Sunday, March 22, 2009

An anti-conversion bill in Sri Lanka faces opposition

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.
As in the days of Noah...

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