Sri Lanka's president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, has ordered an investigation into a mob attack on Sunday, February 18 at an Evangelical church in the center of the country.

Twenty-five people were injured, three of them seriously, during the attack on the Sanasum Sevana (New Life) church in Nuwarawatte near Hingurankoda, 140 miles north-east of Colombo. The attack has angered many Christians, but the nation's main ecumenical body has urged people not to overreact.

The attack is being blamed on those supporting Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese Buddhist culture. But some observers, including some Christians, believe that many Evangelical groups have contributed to communal tensions by their aggressive evangelization.

"The mob that attacked the church was armed with swords and iron rods," said M. A. Sumandiran, a spokesman for the Evangelical church. The church itself was severely damaged in the attack and "only the walls and roof remained," he told reporters.

In Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL) issued a statement saying that "masked men stormed the church just after midnight on Saturday, and smashed up the church building and property. As the believers and pastor came together on Sunday morning to assess the damage and have a prayer meeting, a mob of 100 stormed the place and assaulted the pastor and believers mercilessly."

In a telephone interview with ENI, EASL's general secretary, Godfrey Yogarajah, said: "This is not an isolated incident. There is a clear conspiracy behind it."

EASL has 40 member churches and links with dozens of smaller Evangelical groups. Their total membership is 60,000.

Describing previous incidents, the EASL statement said that the church's pastor had been "assaulted ...

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