worship are now the targets of mobs led by radical Buddhist monks who believe Christianity to be foreign religion that is a threat to Sri Lanka's Buddhist heritage.
"According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, Christians in Sri Lanka were violently attacked over 65 times in 2013 alone."