Colombo urged to act on church attacks
[TamilNet, Monday, 13 October 2003, 20:25 GMT]
The National Peace Council, a Sri Lankan peace group
called on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's
government Monday to investigate and prevent recent
attacks on Christian churches. Sinhala nationalists
and powerful sections of the Sri Lankan Buddhist
clergy charge that Christian churches, particularly
evangelical groups funded from the west, are engaged
in an aggressive effort to convert Buddhists to
Christianity by what they claim to be "unethical" and
They are urging Colombo, invoking Article 9 of Sri
Lankaís constitution, to introduce strict measures to
stop the conversions. Article 9 says that Buddhism is
Sri Lankaís state religion and that it is the duty of
the government to foster it and ensure its primacy.
Sinhala Buddhist nationalists across the political
spectrum have long argued about a "Christian
Conspiracy" to undermine the roots of Buddhism in Sri
Christian groups affected by the campaign against
conversions say that Sinhala nationalists and sections
of the Buddhist clergy were directly involved in some
recent attacks on churches and converts. They say that
Police are generally reluctant to initiate action to
prevent the incidents.
The issue is hotly debated in the Sinhala and English
press in Colombo. The majority of writers and Sinhala
opinion makers are against Christian conversions.
Few, such as Mr. Zernie Wijesooriya, ex chief of Sri
Lankaís National Intelligence Bureau (NIB, now called
the Directorate of Internal Intelligence), have
attempted to present and argue the Christian point of
view in the press.
Mr. Wijesooriya was a lay preacher of an evangelical
Church called "Assembly of God" even while he was
serving as the head of the NIB.
Liberal Sinhala political analysts argue that
suspicions among Sri Lanka's majority the Sinhala
Buddhists about the involvement of US and other major
western powers in the island's peace process could be
further exacerbated by the issue of conversions to
Christianity, leading to anti-western sentiments,
which, according to them, is already being stoked by
Buddhist detractors of church activities among
Singhalese also allege that many Christians with a
hidden agenda are involved in the current peace
Dr. Jehan Perera, one of the leading members of the
National Peace Council (NPC), is a Christian.
The following is an excerpt of the NPC release.
"There have been a series of attacks in recent times
against Christian churches in different part of the
country. The contention that some of these churches
are alleged to be engaged (sic) in unethical
conversions, exploiting the poverty of the people, has
been used to justify these attacksî.
"There is also an insidious campaign to couple the
issue of religious conversions to that of Christian
involvement in the promotion of the peace process, and
thereby erode the people's confidence in it.
"In a plural and multi-religious country, the
protection of the right of people to enjoy freedom of
conscience and religion is a very important one.
The right is both enshrined in the Sri Lanka
Constitution and in international covenants.
Therefore, the government has a duty to investigate
these incidents and take action to ensure that they
will not recur."