Lankan PM condemns ‘unethical conversions’

April 20, 2012 by  
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Sri Lanka, April 19, 2012: Prime Minister M Jayaratne called on religious leaders earlier this week to prevent what he called unethical conversions that threaten peace and stability in the country.

“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.

– ucan

Pastor beaten and threatened with death by Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka

March 8, 2012 by  
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boy-on-railway_srilankaSri Lanka, March 06, 2012: A church pastor in Sri Lanka was issued with an ultimatum during an attack by Buddhist monks in his home: leave the village or face death.

The incident, which happened on the afternoon of 20 February, started when three monks turned up on the pastor’s doorstep in Ambalangoda, Galle District.

He invited them in, and within minutes a group of around 30 monks entered the property. One of them spoke against the pastor’s Christian activities and warned him not to convert Buddhists. As the pastor attempted to respond, the monk slapped him in the face and hit him repeatedly until his wife and mother intervened.

The monks then issued an ultimatum that the pastor and his family leave the village, where he has been serving the church for over ten years, or else face death. He was warned that their house would be bombed or set on fire.

The monks took several photographs on mobile phones of the pastor and his family.

During the night of 22 February, the gate of the pastor’s property was vandalised with a warning message telling him “not to incite the village” and a drawing of a skull and cross bones.

Both incidents were reported to the police.

Christians and churches in Sri Lanka, mainly in rural areas, are subjected to sporadic but intense attacks, often by Buddhist extremists, but sometimes by Hindu or Muslim groups.

– barnabas team

Conflicting reports Ps. Nadarkhani *For Peace in Sri Lanka… Catholic bishops

March 1, 2012 by  
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youcef_foot_present_truthIran, February 29, 2012: Reports of the imminent execution of Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani are now being countered by news of delay.

Spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton says the latest information he’s heard is still being confirmed. “There is a report from an Israeli media outlet saying that the execution has been postponed. It’s unclear when it will happen. The other part of this report that has new information to me is that it was scheduled to take place today (February 28), but it was postponed indefinitely.”

There are other stories indicating there was actually no execution order and that Nadarkhani was being held for rape and “other crimes,” not apostasy. (Article 225 of the Iranian penal code states, “Punishment for an Innate Apostate is death,” and “Punishment for a Parental Apostate is death.”) Naturally, the changing details beg the question, “Is this a campaign of misinformation?”

“There are so many different pieces of information coming from different directions, that it’s hard to know what is real and what is not real,” Nettleton notes. It could discredit future reports coming out of Iran. Who benefits from discrediting the stories? The bigger question, says Nettleton, is: “What role does the Iranian government play in this? They have a history of not being transparent with the rest of the world as far as what’s going on inside Iran. So it is interesting to wonder if they are perhaps playing with this information as a way to try to gauge: ‘How is the world going to respond if we do this?'”

However, delay could be a response to the international scrutiny, too. “When it comes to some of the European countries, those countries can have sway on Iranian public policy. The Iranian government does tend to pay attention to what they’re saying. In this case, many of them are also sounding the chorus that a person should not be executed for their religious beliefs.”

The American Center for Law and Justice added their voice the chorus of concern. “If a human being becomes a bargaining chip for the ayatollah, that’s not a situation that will lead to anything positive,” says ACLJ’s executive director, Jordan Sekulow.

Nettleton says the lack of movement could also signal an acknowledgement of the conundrum Iran’s judiciary faces. If the court releases the pastor, it denies Sharia law, risking the wrath of Muslims in Iran. If they execute him, they face the displeasure of the international community, which includes dozens of human rights groups, the White House, members of Congress, leaders from the European Union, France, Great Britain, Mexico and Germany.

Trying to find a way out of the dilemma, the court gave Nadarkhani a chance to recant and return to Islam, but he refused. His story reveals a distress the government can’t ignore. Nettleton explains, “The government is responding with lethal force in this particular situation because the church is growing in a way that the government can’t understand and can’t control. They see putting someone to death as saying, ‘This will put a stop to Muslims leaving Islam to follow Christ.'”

The paradox of persecution, says Nettleton, is met by prayer. “There is an incredible hunger for the Gospel. There is an incredible openness to hear about Jesus Christ. We need to pray that there will be ministries and people and workers who will work in those harvest fields.”

