SRI LANKA: Anti-conversion bill debated

Fresh attempts are being made to introduce an anti-conversion bill in Sri Lanka. The last bill was judged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in December 2004 – just before the Asian tsunami devastated the coastal regions.

The new bill is at the committee stage where Godfrey Yogarajah (pictured) has led submissions from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) opposing the bill.

146 churches closed in Sri Lanka

The religious situation in Sri Lanka continues to worsen and seems to be heading towards a serious confrontation between the Buddhist religious establishment, the Sri Lankan government, the NGOs and the Church. Buddhist monks, through their recently formed Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, are now contesting the 4 April elections.

Monks are protesting and campaigning against “the NGO mafia” and targeting groups such as World Vision. Churches and Christian workers are being harassed and violently attacked on an almost daily basis.

World Evangelical Alliance Goodwill Ambassador Johan Candelin, Finland, has recently concluded a one-week official visit to Sri Lanka and is deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks in the island. “The big question is this,” says Candelin, “is this just the tip of the iceberg or the iceberg itself? One hundred and forty-six places of worship have been closed down over the last four months, and as such, the world should really take a closer look at the growing trend of nationalistic Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Another very disturbing factor is that no one has been condemned for any of the attacks. That sends a signal that you can do this without any consequences.”

The list of attacks is too numerous to publish but the report below of 15th February gives an idea of what is currently happening:

On February 15th, three churches came under attack in one night. “The Pastor of the Apostolic Church in Boraluwewa was warned that his church would be attacked,” said the spokesman. “The police were notified, but they failed to provide protection, or to investigate the threats. That night, a crowd of about 100 people with two vehicles completely demolished the church and the staff living quarters and all their personal belongings were set on fire. Five people were later arrested.

”The same mob also attacked Gethsemane Church in Boraluwewa, demolishing their worship centre.

”The third incident took place in Kurundugaha Hathapma Anuruddhagama (Karandeniya), in Galle. A gang of 10 attacked the home where the Calvary Church worshipped, armed with five swords and a gun. The homeowner was attacked with a sword, but he escaped with minor injuries. His wife was trapped in the house and the intruders threatened to kill her if the worship service continued. The family informed the Elpitiya police the next day and asked for protection, but so for none has been provided.”