Sri Lanka, 1 of 65
RECENT VIOLATIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN SRI LANKA:
A REPORT BY JUBILEE CAMPAIGN USA
AUGUST 4, 2004
For more information, contact:
9689-C Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22031
Sri Lanka, 2 of 65
Table of Contents
1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 3
2. Background ............................................................................................................................... 3
2.1 History and current political situation.............................................................................. 3
2.2 Demographics ...................................................................................................................... 4
2.3 Social context ....................................................................................................................... 5
3. Sri Lanka’s religious liberty record ........................................................................................ 5
3.1 Constitution ......................................................................................................................... 6
3.2 ICCPR .................................................................................................................................. 7
.3 Assessment of Sri Lanka’s record on respecting religious liberties ................................. 8
4. Anti-conversion legislation ....................................................................................................... 8
4.1 Background ......................................................................................................................... 8
4.2 JHU’s bill ............................................................................................................................. 9
4.3 Government bill ................................................................................................................ 10
4.4 Analysis .............................................................................................................................. 11
5. Persecution of religious minorities ........................................................................................ 12
5.1 Media reports .................................................................................................................... 13
5.2 State Department reports ................................................................................................. 13
5.3 Excerpts from Freedom report ........................................................................................ 14
6. Sri Lanka and the Millennium Challenge Account ............................................................. 15
6.1 Background of the MCA .................................................................................................. 15
6.2 Selection criteria................................................................................................................ 15
6.3 Compact development process......................................................................................... 16
7. Conclusions and Recommendations ...................................................................................... 17
7.1 Assessment of Sri Lanka’s religious liberty record in light of recent events .............. 17
7.2 Decrial of “unethical conversion” tactics ........................................................................ 17
7.3 Call for Sri Lanka to respect its religious minorities and fulfill its constitutional and
international obligations......................................................................................................... 18
7.4 Call for further investigations by the US government before proceeding with compact
development with Sri Lanka .................................................................................................. 18
7.5 Call for indigenous NGOs in Sri Lanka to hold the Sri Lankan government
accountable in religious liberty matters ................................................................................ 18
8. References ................................................................................................................................ 19
9. Appendices ............................................................................................................................... 22
9.1 Freedom report on religious liberty abuses .................................................................... 22
9.2 Other documents from N. R. Weersooriya ..................................................................... 44
9.3 Text of JHU bill ................................................................................................................. 59
9.4 Text of government bill .................................................................................................... 62
Sri Lanka, 3 of 65
Although its constitution guarantees its citizens ―freedom of thought, conscience and
religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [sic] choice‖
(Constitution, 1978, Art. 10), the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has in recent
months embarked on a course of action that belies these ideals and threatens the religious liberty
of all its citizens. Proposed laws banning ―unethical conversions,‖ along with official
indifference in the face of the persecution of adherents of minority faiths by those of the majority
faith, Theravada Buddhism, cast a pall on Sri Lanka‘s largely positive record on human rights.
Two bills have been drafted in recent weeks—one by a nationalist party of Sinhalese
Buddhist monks and one by a high-ranking official in the Sri Lankan Cabinet—that would
restrict the right of persons to bring about the religious conversion of another person. One of the
bills would require the person so converted to register with the provincial government and the
other would ban conversions outright. Both bills prescribe stiff penalties for violations, and both
define ―unethical conversion‖ so vaguely that it would leave the legislation open to overly broad
interpretations and potential abuse. Section 4 of this report presents summaries and analyses of
the two bills, and the actual text of the bills can be found in the Appendices, Sections 9.3 and 9.4.
These unsettling developments also call into question Sri Lanka‘s selection as one of the
first sixteen countries eligible for development aid under the new Millennium Challenge Account
(MCA), proposed by President Bush in 2002 and enacted into law by the United States Congress
in 2003. One of the major premises of the MCA is that recipient countries must be committed to
protecting the human rights and civil liberties of their citizens. In light of the current situation in
Sri Lanka, Jubilee Campaign USA calls on the President, the Congress and the administrators of
the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to investigate more closely Sri Lanka‘s record in
regard to the religious liberty of its citizens and to take the allegations of human rights abuses
appended to this report (see Section 9.1) into consideration before entering into any compact that
might suggest the United States‘ endorsement of repressive policies or behaviors.
Sri Lanka is a pluralist society comprising a number of ethnic and religious groups. It has
also earned a reputation for strong democratic governance since gaining independence from the
British in 1948. The country also has had a commendable record of religious tolerance over the
years. Four major world religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity—coexist for
the most part peacefully. The violent turmoil of the past two decades has been ethnically rather
than religiously motivated, with the Tamil minority seeking independence from the Sinhalese
2.1 History and current political situation. After centuries of rule by the Sinhalese
Buddhist majority, the island now known as Sri Lanka came under European influence,
beginning in the early 16th century. The Portuguese were the first to claim sovereignty and
spread the Roman Catholic faith. They were followed by the Dutch, who took control in 1658
and ruled until 1796, when they were ousted by the British. In 1815, the British defeated the last
of the indigenous rulers and established the Crown Colony of Ceylon. This arrangement lasted
until 1931, when Britain granted Ceylon limited self-rule. Ceylon became independent on
Sri Lanka, 4 of 65
February 4, 1948. In 1972, Ceylon officially changed the name of the country to Sri Lanka. Six
years later, Sri Lanka ratified its present constitution, which established a strong presidency as
one of its features (SAA, 2004, p. 3). This constitution, which gives Buddhism ―the foremost
place‖ yet stops short of establishing it as a state religion, and in fact assures freedom of religion
for all citizens, remains in effect today (Constitution, 1978, Arts. 9-10).