Check our Featured Links Section for more about the work of the Voice of the Martyr with the persecuted church.

– mnn

For peace in Sri Lanka: learn from past failures

 

For peace in Sri Lanka, government should learn from past failures, say Catholic bishopsSri Lanka, February 29, 2012: Bishops urge the government to translate all of its documents in both Tamil and Sinhalese, draw up the list of people who went missing during the civil war and dismantle all illegal armed groups. The government focuses instead on big economic projects and disregards the country’s real problems, like its 200,000 internally displaced people and its 39,000 war widows, who live without aid or work. The bishops’ Conference calls for a Sri Lankan identity, not one that is either Sinhalese or Tamil.

In a press release, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka has called on the government to dismantle illegal armed groups, draft a list of people who went missing during the civil war and translate all official government documents in both Sinhalese and Tamil. This way, the report issued by the Lessons Learnt e Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) set up by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to investigate the final phase of the war can be more effectively implemented. Released in December 2011 after a year’s work, the report contains some proposals for national reconciliation.

Almost three years since the end of the civil war, the country is still licking its wounds. However, the government continues to borrow money to invest in mega tourist projects (taking a heavy toll on the environment and on thousands of farmers and fishermen) and build up the country’s armed forces.

In the meantime, more than 200,000 people are languishing in refugee camps, unable to go home to their villages or move elsewhere. On Jaffna Peninsula alone, 39,000 war widows live without any kind of public help or job to earn a living. At the same time, some 12,000 people, mostly men, are still missing, vanished in thin air, with the authorities providing no account for their fate or whereabouts.

For many, the LLRC report is a response to a UN report released on 26 April 2011, which blamed the Sri Lankan government for the death of 40,000 civilians in air bombings or cold-blooded executions.

Two days ago, a resolution went before the United Nations Human Rights Council on alleged abuses by the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels during the civil war. On the same day, the government organised anti-UN protests across the island.

In their press release, signed by Card Malcolm Ranjith and Mgr Norbert Andradi, respectively the president and the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri lanka, the bishops say “another valuable opportunity” should not “to pass us by”. In fact, “We believe that it is not incorrect to state that the most unfortunate experience of war was the result of thousands of missed opportunities. Hence, it is our great responsibility to clinch yet another vital opportunity God places before us.”

For this reason, “The report needs to be disseminated to the masses. It would be necessary to have the report, particularly its recommendations, translated into the two official languages of the nation.”

“Let all that concerns good governance be implemented. Illegal armed groups need to be disarmed. We also urge that the government to address the painful issue of missing persons and present a list of those who are still in custody as it always helps anyone to know if and when his or her loved ones are no more.”

The bishops also called for a cultural renaissance through art, drama and music. “We need,” they argue, “to identify the linguistic and cultural commonalities and affinities in establishing a Sri Lankan identify and be mindful of the fact Sinhalese and Tamil cultures have very rich roots”.

– asianews

Church boycotts state Christmas events

December 6, 2011 by  
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NepalSri Lanka, December 5, 2011: The Catholic Church is to boycott all government functions over Christmas in protest over the arrest of a nun on child trafficking charges.

At a press conference in Colombo on December 3, Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said he will not participate in government-sponsored events this festive season.

He said the Church strongly condemns the arrest of Sister Mary Eliza, an Indian nun serving at Prem Nivasa orphanage in Moratuwa, near Colombo.

The orphanage also provides shelter for abandoned single pregnant women.

“Our reaction to this is to stay away from any state functions or state-organized event this Christmas, until this matter is sorted out,” the Cardinal said.

He said the arrest last week was carried out without any foundation of proof.

Police and National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) officials raided the orphanage last week following a tip-off that children were being sold there.

“The sisters serving in these homes are from different countries and do a magnificent service. The NCPA has acted purely on an anonymous telephone call,” the cardinal said, condemning the adverse publicity given by the media last week.

“The NCPA gave interviews to the media without investigating the anonymous call they received. What happened here is that the NCPA and police did not know the true facts about the orphanage, and gave the media incorrect information, which was used maliciously against the nuns.”

He said the nuns were providing tremendous support for very vulnerable people.

