A Methodist prayer centre was attacked on Palm Sunday in Kundichcham Kulam, Anuradhapura District. During the incident, the president of the Methodist Church, bishop Asiri Perera, was held hostage along with a number of church members.
Bishop Perera slammed the incident, which coincided with the celebration of Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, and told AsiaNews that he also received death threats.
In an appeal, he called on the authorities – president, prime minister and police – to ensure “our protection and our right to religious freedom, guaranteed by the Constitution”.
The prelate wants to avoid friction with the local community, but stressed the gravity of the attack, which saw a group of about 25 young people wait for the bishop’s arrival to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass. When he got out of the car, they surrounded him and told him to leave or suffer the consequences of refusal.
The prelate tried to talk his way out of the situation, managing to get inside the church where he joined the faithful gathered in prayer. Meanwhile, the group threw stones and firecrackers at the prayer centre. They eventually locked its entrance, effectively imprisoning bishop and worshippers inside.
At the end of the prayer, the faithful realised that they had been locked inside and so called the police. About an hour and a half later, they came and freed the hostages. The attackers were still there.
The faithful are “heart-broken,” the bishop said. “They have no place to pray, or celebrate the Easter Triduum. We all pray that God may give them courage and keep them steadfast in the face of persecution.”