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Silent protest held in Colombo over threat to religious freedom

Protest relates to attacks on Methodist Church in Anuradhapura allegedly instigated by SLPP Councilor

Demonstrators on Galle road/RepublicNext

Several hundred people staged a silent protest calling for the freedom of worship in Sri Lanka near the Methodist Church in Colpetty in Colombo this afternoon.

They were responding to a call from the Methodist Church to show solidarity with its threatened community in Anuradhapura.

The group which included the parishioners form the church as well as supporters of Human Rights and religious freedom from other churches and religious groups stood silently by the Galle road for about 40 minutes before dispersing.

Bishop Asiri Perera annd other clergy at the protest/RepublicNext

Methodist Bishop Asiri Perera who led the demonstration told reporters yesterday (18) “this is not a protest it is a vigil. Join us for an hour.”

Yesterday he accused a Member of the Anuradhapura Municipal Council from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna of being the leader of a group that has repeatedly attacked one of the Church’s worship centers in Kumbicchankulama over the past few weeks.

The modest house in Anuradhapura on 27 perches of land that has been attacked

Bishop Perera told reporters yesterday (18) that Municipal Councilor Nalin Siriwardene of the SLPP had been present during an attack on the worship center on March 31st and then had been the vocal leader of the group at the Police station yesterday when the two groups had been summoned to try and reach a settlement.

Rev Perera met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundera yesterday at Temple Trees where the Police Chief had assured the Bishop that the perpetrators of the attack would be arrested and produced before a Magistrate today.

Six men had been produced before the Magistrate and noticed to appear before courts on May 2nd, police said.

The pressure was brought on the authorities to take note of the complaint by the Methodist congregation who contacted “various parties they knew,” Rev Perera said.

Among those who had called the Bishop had been the former Defense Secretary and Presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The Bishop said Rajapaksa had sent a representative to meet him at the police station and later he had received a call from senior Anuradhapura politician MP S M Chandrasena who is also associated with the SLPP. The Bishop said Chandrasena had categorically denied one of their party-men were involved in these attacks.