NEWS Sri Lanka | 05 September 2023 16-YEAR-OLD STANDS FOR CHRIST IN SRI LANKA
Malith was 11 years old when he realized his decision to follow Jesus wasn’t popular in the part of Sri Lanka where he lives. At the same time, he also learned he had a talent for thinking up and designing new inventions. He created a solar-powered, glow-in-the-dark glove and won a trophy for the best innovation in a school contest. Yet the next year when he asked his class teacher the dates of the same contest, she told him: “There is no competition this year.” “They fear that if they have connections with me, the teachers will start to look down on them, too. They don’t even look at my face when I pass by.”
16-YEAR-OLD MALITH But two months later, Malith discovered the competition was indeed held—however, he had not been allowed to participate. And that has been the case for the last five years. “I am not allowed to participate in any competition because I am Christian,” he says. But Malith is not only a Christian. He’s a believer who boldly stands up for his faith. The exclusion from school activities and competitions began when Malith refused to participate in Buddhist rituals. When his teacher asked him to join a Buddhist activity, Malith didn’t mince words: “I am a Christian, and I cannot participate in these rituals.” Open Doors partners tell us he is the only Christian student from the school who takes this kind of bold stance. Most Christians in his school, instead, choose to hide their faith out of fear of being judged or excluded. “They are afraid they will be looked down on by teachers and other students,” Malith explains. “They fear that if they have connections with me, the teachers will start to look down on them, too. They don’t even look at my face when I pass by.” The teachers also discriminate against Malith. He is often unjustly punished and even beaten by his teachers. “Sometimes they reduce marks in my exam papers for no reason,” Malith shares. He remembers the time when he asked permission to stay home from school because he didn’t want to participate in a Buddhist activity. Although his request was approved, the following day at school, the principal humiliated him in front of other students, ordering him to join all religious activities from that day on. But once again, Malith stood firm. “We have a right to follow our own religion,” he said, in front of the school. The 16-year-old knows he is staying true to his convictions and is living faithfully. But that doesn’t make him immune to the pain of being left out and isolated. Like any teenager, Malith wants to belong and be accepted by his peers. “When I’m sad, I quietly pray to God in my heart,” he says, adding that his heart is to spread the gospel in his school.
Malith understands Jesus’ words in Matthew firsthand: “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22).
Open Doors field partners have met with and prayed for Malith and his family. He has also participated in Open Doors “Standing Strong Through the Storm” persecution preparedness initiative, as well a legal awareness seminar led by our field partners. Both have empowered him to stand for his faith as he continues to encounter persecution. “If we participate in other religious activities, it’s against the Bible, therefore I cannot do those,” he says. “Being a Christian is a lifestyle.” Pray with your brother Malith today: Malith is facing an important exam this year. Pray for courage and wisdom for it and pray for his career plans. Though he lost interest in innovation when the contest became a pain point, Malith is looking at a career in engineering. Pray that his teachers’ actions don’t discourage him from his future plans. Malith has a heavy heart for some children in his school. “Even grade six children are addicted to drugs,” he shares. Pray with him for these students … that he can be a light for Christ. Pray that the oppression of Christians students like Malith would decrease. Pray that Christians who are afraid to stand for their faith would not be swayed in other directions.