Sri Lankan cabinet approves bill prohibiting religious conversions.

By June 25, 2004

Sri Lanka (MNN)–Much to the dismay of Christians, the Sri Lankan cabinet has approved anti-conversion legislation.

Last month, the Jathika Hela Urumaya party (JHU) drafted a bill to parliament on the “prohibition of forcible conversion.” It was similar in tone to India’s anti-conversion legislation. However, surprise election results temporarily tabled discussion until Sri Lanka saw the dust settled.

The Minister of Buddhism submitted his own bill to prohibit “forcible conversion” on June 16. The scope of the minister’s act is wider in interpretation than the bill tabled by the JHU. This act effectively makes conversion from one religion to another an offense under the law.

The proposal now goes to Parliament for further discussion. Open Doors’ Jerry Dykstra says the measure is problematic for outreach. “Basically, it’s going to make the spread of Christianity harder to do in that country. Already, there’s many handicaps to ministry in that country among evangelical Christians, including missionaries. It’s just going to marginalize the right to embrace a religion of their choice.”

Christians are in the minority in Sri Lanka, representing eight-percent of the population. Dykstra explains that, if the bill passes in Parliament, ministries are going to have to be very careful if they continue to work in and around Sri Lanka. He says prayer will play a big role. “I think we really have to uphold the missionaries there and the evangelical church. Unfortunately, even though we see growth in the Christian community there, there’s also a lot of division.”

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