Fears Anti-Conversion Legislation in Sri Lanka," Christian
Today, April 8, 2005:
Persecution watchdogs fear
legislation that may restrict the freedom-of-religion will pass
through the parliament vote in Sri Lanka. This anti-conversion
legislation may result in disastrous consequences for the Christians
and other religions in Sri Lanka.
law would complicate Sri Lanka relief efforts by Evangelicals,"
The Baptist Standard, April 8, 2005:
In 2004, a fact-finding team
from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty documented more than
160 incidents of violence and intimidation against religious minorities,
including dozens of church burnings and desecrations. Similar
figures have been reported by the National Christian Evangelical
Alliance of Sri Lanka and by other watchdog groups.
to have 'conscience vote' on religious conversions bill," Hindustan
Times, April 5, 2005:
According to the Becket Fund
for Religious Liberty of Washington DC, the bill, if passed, will
undermine Sri Lanka's economic and social recovery.
In an appeal to the UN Commission
on Human Rights, the Fund said: "Of the American tsunami
relief groups alone, 30 out of 67 are faith-based, including Jewish,
Christian and Muslim organizations. World Vision, whose offices
were bombed by Buddhist extremists, has stayed in Sri Lanka and
provided over 200 million US dollars of tsunami aid."
"Yet, the proposed legislation
would put faith-based aid workers in jail for up to seven years
if they are found guilty of providing assistance to someone of
The Fund then went on to ask:
" In the face of both physical imprisonment and staggering
financial penalties, what will happen to the stream of aid that
people of faith from around the world have extended to Sri Lanka?
What will happen to the child who needs a home, a dose of medicine
or a meal?"
one year on," Sunday Observer (Sri Lanka) April 3, 2005:
Q: What is your opinion on
the Anti Conversion bill which was to be enacted?
A [Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse]:
We are to have a 'conscience' vote on it. This shows that our
government is very democratic. No other government has taken such
a stand on a similar issue.
Lanka's Blow to Freedom," The Wall Street Journal, April
The corollary to the exalted
place Buddhism enjoys is that minority religions such as Christianity,
Islam and Hinduism, suffer from sporadic persecution. According
to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based
interfaith law firm that defends the freedom of all religions,
there have been over 160 cases of religious violence or intimidation
in Sri Lanka in the past two years.
After months of discussion
and tinkering, the government is preparing this month to introduce
the "religious freedom" bill in parliament, where passage
seems assured. Some international organizations are mobilizing
against the measure, and the Becket Fund is preparing to make
it an issue next Tuesday before the United Nations Human Rights
Commission in Geneva...
Anyone cutting through the
mush can see that the proposed law is a simple case of denying
freedoms -- of expression on the part of the faith-based aid organizations,
and of religion on the part of individual Sri Lankans.
Lanka may outlaw all missionary efforts," Deseret Morning
News, March 31, 2005:
legislation in Sri Lanka could target missionaries and faith-based
humanitarian aid workers, according to The Becket Fund for Religious
Among the faith-based groups affected by the bill would be The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has missionaries
in the Southeast Asian country and has provided disaster relief
there in the wake of last winter's tsunami.
Lanka to Vote on Anti-Conversion Bill," The Christian
Post, March 26, 2005:
Many Christians feel the billlike
the one struck down by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court last Augustis
an attempt by the Buddhist party to suppress the growth of Christianity
and stir up popular opposition to the Christian faith.
Lanka: Vote on Anti-Conversion Bill Nears," Compass Direct,
March 24, 2005:
Christians say the Act contravenes
several international human rights agreements.
Bill to be Re-Introduced in Sri Lanka," The Christian Post,
March 22, 2005:
The Sri Lanka government has
decided to introduce a new law restricting religious conversion,
news agencies and religious persecution watchdogs reported Monday.
Rajasthan State Tables Anti-Conversion Bill," The Christian
Post, March 18, 2005:
The Northwestern Indian state
of Rajasthan wants to adopt an anti-conversion law over the objections
of the local Christian community.
aid furthers fears of proselytizing," Christian Science
Monitor, January 31, 2005:
The Sri Lankan government says
it respects religious liberty and has signed international covenants.
But it may also feel the need to placate militant Buddhists, suggests
Roger Severino, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty,
a US-based law firm which is working with some Christian churches
in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Severino points out that
there are significant concerns about the fact that the Sri Lanka
supreme court has ruled that while the constitution protects religious
freedom, it "does not recognize a fundamental right to propagate
tsunami's wake, Christian ministries providing aid believe disaster
victims are spiritually hungry," Grand Rapids Press,
January 29, 2005:
Some see the issue as potentially
explosive in a religiously tense region. An Indonesian Muslim
cleric recently warned Christian agencies against proselytizing,
and militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka are pushing legislation that
would jail aid workers for "unethical conversions."
