Showing posts with label Sri Lanka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sri Lanka. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sri Lanka:Anti-Christian belligerence rewarded.

Date: Tuesday 16 August 2005
Subj: Sri Lanka:Anti-Christian belligerence rewarded.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


In Sri Lanka, a local Head Quarters Inspector has banned a small Christian fellowship from meeting for worship or prayer on the grounds that aggressive, threatening Buddhist opposition to its presence led to a disturbance of the peace. This unconstitutional, unjust and arbitrary ruling is pure appeasement. Impunity equals permission, and appeasement leads to escalation. Unless it is overturned, this ruling will bolster the confidence of Sri Lanka's Buddhist militants with the hope that unlawful, anti-Christian belligerence will be rewarded rather than prosecuted.

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On Saturday 6 August 2005, the pastor of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Horana, Kalutara District, Sri Lanka, was informed that the mob which interrupted worship and harassed believers on Sunday 31 July was planning a repeat attack on Sunday 7 August. On the basis of this information, a request was made for police protection.

On Sunday 7 August, the mob of around 50 persons led by a Buddhist monk arrived at the church and demanded amidst threats that the believers (about 12 in number) cease their meetings, leave the church and not return.

No police protection had arrived, so the pastor once again called the police station, this time to request police intervention. The police called both parties to the police station to resolve the matter.

The Buddhists claimed that the Christians have no right to meet for worship in a village that is 99% Buddhist. Various unsubstantiated accusations were leveled against the Christians, based on the Buddhist Commission Report (which is a report, and not law).

The police accepted that the Christians have a constitutional right to religious freedom, which entitles them to meet and practise their faith. However, the Head Quarters Inspector (HQI) ordered the pastor and his congregation to stop meeting for Christian worship, with immediate effect, on the grounds that their Christian worship has led to a situation where it has caused a disturbance of the peace.

The church has also been instructed not to try and relocate. Hence the members of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Horana have in effect been banned from meeting for worship and prayer.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Sri Lanka: 146 places of worship closed in last 4 months.

Date: Friday 12 March 2004
Subj: Sri Lanka: 146 places of worship closed in last 4 months.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

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Goodwill Ambassador of WEA expresses great concern over Sri Lanka.
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The religious situation in Sri Lanka has been deteriorating for several years. However, a momentum seems to be gathering and heading towards 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. (Link 1)

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
onsequences."

Johan Candelin, who is also the International Director of WEA RLC, confirmed, "WEA will monitor Sri Lanka in its annual Report to the United Nations."

WEA RLC INTERVIEW WITH JOHAN CANDELIN

Q) How bad is the situation in Sri Lanka for Christians?

JC) The situation is very bad. There are the direct attacks by mobs with firebombs etc., but there is also an anti-Christian campaign going on in the media and this incites the local threats. So mentally and spiritually the suffering is enormous. December 2003 alone saw about 40 attacks, and then we need to remember that it is estimated that not even half of the attacks are reported. Just think of the children in a family who see their home attacked and burnt down!
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Q) To what extent is the present religious violence against Christians related to the peace process? (The proposed peace deal would give Tamils autonomy in the north and power-sharing in the national government. Sri Lanka timeline - link 2)

JC) It seems to me that the Singhalese national identity is rather weak (and the Tamil, rather strong), leaving many Singhalese people feeling threatened. This campaign seems to be a reaction to that feeling of insecurity. On one front people say, "The Tamils are getting the north," and, "the Norwegian peace facilitators have a secret agenda." On the other side many say that there is an American agenda to use the Evangelical churches to destroy the Buddhist heritage in the south. The Evangelical population is, however, only about 1%, so there is not really much logic in this. But of course logic and feelings seldom go hand in hand. It is also interesting to see that almost all attacks are in the South!
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Q) What has led to the present severe deterioration? To what extent are advertising, media and political figures feeding the deterioration?

JC) For years there seems to have been going on behind the scene a very well organized campaign against, and clear strategy to contain, greater Christian influence. Part of this strategy has been that the attacks will not be made inside the big cities and against the "old churches". Rather, when the gospel is shared for the first time in a Buddhist village then the attacks begin.

Newspapers, books and banderols are used for the hate and disinformation campaign. On one burnt church wall I saw a great banderol claiming "the Church is no more". Of course the claim that the Christians had killed the beloved Buddhist leader Venerable Soma in December 2003 was the trigger for a number of attacks. Ven. Soma died in Moscow of a heart attack and three non-Christian doctors made it clear that he had died a natural death but that did not stop the campaign.
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Q) Elections are approaching on 4 April. Does the newly formed party of Buddhist monks, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), pose any real threat in terms of their ability to polarise society, heighten Buddhist nationalist zeal, stoke sectarian and ethnic tension, or grab the balance of power?

