Over 100 Sinhala Buddhist monks and supporters attacked a Japanese Buddhist Temple in Kollupitiya on Sunday, forcing worshippers to barricade themselves in for fear of assault.
The Sinhala monks, followers of the Theravada sect of Buddhism, reportedly launched the attack to protect Sri Lanka from the Mahayana sect of Buddhism - the form practised at the Japanese temple.
One worshipper who hid inside the temple as the Sinhala monks stormed the temple, said,
“The Buddhist monks forcibly entered the premises shouting out that we stop our prayer session.
The monks said we should only have Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and not Mahayana,”
Worshippers were trapped inside for over four hours before the police were able to free them and escort them to safety.
In addition to the aggression exhibited by the protesters, the rescue operation was further hindered by five bhikkus who sat in front of the closed door and refused to permit the police to enter.
Freed worshippers, chanted "Budu Saranai" ('May the blessings of Lord Buddha be with you') as they were escorted out by the police, only to find their olive branch provoked yet more vociferous protests from the Sinhala monks.
Despite the violent scenes, police spokesperson, Maxie Proctor, confirmed that no arrests have been made.
The Sinhala monks were reportedly led by two monks, Ven. Akmeemana Dayaratne and Ven. Hakmana Nandajothi.
One of the trapped worshippers, who wished to remain anonymous, reported that this was the fourth such attack on the temple by Sinhala Buddhist monks.
She accused a former professor of Peradeniya University being behind the attacks.
“We found out that the so-called professor who was asked to leave the university now works as a tuition teacher,” said the worshipper.
See 'Monks destroy Muslim shrine as police stand idle' (Sept 2011)