Sunday, 2 August 2015
MANIPULATIVE CHRISTIAN CONVERSIONS IN SRI LANKA: SOME PERSPECTIVES
by Senaka Weeraratna
Buddhism which has been the moral and spiritual force in Sri Lanka in the last 2500 years, having survived a prolonged period (nearly 450 years) of persecution and discrimination directed at its adherents under western colonial rule, now faces a serious challenge from a growing Christian evangelical movement, represented mostly by foreign funded non-governmental organisations (NOGs) based in the country. This movement has as its overall aim the creation of a numerically and politically powerful Christian community in Sri Lanka (and also in South Asia) through a rapid conversion into Christianity of large numbers of Buddhists placed mostly in depressed and poverty stricken economic circumstances. The visibility of these NGOs in increasing number in traditionally predominant Buddhist regions, and the generation of alarming reports comprising narratives from affected individuals, and observations and studies conducted by third parties, has produced public anger and calls to combat this threat to the long term survival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
The use of unethical means such as financial, educational, medical, and the media by the Christian evangelical groups to induce Buddhists to change their religion has been viewed as a glaring abuse of the tolerance displayed by Buddhists towards other religions, and a violation of fundamental freedoms enshrined in the National Constitution. The aggressive conduct of foreign missionaries in their attempt to spread Christianity and other Abrahamic religions, and undermine the traditional status of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, as has happened in South Korea in the last few decades, carries with it the seed for a potential religious conflict in the future.
The purpose of this essay is to examine in brief the aim of organised conversion, the Constitutional provisions, the history of Christian Missionary work in Sri Lanka, the methods and strategies employed to convert people, the reasons that compel people to change their religion, the implications for the status of Buddhism if conversions continue to take place on a large scale, and the options available to the Government of Sri Lanka to protect and preserve Buddhism... Read it all