JC) Yes, it has been a long time since Buddhist leaders last ran for Parliament. If some of them are elected it will have a very bad effect on religious freedom. One bad effect would be that they would have a national, democratic platform for their anti-Christian message. Another bad effect would be that as monks, they would affect other Buddhists in other parties. Their JHU party might even hold the balance of power enabling them to be the party that decides whether the present government or the present opposition gets the majority in the new Parliament. In that case they would have much more influence than they really should. A third bad effect would be that they would surely try to introduce an anti-conversion law after the Indian model. And many other MPs would hesitate to vote against that fearing it might look like they are defending the Christians against Buddhism.
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Q) What is the mood amongst Sri Lankan Christians?

JC) The mood is good but of course they are very concerned. There are two good things:
1) The Evangelical Alliance does a great job in coordinating and helping the suffering churches. 2) Since the attacks on Catholic churches the Catholic Church now clearly also is defending total religious freedom for all Christians. That solidarity strengthens the Christian voice.
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Q) What does the future hold for Sri Lanka's Christians?

JC) Worst scenario: Breakdown of the peace process and a stronger influence of violent nationalistic Buddhism. It needs to be said, however, that most Buddhists are not violent and do not support attacks.

Best scenario: Peace, better protection of the Christian minority, effective rule of law and the opening of constructive talks between Evangelicals and Buddhist. Both are afraid of the other group now.

END

Links

1) JHU monks want to rebuild Dhamma kingdom
By P. Wijetunge and L.B. Senaratne. 3 March 2004
http://www.dailymirror.lk/2004/03/03/front/1.asp
ALSO BBC: 2 March 2004
Monks to contest Sri Lanka poll
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/south_asia/3524583.stm
Buddhist monks' election bid
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/south_asia/3523125.stm

2) BBC Timeline: Sri Lanka
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/country_profiles/1166237.stm

EXCELLENT ARTICLE:

Anti-Christian 'nationalism' creates debilitating fissures in Lankan society
COLOMBO DIARY. PK Balachanddran.
Colombo, 2 February 2004

No right thinking person will dispute that a revival of the extremely rich Sinhala-Buddhist culture will rekindle in Sri Lankans a sense of pride in their country at a time when this is wearing thin. But what Sri Lanka is witnessing today is not the revival of pristine Buddhism. It is an aggressive and violent communalism of the Hindutva variety. Such a movement will be self-defeating if its main objective is to unify and strengthen Sri Lanka, a country already in tatters for a variety of reasons. ...

Full article:
http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_557452,00410008.htm
(article contains interview with Godfrey Yogarajah, General
Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka.)

Friday, January 2, 2004

Sri Lanka: situation critical.

Date: Friday 2 January 2004
Subj: Sri Lanka: situation critical.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


The grief accompanying the death of the Buddhist nationalist champion, Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero, along with all the subsequent and virtually unchallenged false information about a Christian conspiracy to murder him is resulting in the security situation for Christians in Sri Lanka becoming critical. (Link 1)

CONSPIRACY THEORIES - MURDER

Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero (57) was a champion of Buddhist nationalism. He died of a heart attack on 12 December in Russia where he was receiving an honorary doctorate. He was also a diabetic. An autopsy confirmed that heart failure was the cause of death and that Ven. Soma, with a heart condition, had suffered a previous minor heart attack. Buddhist nationalists in Sri Lanka had wanted Ven. Soma's body returned without an autopsy. The Sri Lankan government made a special request to the Russian government for the autopsy to be done in Russia.

Ven. Soma's supporters allege however, that he was number four on a 'hit list' of an unnamed Christian group. They have even named a Christian businessman as being linked to a conspiracy to murder Ven. Soma. (Link 1)

The Sasana Sevaka Sangamaya, a lay organization formed by Ven. Soma, claims it has information that Christian fundamentalists had arranged a sum of US $24,000 to silence him and Medananda Thera. (Link 2)

Thousands of colour posters have appeared which accuse Christians, certain NGOs (non-government organisations), and leading businessmen of hatching a plot to kill Ven. Soma. (Link 3)

Angry, vengeful and grief-striken Buddhist nationalists are embracing the late Venerable Soma's contempt for Christianity and Christian NGOs, and his passion for anti-conversion legislation, with renewed militant fervour.

