Sri Lanka voted for a new president in 2019 – and Christians are tackling their fear with prayers that he will not allow another wave of persecution against churches.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Secretary of Defense when his brother was president from 2005 – 2015 during a time when Buddhist monks aggressively attacked churches with impunity.
Rajapaksa won the election – in a field of 35 candidates – with the support of the majority Sinhala Buddhist population. Buddhism is the state religion.
Rajapaksa was sworn in at an ancient Buddhist temple built by a warrior king.
Under his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, Evangelical churches were frequently invaded by Buddhist monks during worship services. Buddhist monks severely beat pastors, burned churches, riled up mobs to surround and threaten Christians during worship services, damaged churches with rocks, and threatened Christians with death.
Pastors reported to Christian Freedom International that when they tried to file reports with the police, the police oftentimes failed to respond. Sometimes because the mobs were too dangerous. At other times because the police needed evidence on the perpetrators to act.
In a surprise upset in 2015, the strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa lost his re-election.
But this Easter, Sri Lanka was the site of one of the worst terrorist attacks since 9/11. Three churches were blown up by Islamists linked to ISIS. The current president and his government were blamed for not acting on intelligence provided by India days before that Islamists would attack churches.
The newly-sworn in President Rajapaksa vowed this week to protect all communities – while giving priority to Buddhists. He will maintain “Buddhism as the country’s primary culture and provide them with state support, but will allow other groups to preserve their religious and cultural identities.” His brother Mahinda will be prime minister.
A political analyst predicted that Christians will disproportionately suffer under the new president.
One pastor said, “We pray and bless Pres. Gotabaya to have wisdom to rule this land.”
You can read more – and how Christians are being helped – in After the bombings, Sri Lankan Pastors Ask For . . .
Christians to grow in faith and boldness despite opposition
God to turn Sauls (enemies of Christ) into Pauls (Christian leaders)
Protection for churches and Christians