News Updates

Global Alliance calls for Increased Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka

Religious Liberty Partnership Releases Statement on Sri Lanka Religious Freedom, Calls for Recognition of National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(June 2012) Jubilee Campaign joins Christian religious freedom groups from around the world in welcoming the Colombo Statement (full text below), which highlights the existing and emergent issues facing Christians in Sri Lanka.

“This statement is significant as it is an expression of concern by the global Christian community on issues of rights, justice and equality of all citizens of Sri Lanka,” says Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission. “As a nation emerging from civil war and progressing towards peace, stability, good governance and economic development, Sri Lanka stands at an important juncture in her history and it is essential that all communities are treated equally and able to live in an environment that is conducive to the fullest and unhindered enjoyment of their fundamental freedoms.”

The evangelical Christian community in particular has faced violence from radical Buddhists in Sri Lanka for decades. Yet this violence has only increased their faith. Sri Lankan believers confidently told Jubilee Campaign that “only” killing a pastor or burning down a building cannot destroy the Church.

Of more concern to Sri Lankan Christians have been the recent increases in administrative discrimination and the continued refusal of the government to acknowledge the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL). Recently, the Sri Lankan police have even begun to close down churches based on a mysterious “circular” allegedly issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

In part this increased persecution may due to the general decline in Sri Lanka’s democratic freedoms, as the current the President and a few top officials grow more and more powerful. Despite the end of the civil war in 2009, the Sri Lankan military remains at full strength and the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission have not been implemented.

“This statement is a clarion call to the Sri Lankan government to move toward peace and basic human rights for ALL citizens of this recently reunited nation.” says Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign. “We call on the government of Sri Lanka to end impunity for violence against religious minorities in Sri Lanka, to recognize the NCEASL and permit evangelical churches to register, and to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission as the first step toward achieving full religious freedom in Sri Lanka.”

Jubilee Campaign is a member of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP), a collaborative effort of Christian organizations from over 20 countries focused on religious liberty. The RLP seeks to more intentionally work together in addressing advocacy, assistance, and in raising the awareness of religious liberty issues globally.

Colombo Statement on the Church in Sri Lanka

Issued by the Religious Liberty Partnership

June 2012

As members of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, we stand
with our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka who seek equality, justice, reconciliation
and lasting peace. We specifically call on all Christian denominations and organizations
worldwide to take this appeal for prayer and support of those working for religious freedom in
Sri Lanka to their members in recognition that we are One Body united in Christ.

The RLP acknowledges:

– The end of the 30-year internal conflict has provided an opportunity for peace and
reconciliation amongst all ethnic and religious communities throughout Sri Lanka, and
the church has been and remains committed to this effort.
– The end of the armed conflict has also brought to an end the colossal loss of lives and
allowed the Sri Lankan people freedom of movement throughout the country without
fear for their lives. However we encourage greater efforts to strengthen democratic
values, good governance and the restoration of the rule of law in all parts of the
country where corruption, abductions and acts of violence can be addressed.
– That despite intimidations and violations of human rights, there is a functioning
Parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka with regular elections being held.
– That although extreme elements within religious sectors have called for anti-conversion
laws, the Sri Lankan government has taken care to protect the constitutional right to
freedom of religious choice by not enacting proposed laws that would subject religious
conversion to criminal scrutiny.
– That the establishment of the Parliamentary Select Committee to resolve tensions and
ensure the equal protection rights of all constituent ethnic groups is a critically
important initiative.
– The recommendations of the Lessons Learned Reconciliation Commission appointed by
the President of Sri Lanka to ensure reconciliation and justice for all citizens affected by
the war, and we encourage the Sri Lankan Government to address unresolved issues of
accountability as a natural process of reconciliation and nation building.
– The appeal issued by 31 Bishops of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka,
including the Bishop of Mannar, calling for the implementation of the Lessons Learned
Reconciliation Commission, and we join with the 63 additional Catholic leaders and
others who have urged an end to the intimidation of the Bishops as a result of their
calls for reconciliation.
– That the Christian church in Sri Lanka, representing all ethnic communities, must work
together in the pursuit of this ministry of reconciliation, and we call on the Catholic
community to support formal recognition of the Evangelical Protestant Christians in Sri
Lanka, recognizing that in unity Christians can work more effectively towards the peace,
development and prosperity of the nation of Sri Lanka.

We call on the worldwide church:

– To pray for the recognition of Evangelical Protestant Christians by the government, as
equal citizens with due respect and rights accorded to other religious communities in
the country. That the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, which
celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2012 and is part of the World Evangelical Alliance (with
a constituency of 600 million), be recognized as the representative body of Evangelical
Christians in Sri Lanka.
– To pray that laws endangering the freedom of religion, conscience and choice, such as
anti-conversion laws or arbitrary regulations imposing compulsory registration of places
of worship, are not pursued or promulgated by the Sri Lankan government.
– To pray for an end to the forced closure of churches by the police and local authorities,
based on an ambiguous circular issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
– To pray for an end to the continued violent attacks on clergy and places of Christian
worship.
– To pray that all religious communities will enjoy the Constitutional guarantees on
religious freedom and that policies and practices which inhibit these freedoms will be
abolished.
– To pray for full national reconciliation, as well as greater understanding and harmony,
within Sri Lanka.

The RLP commits:

– To work toward the full realization of the religious rights of all Sri Lankans, including the
rights to freely change one’s beliefs and freely propagate those beliefs without
governmental interference or permission.
– To stand in solidarity with the Evangelical Christian community as they seek to obtain
equal rights alongside other religious constituencies in Sri Lanka.
– To call for all our constituencies and the church worldwide to pray for and support the
Sri Lankan church as it seeks to respond in a Christ-like fashion to religious liberty
violations, and to pray for the freedom of all Sri Lankan citizens under the rule of law.