"People are going to wake
up and might have a rude awakening, because the world hasn't paid
enough attention to the plight of religious believers in Southeast
and South Asia," said Roger Severino, an attorney with the
Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which
works to protect religious expression for all faiths.
intolerance threatening relief efforts," The Star (Malaysia),
January 30, 2005 and "Religious problems muddy quake relief,"
iafrica.com, January 29, 2005:
"Now that we have an inflow
of religiously-affiliated aid organisations, the tensions may
increase," Roger Severino, legal counsel for The Becket Fund
for Religious Liberty, said at a Congressional briefing on the
Particularly in Sri Lanka,
Severino said, "We think that these aid groups could be considered
a threat by some extremist organisations which have a history
of accusing NGOs of unethical conversion activities."
The Becket Fund, citing reports,
said Muslim extremists in Indonesia had directly threatened Christian
humanitarian relief organisations for helping Muslim orphans while
Hindus in India had begun to tout their anti-conversion laws as
a way to counter Christian relief groups.
tsunami area, anger at evangelists," The New York Times,
January 24, 2005:
The attempts at proselytizing
are angering local Christian leaders, who worry that they could
provoke a violent backlash against Christians in Sri Lanka, a
predominantly Buddhist country that already is a religious tinderbox.
Last year, Buddhist hard-liners attacked more than 100 churches
and the offices of the World Vision Christian aid group, accusing
them of using money and social programs to coerce conversions.
. . "This is a dangerous situation."
say some Christians spread aid and Gospel," Chicago Tribune,
January 22, 2005:
Akkaraipettai [Tamil Nadu India]
officials were upset. . . . "We will not accept anyone trying
to convert anyone to another religion," said Selvamnattar,
the village president, adding that the village was entirely Hindu.
"Anyone who wants to help, we welcome it. But we will not
aid workers suspected of trying to convert Muslims," Associated
Press, January 21, 2005:
Hasri Husan, a leader of the
Islamic Defenders Front, a militant Muslim group that is operating
a refugee camp in Banda Aceh, made his feelings clear. "We
will chase down any Christian group that does anything beyond
offering aid," he said before making a slashing motion across
his throat. . . The country's most influential group of Muslim
clerics has warned they would "not remain quiet" if
Christian groups step beyond offering aid. It's a threat taken
seriously in a country where thousands have died in Christian-Muslim
violence in recent years.
wake of tsunami, relief groups plant seeds of faith for later growth,"
Religion News Service, January 20, 2005:
The work of missionaries in
south Asia remains controversial. Indonesia has begun restricting
the movement of humanitarian aid workers outside the hardest-hit
provinces. And the Parliament of Sri Lanka is considering two
bills that aim to protect Buddhism by barring all missionaries
from the island, according to the Washington-based Becket Fund
for Religious Liberty.
during relief efforts divides Christian groups," Denver
Post, January 17, 2005:
The heavy presence of Christian
relief groups in a region where other beliefs dominate and pockets
of religious tension exist poses challenges to interfaith relations
and underscores the wide range of philosophies faith-based agencies
take to religion and humanitarian work.
Islamic Group Warns of Backlash," Associated Press,
January 14, 2005:
Indonesia's most influential
group of Islamic clerics on Friday warned of a widespread Muslim
backlash if international aid groups involved in relief efforts
in tsunami-battered Aceh province begin proselytizing. . . "The
Muslim community will not remain quiet. This a clear statement,
and it is serious," Syamsuddin said . . . Christians have
sometimes been a target of violence in Indonesia, partly over
allegations they were attempting to convert Muslims.
Lanka: Religious tensions spark grenade attack," Council for
World Mission, January 14, 2005:
Relief workers fear their efforts
to get medical aid to tsunami survivors will be hampered by sectarian
questions cricket aid," Indian Express, January 12,
Marxist party JVP (Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna) parliamentary leader and propaganda secretary
Wimal Weerawansa wanted to know who was going to benefit from
the $11 million raised by the match, and the Buddhist party, JHU,
was concerned that the funds were channelled to a known fundamentalist
Christian NGO body, World Vision.
nature's power," Baltimore Sun, January 11, 2005:
In Sri Lanka, which has struggled
for decades with ethnic and religious conflict, a number of religious
leaders and believers said in the first days after the disaster
that nature was trying to tell Sri Lankans to put aside their
hatreds and years of battles that have scarred the land.
The predominantly Hindu Tamil
minority has historically suffered discrimination at the hands
of the Buddhist Sinhalese majority, a conflict that sparked civil
war in the country's northeast. Protestant and Catholic churches
and Muslim mosques have been the targets of anti-Christian and
anti-Muslim violence over the years at the hands of extremist
Buddhists. In eastern Sri Lanka, Hindu-Christian tensions were
apparently behind a grenade attack in recent days that left three
dead and 37 injured, according to published reports.
groups warned against preaching," The Australian, January
While the major aid groups
had healthy and pre-existing relationships with Muslim groups
in Aceh, the situation could quickly unravel if aid workers did
not display religious sensitivity, he said. "I would certainly
say it is a volatile situation. It could swing one way or the
The head of the hardline Islamic
Defenders Front, Hilmy Bakar Almascaty, has warned him to provide
only humanitarian aid. Father Riley said locals had also been
warned that they would be attacked if they worked alongside him."