“When pregnant women go to this orphanage seeking shelter, these nuns do not ask their caste or creed. Some girls have been raped and are suicidal because someone has destroyed their life and dignity,” said Cardinal Ranjith, who is also president of the bishops’ conference.

– ucan

Activists attack Fonseka verdict

November 22, 2011 by  
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Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero addressing the gathering to end political violence

Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero addressing the gathering to end political violence

Sri Lanka, November 21, 2011: Civic activists and religious leaders have accused the Sri Lankan government of using the judiciary as a political tool after the High Court jailed the country’s most distinguished soldier for three years on Friday. General Sarath Fonseka, who is already serving a 30-month term for irregularities in military procurement, was jailed for having “spread disaffection” by backing, in a newspaper interview, allegations that the defense minister ordered the shooting of Tamil Tiger rebels who were trying to surrender.

The defense minister was Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the president’s brother. Following the court case, a meeting of activists including religious leaders, journalists and lawyers, said the trial was politically motivated and called for judicial reform. “There is no transparency in the judicial system today and people should call for the independence of the judiciary,” said Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, a leading Buddhist monk. “We urge the authorities to respect the judiciary,” he said.

“I saw people rushing out of the court and expressing their anguish and anger at the judiciary. It was the first time in my 24-year career as a lawyer,” said J.C. Weliamuna, former executive director of Transparency International. Fonseka, who says he was quoted out of context, refused to accept this verdict, saying the conviction was a political one aimed at keeping him out of politics. The main opposition party said the verdict was a clear indication that law, order and democracy did not prevail in the country.

– ucan

Christians attacked and Church desecrated with human waste in Sri Lanka

August 2, 2011 by  
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Map of Sri LankaChristian homes were attacked by a mob, a pastor was assaulted by a Buddhist monk, and a church was desecrated with human waste in three separate incidents of anti-Christian persecution in Sri Lanka.
 
The most recent, on the evening of 19 July, happened in Badulla District, where the homes of the five Christian families in Dehiwinna village were attacked by a mob of around 50 people. The attackers threw rocks and stones at the houses, damaging roofs, and smashed windows with clubs and rocks. As threats were shouted at them, some of the families fled to the jungle until the violence abated. A grocery store made of wood belonging to one of the families was broken into and demolished; some goods were stolen. The owner was caught and beaten up by the attackers; he required hospital treatment for his injuries.

There are reports of plans to force these Christian families to renounce their faith or leave the village.

PASTOR ASSAULTED

In an earlier anti-Christian attack, on 10 July, a pastor was attending a meeting in the village of Keviliyamaduwa, Ampara District, about land distribution when he was assaulted by the Buddhist monk who had convened the gathering, and other assailants. They later followed the pastor to his home and continued to abuse him and members of his family verbally; the monk kicked him while he was near the entrance to the property. The pastor was taken to hospital, suffering from injuries to his arm and severe pain from blows to his stomach.

CHURCH DESECRATED

On 5 June, a church in Mahawewa, Puttlam District, was desecrated with human waste before the Sunday morning service. The mess was cleared up by the pastor and others, and the service started as normal. At 10am the congregation of around 300 worshippers was warned that a mob was heading for the church to disrupt the service. Within half an hour a 200-strong mob carrying placards forced their way into the church and began shouting threats. A lay leader who tried to speak with them was beaten and left bleeding from the nose. The intruders, some of whom were armed with clubs, continued to shout, demanding that the service be stopped. Police arrived, but rather than dealing with the aggressors, they asked the pastor to stop the service. Fearing for the safety of the congregation, he complied, and as they all left, the mob clapped and cheered, claiming victory.

Sri Lanka is around 70 per cent Buddhist, with Christians comprising some eight per cent of the population. Although Buddhism has a reputation for being peaceable and non-violent, Sri Lanka has a strong Sinhalese Buddhist movement that wants to impose its identity on the whole country, and some of its members are prepared to use force.

Sri Lankan Christians are therefore subject to attacks by Buddhist extremists, as well as facing incidents of persecution from Hindus and Muslims. Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka is expressed in organised opposition to some churches, especially in rural areas and places seen as Buddhist preserves. Christian buildings and church leaders are sometimes attacked.