"NGO MAFIA"

Venerable Soma referred to NGOs as the instruments of a "diabolical conspiracy" by Christian powers to convert and corrupt the Singhalese Buddhist nation. In the light of such allegations it is not surprising that the office of World Vision in Sri Lanka was attacked on 13 November 2003.

Posters have gone up that read, "Let's defeat the NGO mafia", picturing Ven. Soma walking with the Sri Lankan army. This image sets up an expectation that along with Sri Lanka's monks, the Sri Lankan army should be a protector of Buddhism. It is also "'a veiled rise up call to the military - exhorting it to demonstrate its true patriotic role as the guardian of the Sinhala Buddhist nation,' a leading political columnist for an English weekly published from Colombo told TamilNet." (View posters at TamilNet - Link 4.)

ANTI-CONVERION LAWS

On Monday 29 December 2003, dozens of Buddhist monks protested "unethical conversions" by Christians and demanded anti-conversion laws be enacted immediately. One hundred Buddhist monks of the Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya have commenced a hunger strike "unto death" opposite the Buddha Sasana Ministry, urging the government and President Chandrika Kumaratunga to bring in laws to curb unethical conversions. They also charge Christian "fundamentalists" of operating under the guise of NGOs. (Link 5)

(As has been explained in previous WEA RLC reports on Sri Lanka, anti-Christian elements regard all conversions as coerced and unethical. Also, "fundamentalist" generally refers to evangelicals, generally not associated with the mainline denominations, i.e. Baptists, AOGs, independents etc.)

The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) reports that Sri Lankan Roman Catholic Archbishop Rt. Rev. Oswald Gomis and Bishop Rev. Marius Peiris have issued a joint statement expressing their concern over the growing number of complaints on the illegitimate and wrongful conversions, and distancing themselves from "fundamentalist Christian sects, particularly by the more radical elements". This is clearly a self-serving measure in the face of rising anti-Christian hostility.

According to this Daily Mirror article, ". . . anti-Christian slogans have become the order of the day. There are fears that this wrath might spiral to unimaginable levels with the tensions exacerbated by unsubstantiated reports both deliberately and unwittingly propagated." (Link 3)

"HOLY WAR" - CHRISTIANS ATTACKED

At Ven. Soma's funeral, some monks called for a "Holy War" upon Christians. (Link 1) One man at the funeral was savagely beaten after being identified as a Christian. (Link 4)

The Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka has documented 14 incidents of violent attacks against churches, house churches, pastors, and Christian families in the 5 days between the 24 December 03 state funeral of Ven. Soma and 29 December.

STATEMENT FROM WEA RLC

"The global church and all organizations working for human rights should closely monitor what now is happening on Sri Lanka and contact authorities in Colombo asking them to guarantee religious freedom for everyone in Sri Lanka," says Johan Candelin, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission and Goodwill Ambassador of WEA. "Unless this is done we are probably seeing only the beginning of a "disinformation war and subsequent attacks" against Christians. World Evangelical Alliance will surely take up these attacks at the UN Commission meeting in Geneva this spring (April)."

The articles linked to here are the most detailed reports on this horrific situation - they are essential reading.

Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) Attacks on churches reflect religious tensions in Sri Lanka
By Feizal Samath, InterPress Service, 31 December 2003
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2003/dec/31/yehey/opinion/20031231opi6.html
AND
Sri Lanka police on guard after attacks on churches
Reuters, 30 Dec 2003
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/CL156772.htm

2) Sri Lankan Buddhists Target Christians for Monk's Death
By Champika Liyanaarachchi, Colombo, 23 Dec 2003
http://www.oneworld.net/article/view/75763/1/

3) Ethno-religious insecurities take precedence over peace process
By Champika Liyanaarachchi, Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka 24 Dec 2003
http://www.dailymirror.lk/2003/12/24/opinion/1.asp

4) Postmortem of xenophobia
TamilNet, 29 December 2003
http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=10812

5) Fasting monks demand anti-conversion laws
Minister promises Cabinet proposal
By Pujitha Wijetunge Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, 30 Dec 2003
http://www.dailymirror.lk/2003/12/30/front/1.asp

Friday, August 15, 2003

Sri Lanka: no right to 'propagate religion'

Date: Friday 15 August 2003
Subj: Sri Lanka: The Church's Darkest Hour
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


The situation for Christians in Sri Lanka is deteriorating rapidly. Only around one percent of Sri Lankans are evangelical Protestant Christian. The evangelical Church has grown in the past two decades. This is virtually exclusively due to the tireless ministry of indigenous Sri Lankan church planters and local personal witness.