JHU object to channeling relief through World Vision," TamilNet,
January 11, 2005:
In the meantime, JHU deputy
leader, Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera, in a letter to Sri Lankan
Cricket Association asked why the aid from the cricket match is
being channeled through World Vision, which in the past has been
accused of "unethical religious conversion". In the
letter he demanded an assurance that World Vision would not use
these funds to convert more people into fundamentalist Christianity.
priest vows to keep working,"
January 10, 2005:
High-profile charity worker
Father Chris Riley vowed not to back down on his plans to help
children in tsunami-ravaged Aceh, despite a warning from hardline
the spirit of humanity," The Jakarta Post, January 9,
Another concern is the
discovery of a leaflet at the Banda Aceh airport, allegedly printed
by a political party and discussing the adoption of Acehnese orphans.
The leaflet urges the Acehnese not to allow adoptions by "infidels
(kafir), Christians or missionaries".
Our energy must be focused
on the humanitarian aid process, not the politicalization of ethnic
and/or religious identities. We must do whatever it takes to return
the focus to helping all of the victims.
The presence of numerous volunteer
teams is concrete proof of the power of diversity. These teams
have only one thing in mind: to help the victims of this tragedy.
These multicultural groups are rebuilding Aceh and reconstructing
Indonesia. This is the new nationalism that we crave. This is
our Indonesian reconciliation.
wrath in India?" Beliefnet.com, January 8, 2005:
As the world attempts to tackle
the tragedy in South Asia, the focus for the vast majority of
South Asians has been on relief. But the tsunami has also magnified
already-existing tensions between Hindus, Christians and others
in the devastated region. In India--a country often seen as a
spiritual battleground, where religions fight over the souls of
the poor and dispossessed--some conservative Hindus have used
the tsunami to criticize both a Hindu leader's arrest and the
presence of Christian missionaries in India. Meanwhile, evangelical
Christian groups may proselytize as they help tsunami victims.
organizations mix missionary work with aid," Baltimore Sun,
January 8, 2005:
Spreading faith this way can
antagonize the people they're trying to help, and there's evidence
of concern among Muslims, Hindus and others. But evangelical leaders
say they define humanitarian aid as having a spiritual component.
in Asia: When faith is tested," The Wall Street Journal,
January 8, 2005
Bishops meet President Kumaratunga," ColomboPage, January
President Chandrika Kumaratunga
has expressed her appreciation for the humanitarian work carried
out by members of the Catholic Church to help victims of the December
world seeks meaning," Christianity Today, January 5,
Some in India are blaming the
tragedy on Christians and the recent arrest of a Hindu leader.
"In Indiaa country often seen as a spiritual battleground,
where religions fight over the souls of the poor and dispossessedsome
conservative Hindus have used the tsunami to criticize both a
Hindu leader's arrest and the presence of Christian missionaries
in India. Meanwhile," reports Beliefnet, "evangelical
Christian groups may proselytize as they help tsunami victims."
leads drive to thwart extremists," Sydney Morning Herald,
January 4, 2005:
The United States and Australia
have made the humanitarian challenge in the tsunami disaster zone
a security priority and plan to pour billions of dollars into
the region to stop it turning into a breeding ground for Islamic
radicalism and terrorism.
to table anti conversion bill in 6 months," The Daily Mirror,
September 23, 2004
bill inconsistent with the Constitution, says Supreme Court,"
Colombo Page, August 17, 2004
Lanka: Buddhists on warpath," Indo-Asian News Service,
January 31, 2004:
Lord Buddha may have stood
for peace and benevolence, but his disciples in Sri Lanka are
an angry lot. Buddhist monks in the country allege that Christian
groups are busy weaning away Buddhists from their ancient religion,
Lanka: Demand for anti-conversion law gains momentum," OneWorld
South Asia, January 28, 2004:
The issue of unethical conversions
to Christianity is snowballing in Sri Lanka, with the country's
leading Buddhist organization demanding the government ban all
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in anti-Buddhist
activities, and introduce an anti-conversion law by the month
of Anti-Buddhist NGO'S demanded," Abooda.com, January
The National Bhikkhu Front
yesterday (22) handed over a Memorandum at the Presidential Secretariat
demanding the banning of all anti-Buddhist Non-Governmental organizations
involved in establishing Western culture, causing disunity among
people and propagating other religions against Buddhism.
of Sinhalese Buddhist Civilization The Common Objective of The LTTE
And Foreign Non Governmental Organization in Sri Lanka - A Sinhalese
Perspective," Lankaweb, January 3, 2004
of xenophobia," TamilNet, December 29, 2003:
The preliminary report by the
Sri Lanka Police on the rioting at the funeral of the Buddhist
monk, Ven. Gangodawila Soma, was handed over to the Inspector
General of Police this weekend. Five persons were severely assaulted
by angry Sinhala Buddhist mourners at the funeral. Four of these
were attacked because they looked like Tamils. But all of them
were later confirmed to be Sinhala Buddhists, Police sources said.
The crowd assaulted the fifth after it identified him as a Christian.