Lankan PM condemns ‘unethical conversions’
“Some groups are trying to gain personal benefits and spending a large amount of money to launch their projects,” he said in an address in Colombo on April 17 to leaders from Buddhist, Catholic, Islamic and Hindu communities.
“There is no space for such fundamentalists to make their efforts successful,” said Jayaratne, who also serves as minister of religious affairs.
He added that the government had revoked the visas of several international religious organizations, including some American sects, he said were engaged in unethical conversions.
Jayaratne further proposed the establishment of a commission headed by representatives of various faiths that would agree on a plan to prevent unwanted proselytizing.
Venerable Medagama Dharamananda Thero, a Buddhist monk who attended the meeting, said the issue of conversions had become a crisis that needed to be addressed immediately.
Father Ivan Perera, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Colombo, said cooperation between all faiths was the key to tackling the issue of conversions.
“All religions have coexisted peacefully in this country for years until recent times, where a few evangelical groups make conversions,” he said.
He further noted the importance of distinguishing between mainstream churches and fundamentalist sects.
However one evangelical pastor dismissed charges often leveled at certain groups that they pay people to convert and said evangelization was a key aspect of his faith.
“We cannot stop our evangelical work in the country. We spread the good news to the people and God always blesses our work, which is evangelization, said Pastor Dharsan, head of the People’s Church.
Jathika Hela Hurumaya, a Buddhist political party, proposed anti-conversion legislation in 2004, but the bill has yet to be passed because of strong opposition from some religious groups.