On May 6, Parliament gave preliminary approval to the Prohibition of Forced Conversions bill and referred it to a standing committee. The committee may amend the bill before it comes up for an anticipated vote later this year.
Proposed by the radical Jathika Hela Urumaya, a party formed last year by Buddhist monks, the bill ostensibly bans religious conversions by force or "allurement." Such initiatives come at a time when Christians are engaged in providing aid to the tsunami victims and earning widespread goodwill. Christians say the pending bill would make them cautious in engaging in any relief or social service for fear of seeming to "allure" people into Christian faith. In a protest rally on May 7, more than 2,500 Catholics and Protestants gathered to oppose any anticonversion laws.
"As a minority group that has come under violent attacks, the Christian community will be very insecure, as they [could] be hauled before the court on false allegations or fabricated evidence," Roshini Wickremesinhe of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka told CT. "The bill will send a clear message that there is legal sanction for persecuting Christians."
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The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka has a statement and an explanation of the anti-conversion bill.
Last year, Sri Lanka's supreme court ruled that certain clauses in an earlier anti-conversion bill were unconstitutional.
News elsewhere about Sri Lanka's anti-conversion bill includes:
Controversy over Freedom of Religion Bill: Buddhists to meet UN envoy today | Representatives of Buddhist organizations are scheduled to meet visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom Asma Jahangir today (May 3) in the wake of mounting Christian evangelist pressure against the proposed Freedom of Religion Bill that is aimed at preventing unethical conversions. (AsianTribune, May 03, 2005)
Second anti-conversion law presented to parliament | United Nations Commission on Human Rights hears religious liberty concerns. (Compass Direct, April 20, 2005)
Our full coverage of Sri Lanka includes:
Church Building and Its Members Reported Swept to Sea | Horrific and hopeful stories emerging from Sri Lankan Christians. (Jan. 03, 2005)
Sri Lanka Bible College Aiding Victims, Churches | More than 30,000 of island nation's 20 million people dead. (Jan. 03, 2005)
Anti-conversion Reprieve | Sri Lanka Christians cheer high court ruling on controversial bill. (Aug. 20, 2004)
Cracking Down on Conversions | Buddhist radicals push tough new laws. (Aug. 10, 2004)
Anti-Conversion Conspiracy | Buddhist nationalists in Sri Lanka step up violence against churches. (April 26, 2004)
Renewed Attacks on Christians | Christians continue to suffer in Sri Lanka. (Nov. 19, 2003)
The Joy of Suffering in Sri Lanka | How Christians thrive in the land where ethnic and religious strife is always just around the corner. (Sept. 29, 2003)
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