The report below was prepared by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka. It is deeply disturbing. Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has ruled that although it is permissible under Article 10 and 14(1)e of the Constitution for a person to manifest, observe and practice one's religion, that does NOT guarantee a fundamental right to propagate religion.

The Supreme Court also ruled that as Buddhism is the State religion, it is unconstitutional for Christian organizations that propose to carry out proselytization of the Christian faith to be able to be incorporated under an Act of Parliament. The Court further concluded that clauses 3 (right to observe and practise a religion) and 5 (right to hold property) of Sri Lanka's Incorporation Bill are unconstitutional, because (it reasoned) if a Christian organisation owns property, that might induce others to convert, thus violating their freedom of religion.

On top of all this, the progression of Sri Lanka's Anti-Conversion Bill (modelled on the Anti-Conversion Ordinance of Tamil Nadu, India) appears to be gaining momentum.

- EK

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SRI LANKA'S CHURCH - THE DARKEST HOUR
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- from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka

Recent developments and trends affecting Religious Freedom:

1) Anti-Conversion Law - a new twist

The past two weeks have revealed a new development in the proposed Anti-Conversion Bill issue. Minister W.J.M. Lokubandara who is the Minister of Buddhism and Legal Reform has now taken up the cause and has formally announced on the electronic media that he will be presenting the anti-conversion Bill. As a senior Minister of the Cabinet and a stalwart of the governing party, Minister Lokubandara wields considerable power and influence.

Initially, it was Minister of Hindu Cultural Affairs Mr. Maheswaran, who championed the cause for an anti-conversion Bill, after his return from a visit to the Indian State of Tamil Nadu in November 2002. By July 2003, the draft legislation, modelled on the Tamil Nadu Bill was sent to the Attorney General's office (in keeping with procedure) prior to being presented in Parliament.

It is unclear whether Minister Lokubandara will be presenting Minister Maheswaran's draft or a different draft of the Bill.

2) Right of Incorporation and Constitutional Guarantees.

Within the past two years, three petitions have come up before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka challenging the right of Christian ministries to be incorporated under an Act of Parliament. The third and latest judgment was delivered by the Supreme Court last week against the 'Provincial of the Teaching Sisters of the Holy Cross of the Third Order of St. Francis in Menzingen of Sri Lanka' - which is a Catholic Ministry.

(According to a news report in the Sunday Times newspaper on 10th August 2003) The Supreme Court, interpreting Article 10 and 14(1)e of the Constitution, ruled that although it was permissible under our Constitution for a person to manifest, observe and practice ones religion, it does not guarantee a fundamental right to propagate religion.

Article 9 of the Constitution guarantees Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly, casts a duty upon the State to protect and foster Buddhism. The Supreme Court held that the purpose of the ministry in question "the spread of knowledge of the Catholic religion and to impart religious, educational and vocational training to youth" (clause 3) is inconsistent with Article 9 of the Constitution; and therefore denied the right of incorporation. The object of clause 3 was seen as a threat to the very existence of Buddhism.

They further held that clause 3 and 5 in the incorporation Bill are unconstitutional. Clause 5 deals with the right of holding and receiving property both movable and immovable and or the power of disposing of such property. The court stated that this clause when combined with the objective of observance and practice of a religion or belief (clause 3), would necessarily result in imposing upon people who are defenceless, vulnerable or in need, improper pressure and inducement to adopt a religion or belief. This they stated, would violate Article 10 of the Constitution which guarantees the freedom of adopting a religion or belief.

The 3 judge bench consisted of Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, Justice H.S. Yapa and Justice Nihal Jayasinghe.

Minister Lokubandara, calling a press conference a day after the judgment was announced in Parliament, stated "this is a clear judgment. It will give us the legal backing to stop this kind of (*unethical conversion) activity carried out in the name of religion".

* The constant accusation levelled against the evangelical churches is 'unethical conversion'. So much so that the words 'unethical conversion' has become synonymous with 'conversion'. The accusation is that conversion is carried out by duping the poor to embrace a foreign religion by tempting them with material benefits and money.

The judgment and interpretation of Articles 9, 10 and 14 (1) (e) as applied by the learned justices in this case, form a dangerous precedent of law for all lower courts.

