Protestant clergyman killed in Ampara

Colombo, Sri Lanka – A young Protestant clergyman is the latest man of the cloth to be killed in Sri Lanka, where civil war and the lack of a neutral human rights monitoring agency allow all sorts of violence.

Rev Neil Samson died on Sunday in Ampara, in eastern Sri Lanka, from gunshot wounds inflicted by two men on a motorbike in front of his wife, who was injured, and their son, who fell into shock.

Colombo’s Anglican bishop, the Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera, in a statement to the press condemned the murder, calling on the police to undertake an “impartial investigation” into the case.

For the Anglican prelate Samson’s death is likely linked to sectarian tensions that have risen in the last few weeks in Ampara.

Local media have reported the detention of some Christian clergymen carrying explosive jackets. This has created suspicion and resentment against the Christian community.

“If the suspects are guilty they must be dealt with under the law,” Bishop de Chickera said, adding that in “such an event it will also be necessary for the particular Church concerned to offer a public apology, and for all Churches to review their procedure of selection and training for the ministry to prevent a repetition of such happenings.”

However, if “on the other hand these pastors are innocent they must be released and they and their Church publicly exonerated,” he said.

Finally, the bishop of Colombo lamented the fact that Neil Samson was a victim of a culture of war that is spreading across the country.

In his view “the two parties in conflict” are responsible for this trend, i.e. the government and Tamil rebels who have been fighting for more than 20 years.

Likewise the “absence of a neutral monitoring body easily encourages impunity, and the continuing disregard for acceptable ethical and humanitarian norms easily facilitates the occupation and destruction of places of worship.”