An anti-conversion bill in Sri Lanka faces opposition

By March 3, 2009

Sri Lanka (MNN) — U.S. Congressmen are pressing Sri Lanka to
drop its controversial anti-conversion bill.

The proposed bill, called the "Prohibition of Forcible
Conversions," imposes fines of up to 500,000 Sri Lankan rupees ($4,425 USD) and
up to seven years in prison for trying to convert a Sri Lankan citizen from one
religion to another by using "force, fraud or allurement."

The harshest punishments are aimed at those convicted of
converting women or children. The
Jathika Hela Urumaya political party, whose leadership is comprised of Buddhist
monks, drafted the bill. 

According to Gospel For Asia, a leader of that party went on record
saying that US-funded Christian missionaries are one of the greatest threats
facing Sri Lanka.

Ironically, Sri Lanka's constitution guarantees freedom of
thought, conscience and religion. That's
what has made the anti-conversion bill divisive. Debate has been deferred amid opposition from
Christians.

Craig Detweiler with
Asian Access says many are already working
toward reconciliation, regardless of the politics or jockeying for power that
has gripped the small island nation. 

"One of our vice presidents serves as a pastor in
Colombo, Kithu Sevana Church. They're doing remarkable things to bring
Sinhalese and Tamils together in the name of Christ, and yet there are proposed
laws that could make that a crime."

The pastor networks Asian Access supports have been watching
the anti-conversion saga. "We have
pastors in Mongolia, Japan and Thailand who are very concerned about what is
happening in Sri Lanka. If certain laws are passed, maybe by a Buddhist
majority there, it could be exported to other countries."  

Keep praying for wisdom for their team of church leaders.
"We're hopeful that the Christian community, which is a small minority,
will be able to broker a fragile peace between the Buddhist majority
Sinhalese and the Hindu minority Tamil community, and that there may be healing to
a country that desperately needs it."

Sri Lanka is a colorful and highly-complex country whose
people have paid a heavy price in a decades-long civil war. According to the Associated Press, the death toll
is estimated at roughly 40 civilians every day, with more than 100 wounded, as
artillery shells and gun battles between the two sides devastate the Sri Lankan
northeast.

Yet many hearts are open to the hope and peace that comes
from Christ.  Detweiler produced a
documentary about the country, its problems and its hope for a future. To watch
it, click here.

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