– barnabas team

Priest wants Saudi maid investigation

June 30, 2011 by  
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Sri Lankan housemaid, Rizana Nafeek on death row in Saudi jailSri Lanka, 22 June, 2011: An activist-priest today joined human rights groups calling on the government to conduct a full probe in the case involving Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek, who is on death row in a Saudi jail. “Rights groups in Sri Lanka have joined hands with Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to call on the government of Sri Lanka to conduct a full probe,” said Fr. Nandana Manatunga, head of the House of Torture Victims in the diocese of Kandy.

Hong Kong-based AHRC said last week the housemaid signed a statement two years after the incident, saying she was forced to admit to the killing after being beaten up by local police, and that she signed a confession under duress. All faiths and organisations including Caritas have organized several signature campaigns and prayer services nationwide to appeal to the king of Saudi Arabia for a pardon to the housemaid, but to no avail.

Foreign Employment Minister Dilan Perera said the government was ready to provide compensation money in exchange for the release of the maid. “One parent of the dead child has pardoned the maid, but this is not enough. Both parents must agree if the maid is to be released,” Perera said. Several rights groups have appealed to the Saudi monarchy to intervene on behalf of the housemaid.

– ucan

Month of interfaith meetings, celebrating Pentecost in Sri Lanka

June 17, 2011 by  
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Map of SriLankaColombo, June, 2011 (Asianews): In the midst of the chaos of war and economic crisis, “the Lord touches our lives.” And once again, “confirms that true joy and peace are not found in favorable circumstances, but simply by standing before Him in worship and celebration” affirms Brother Lalith Perera of the community of the Risen Lord. His community is organizing one of the many inter-confessional events associated with Pentecost, which will be held throughout the month of June, in all languages Sinhala, Tamil and English, to mark the unity between Christians of different Churches.

On the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Trinity, on 19th June, the Catholic Church will hold a prayer vigil on the night of Saturday June, 18. The vigil will be held in St. Anne’s Maha Viddayalaya (School) in Colombo 13, to coincide with the Pentecost celebrations of the 30th year of Tamil Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Card. Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, has sent a message to the group: “That the solemn feast of Pentecost may awaken in the participants a true devotion to the Holy Spirit, and a commitment to be faithful witnesses of the Word of God and his Church.” The archbishop will preside over the blessing along with Fr Emmanuel Fernando, Episcopal vicar for the Tamil apostolate.

 June 25th instead the Holy Trinity community, an interfaith association composed of members of seven churches, will host the first meeting of the National Ecumenical Pentecost. Under the message “unity in diversity”, Louis Benedict, of Holy Trinity, said: “We are all called to collaborate in this mission. Today the divisions are so deep and complex that it appears impossible to achieve unity. But the Bible tells us that nothing is impossible with God if we cooperate with Him in doing His will. ” The meeting will be held in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, in Colombo.

 Finally, commemorating Pentecost the community of the Risen Lord, will organize a day of rebirth, on 9 July, at the College St. Joseph Colombo. The community, of which Brother Lalith Perera is part, organizes every year the “Four steps retreat,” during which “thousands of people have had encounters that have transformed their lives: the sick are healed, addictions have been defeated, marriages in crisis reconciled.”

 by Melani Manel Perera, Colombo (AsiaNews)

Jesuit not guilty of Tamil Tiger ties

May 28, 2011 by  
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Jesuit Father Paul Satkunanayagam with some children

Jesuit Father Paul Satkunanayagam with some children

Sri Lanka, 27 May, 2011: A Jesuit priest and five other people who were accused of having links with Tamil Tiger rebels have been acquitted after a court hearing on Tuesday. Father Paul Satkunanayagam and the others, all ethnic Tamils, were arrested in Dambulla on February 9. They were freed two days later. The Jesuit priest and others appeared in court on March 23 for their first hearing but the case was postponed until May 24.

“The Crime Investigating Department, Terrorist Investigating Department and Security Intelligent Service went through my life history, my counseling centre history, funders who help me and my accounts,” said Father Satkunanayagam. Father Satkunanayagam said he was acquitted from charges of being affiliated to “violent groups.” Media reports said the priest and five others arrested were allegedly in possession of CDs containing war songs that were sung by Tamil Tiger rebels. Father Satkunanayagam, who is in his 70s and is in poor health, works at an NGO center in Batticaloa where he offers counseling. He studied in the United States where he obtained a doctorate in psychology.