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2005

Statement issued by the National Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka on the proposed anti-conversion laws

Posted on [PUBL_DATE]
2005

We, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka express our deep concern and regret at the reported moves by the government to introduce a Bill restricting the rights of citizens to convert from one religion to another.

In practice, this proposed legislation will go way beyond its declared purpose of ‘protecting religious freedom’ of all religious groups. In fact, it will enforce limitations on religious freedom, legitimize violence & harassment of minority religious groups and further de-fragment our already divided society.

At a time when we as a nation are struggling to recover from the cataclysmic effects of the Tsunami, such a move by the government to impose a potentially volatile law that is restrictive of human rights and individual freedom, and which legitimizes oppressing citizens of minority religions is, in our opinion, untimely and frivolous.

The destruction and anguish caused to our nation by 20 years of man made conflict pales in comparison to the unimaginable blow that nature dealt us on the morning of the 26th of December 2004 .  The Tsunami waves took the lives of over 40,000 people; sweeping over ethnic, social and religious divides erected by society with the same indiscriminate force that swept away concrete mansions and mud huts.

In the aftermath of this national tragedy, we saw an unprecedented humanitarian effort, at every level of society, both nationally and internationally. The fact that, to a large extent, ordinary citizens rose to the occasion, helping each other, irrespective of ethnic or religious differences is a tribute to humanity. Instead of seizing this opportunity to build unity among the communities, it is regrettable that our lawmakers are attempting to introduce short sighted legislation that will divide society by promoting religious strife.

Furthermore, the proposed law is in breach of Sri Lanka ’s international obligations towards the protection of human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The tarnishing of our nation’s image as a human rights violator will cause irreparable damage to our economy – a luxury that we can ill afford at this time of national crisis.

As law abiding citizens of this country, we reiterate our strong condemnation of any unscrupulous or unethical practices.

We stress the Biblical truth that for a Christian, conversion is essentially a matter of the heart not an act of coerced superficiality.

We reaffirm our commitment and calling to ‘love our neighbour as we love ourselves’; to build a society of peace, justice and equality – irrespective of ethnic and religious affiliations; to re-build our shattered nation.

We express our unequivocal protest against any kind of legislation that restricts an individual’s freedom of religion.

We call upon the government to uphold the norms of Democratic good governance by protecting the rights of all her citizens – the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression as guaranteed by our Constitution and International Covenants.

(signed)

Godfrey Yogarajah
General Secretary
NCEASL

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