In the previous two judgments against 'Sahanaye Doratuwa' ministry in 2002 and 'New Harvest Wine Ministries' in January 2003, the Chief Justice ruled that incorporation of a Christian organization that proposes to carry out proselytization of the Christian faith is unconstitutional.

The collective effect of all the above developments predict a very dark time ahead for the Church in Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court decisions will definitely be a strong platform for launching the anti-conversion Bill.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Sri Lanka: The Call for Anti-Conversion Legislation.

Date: Thursday 13 March 2003
Subj: Sri Lanka: The Call for Anti-Conversion Legislation.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


The following posting is an update on the progression of anti-conversion legislation in Sri Lanka. This overview and update has been provided by the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka

- EK

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THE CALL FOR LEGISLATION IN SRI LANKA
Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka


The call to introduce anti-conversion laws in Sri Lanka has been around for several years, championed by the fundamentalist Buddhist groups. It is a direct reaction to the growth of the Evangelical Christian Church in this predominantly Buddhist land. However, successive Governments chose not to introduce such a Bill.

In November 2002, the Hindu Cultural Affairs Minister Mr. Maheshwaran, on his return from a visit to Tamil Nadu in India, made a public statement vowing to introduce a bill in Parliament curbing religious conversions. This was in the wake of the introduction of an anti-conversion bill in Tamil Nadu State, India. This is the first time that this call is being championed by a Cabinet Minister. The anti-Christian lobby, consisting of Buddhist, Hindu and some Catholic groups, endorse the Minister's stand.

Mr. Maheshwaran did in subsequent public speeches (reported in the Tamil language press) reiterate his intention of introducing the bill to Parliament in February 2003.There have been some public demonstrations both for and against the proposed legislation.

It is believed that the draft legislation will be modelled on the Tamil Nadu bill. Since the Government's official response to this situation has been silence, it is probable that it will be introduced in Parliament by Mr. Maheshwaran as an individual Member's bill. According to law, a bill tabled in Parliament has to be passed by the Parliament for it to have force of law.

We fear that it might attract wide support in Parliament both among the government members and the Opposition, including the vociferous Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MPs. In the event that it is voted in to effect by the Parliament, the only recourse is to challenge it in the Supreme Court. However, faith in the impartiality of the judiciary is low.

Tamil Nadu Anti-Conversion Bill.

The draft of the Sri Lanka Bill - we learn from reliable sources - is ready. It is modelled on the Tamil Nadu Ordinance. We have learned from reliable sources that that the definitions in Section 2 of the Tamil Nadu Ordinance remain the same in the Sri Lanka draft.

For example -

"allurement" - offer of any temptation in the form of a gift, gratification, either in cash or kind, or a grant of any material benefit (monetary or otherwise).

"convert" - to make one person to renounce one religion and adopt another religion.

"force" - include a show or force of a threat of injury of any kind including threat of divine displeasure or social ex-communication:

The draft remains a secret document and we have no access to its full contents.

END

Friday, November 8, 2002

Sri Lanka: Escalating Buddhist Nationalism.

Date: Friday 8 November 2002
Subj: Sri Lanka: Escalating Buddhist Nationalism.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


In recent years, Sri Lanka has seen the rise of an increasingly aggressive Buddhist nationalism, complete with disinformation, discrimination and violent persecution. The movement gained considerable momentum during 2001, especially after Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake suggested there was a conspiracy against Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and urged young men to enter the priesthood in order to protect the religion. He claimed that Buddhism was under threat, even though more than seventy percent of the population is Buddhist (with Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities).

Buddhist leaders have been lobbying the government to ban conversions to Christianity. According to Operation World 21st Century Edition, while Buddhism is growing at 1.1 percent, Protestant Christianity is growing at 3.9 percent and the independent churches are growing at 20.1 percent. Buddhism reportedly loses some 23,000 people each year to Christianity.

Along with Church growth, the trend is increasing social hostility and violent persecution. While the government endorses religious freedom, it appears to be unwilling to engage in political suicide by protecting the Christian minority in this climate of escalating Buddhist nationalism.

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ESCALATING BUDDHIST NATIONALISM

A conference was held in July 2001 with the aim of "making all Buddhists aware of the seriousness of this problem (conversions)." The media release on the conference stated, "The fundamentalist Evangelists who are unethically converting Buddhists to Christianity are one of the main threats to Buddhism." ("Buddhist conference tomorrow at BMICH", by Mallika Wanigasundera, 29 July 2001)

The problem, it claimed, was that "religious freedoms are abused by Evangelists on the assumption that there are no bounds to their activities under the law." Sighting India as a precedent, the Buddhists claimed that, "conversion is not a fundamental right." Other matters to be discussed at the conference were, "Construction of churches, conversion of residences into churches, action brought by Evangelists in the courts over the issue of visas to religious teachers."

