A second anti-conversion law surfaces in Sri Lanka.

By April 26, 2005

Sri Lanka (MNN)–There are two anti-conversion laws in Sri Lanka’s Parliament awaiting a vote this week. The bills are being pushed forward by militant Buddhists. They are afraid that foreign religions will try to dominate the island.

While the government-sponsored “Act for Religious Freedom” is in play, a bill previously rejected by Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has been revived.

In August 2004, a bill introduced by the Buddhist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party was challenged before the Supreme Court which struck down two of the clauses as unconstitutional.

Rather than re-writing it, the bill has been submitted for a May 6th second reading, without the changes required by the Court.

For the bill to become law, it would require a constitutional amendment. That would need a two-third majority vote by the parliament and a national referendum.

With this private member bill proceeding, the status of the government-sponsored legislation is uncertain and may be delayed while the JHU bill proceeds. It also means it’s a double-edged sword for believers, and keeps opponents confused.

Godfrey Yogarajah, General Secretary of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (a VCM partner), presented his case to a Parallel Session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Yogarajah condemned acts of violence against his country’s Christian minority and explained the dangerous implications of the two proposed anti-conversion bills.

Glenn Penner is with Voice of the Martyrs’ Canada. “If passed into law, either one of these anti-conversion laws would have the effect of really institutionalizing persecution, in the sense that anyone who would lead a Hindu or a Buddhist to Christ could very much end up in prison and be fined a tremendous amount of money. It’s meant to have a dampening effect on evangelistic efforts.”

Penner says the impact of these laws could be devastating on all sides. “Even such things as handing out relief aid, such as what’s been going on with the tsunami, among Buddhist and Hindu religious leaders, sometimes they say ‘well, that’s just a way of doing conversion.’ ”

The end result, Penner says is that, “You can’t even do a good work because you’d be afraid that somehow someone is going to misconstrue that as a way that you’re trying to buy somebody into the kingdom of God.”

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