The Sinhala Commission Report of July 2001 identified Christianity as the main enemy of Sinhalese culture and religion. According to the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL), this report set a media smear campaign in motion.

"Political and religious leaders are mounting attacks against Christian groups. It also has stirred up anti-Christian sentiment across the country and has given credibility to the accusations of Buddhist extremists.

"Various factions of Buddhist extremists are calling on the government to pass a law to ban conversions. Clerics in several districts have vowed to take collective action against Christians, particularly those working amongst the poverty-stricken rural areas.

"Buddhist leaders and organisations are also exerting pressure on the prime minister and the government to rescind visas for Christian missionaries.

"One of the more vocal Buddhist lobby groups is the Bauddha Sanrakshana Sabhava (BSS) (also known as the Society for the Preservation of Buddhism). The BSS has its headquarters in the Asgiriya Temple in Kandy, and is led by an influential monk, the Venerable Medagama Dharmananda Thero. Their aim is to set up branches in every district to monitor the growth of Christianity and prevent conversions. They also intend to close down churches already established in traditional Buddhist villages." (EASL, CSW)

On top of this, the EASL reports, "The Presidential Commission on Buddhism has recommended that the village monk's decision in a particular village should not be overturned by either the Police or Courts."

This virtually gives Buddhist monks police powers that enable them to act like religious police with ultimate authority and total impunity.
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RESULTING PERSECUTIONS
Recent statements from the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL).

EASL 17 September 2002
THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH WORSHIP CENTRE

On Sunday 15th September an independent church in Padukka (a predominantly Buddhist area south of Colombo) 'The Lord is my Strength Worship Centre' was attacked by a mob led by a Buddhist monk. Around 30 - 35 believers were gathered together on Sunday morning for worship. They were in prayer when at 9 am a monk from a nearby Temple walked in with a mob of about 100 people.

He threatened the stunned believers, ordering them to leave the Church, and instructing the mob to attack them and if necessary kill them. The monk struck the first blow, attacking pastor Shun Turin with his umbrella. When he fell to the ground from a blow to his stomach, the monk picked up a wooden chair and dealt two brutal blows to the pastor's head. The entire gathering was witness to this. As he lay bleeding the mob overran the church assaulting the believers - including women and children - with wooden chairs from the church, window bars, and iron rods removed from the church drum set. The injured included a 10 month-old baby.

The church building and property within were destroyed including furniture, musical instruments and Bibles. The building was totally demolished and the roof has caved in. Meanwhile the incident was reported to the Padukka police and the believers identified the monk and some of the attackers. However, the police have not taken any action.

EASL Friday 18 Oct 2002
BETHLEHEM CHURCH

Pastor Stephen Yogarajah from Bethlehem Church Chilaw, Sri Lanka, was returning from a prayer meeting in Karukupana village with his wife and 11 year-old son. It was around 9.30 p.m. At Kodolkela 12 km from Chilaw 10-15 hooded men with masks blocked the road and started attacking the vehicle and the people in it with bars, poles, and clubs. The vehicle was badly smashed up and the occupants in the vehicle were also injured.

Pastor Yogarajah suffered injuries on his hand and head, while his wife is nursing a fractured arm. The 11year-old son was admitted to hospital with head injuries requiring stitches. The men had also attempted to gas the family by connecting the car LP gas tubes to the petrol connector.

EASL Monday 21 October 2002
ASSEMBLY OF GOD WORSHIP CENTRE

Assembly of God worship centre Weerawilla. One of Sister Lalani Jayasinghe's branch churches in Weerawilla was burnt down last week on October 13th. Sister Lalani Jayasinghe is the wife of Pastor Lionel Jayasinghe who was martyred in 1987 in Tissamaharama South of Sri Lanka.

An unidentified group of men set fire to the worship hall and also to a believer's home situated nearby. The house and worship centre were completely burned down. The believer lost all his belongings and is now without a home. Two bikes parked in the premises and a water-pump were also destroyed by the mob.

END

- Elizabeth Kendal

Further reading: U.S. Department of State International Religious
Freedom Report for 2002 - Sri Lanka.
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2002/14027.htm