Since independence, two major political parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the
Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP), have for the most part dominated the political scene,
generally alternating in power (SAA, 2004, p. 3). The current government is headed by President
Chandrika Kumaratunga of the SLFP, who was elected to a second six-year term in 1999. Since
2001, the government has experienced turmoil, with the most recent manifestation having come
in February 2004, when President Kumaratunga dissolved the Parliament and called for new
elections. A coalition known as the United People‘s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), made up of the
SLFP and the Maoist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP = ―People‘s Liberation Front‖),
won 45% of the vote and appointed a cabinet led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse (SAA,
2004, pp. 3-4).
From 1983 to 2001, the Sri Lankan government fought a civil war with the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the ―Tamil Tigers,‖ a separatist group seeking an
independent ethnic Tamil state in the north and east of the country (DRL, 2004a, p. 1). The
United States currently lists the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (CT, 2004, n.p.). The
government and the Tigers both proclaimed unilateral ceasefires in December 2001, and signed a
formal ceasefire accord in February 2002. Negotiations, presided over by the government of
Norway, proceeded until April 2004, when the LTTE withdrew (DRL, 2004a, p. 1). After April,
both sides continued to honor the ceasefire agreement, but two incidents in July—a suicide
bombing in the capital city of Colombo and the killing of eight members of a breakaway rebel
group in a Colombo suburb—have led to fears that the violence may be resuming.
2.2 Demographics. Sri Lanka is an ethnically and religiously diverse country. About the
size of West Virginia, the island nation off the southeastern coast of India is home to 19.4
million people. Nearly three-quarters of these (74%) are Sinhalese, who live predominantly in
the southwestern part of the country. Another 18% of the population are Tamils, an ethnic group
that is further divided into Ceylon Tamils (12% of the total population) and Indian Tamils (6%)
(SAA, 2004, p. 2). The former live primarily in the north and east, where the LTTE wish to
create an independent Tamil state. The latter group were brought to the island in the 19th century
by the British as workers on the tea and rubber plantations and, according to SAA (2004), ―they
remain concentrated in the ‗tea country‘ of south-central Sri Lanka‖ (p. 2). SAA (2004) went on
to note: ―Other minorities include Muslims (both Moors and Malays), at about 7% of the
population; Burghers, who are descendants of European colonists, principally from the
Netherlands and the United Kingdom (U.K.); and aboriginal Veddahs‖ (p. 2).
As for religious diversity, DRL (2004a) said that ―Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and
Christianity are all practiced in the country. Approximately 70 percent of the population are
Buddhist, 15 percent are Hindu, 8 percent are Christian, and 7 percent are Muslim‖ (p. 1). Most
of the Buddhist majority practice the Theravada form of the religion; almost all of the Muslims
are Sunnis; and nearly 90% of the Christians are Roman Catholic. The population of northern Sri
Lanka is predominantly Hindu, Christians live mostly in the west, and the southern regions are
home mostly to Buddhists (DRL, 2004a, p. 1).
Sri Lanka, 5 of 65
In addition to the Roman Catholic majority, the Christian community includes
mainstream Protestant denominations such as Anglicans, Presbyterians and Methodists. Other
Protestant groups, including Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God and Jehovah‘s
Witnesses, are represented as well. DRL (2004a) said, ―Evangelical Christian groups have
increased in membership in recent years, although the overall number of members in these
groups still is small‖ (p. 1). While mainstream Protestants reside mainly in the cities (DRL,
2004a, p. 1), the evangelical groups have experienced numerical growth in rural villages
throughout the country, and have reportedly made inroads into what were before almost
exclusively Sinhalese Buddhist villages (Ekanayake, 1998, p. 4).
2.3 Social context. While little or no evidence exists to suggest that the national
government condones religious discrimination or harassment (see below, Section 3), numerous
reports indicate the presence of religious tension between individuals and communities within Sri
Lankan society. In particular, some Buddhist monks and their followers have begun to express
their concern about the growing influence of Christians—especially evangelical Christians—in
the villages. Appendix 9.1 details nearly two hundred acts of intimidation, arson, vandalism and
violence against Christian churches and individuals (Freedom, 2004). Many of these incidents
occurred at the instigation of certain Buddhist monks who object to the Christians‘ proselytizing
efforts, or what they call ―unethical conversions.‖
These concerns appear to be spreading. The media have picked up the story, with various
editorial writers denouncing the Christians‘ alleged practice of forcing or alluring members of
other religious groups to convert to Christianity through payments and other enticements. A
groundswell of support has been steadily building for a law to prohibit such ―forcible‖ or
―unethical‖ conversions, and two separate bills have recently been drafted to meet this demand
(see below, Section 4).
As alluded to above, to date the national government of Sri Lanka has not officially
condoned discrimination or harassment against religious minorities, but reports from Freedom,
an organization representing the Religious Liberty Commission of the National Christian
Fellowship of Sri Lanka, suggest that such discrimination takes place farther down the
administrative line. According to Weersooriya (2004), for example, a police officer in
Piliyandala told a Christian who wished to lodge a complaint about an attack on her house
church, ―You are a Christian. You have no right to speak—this is a Buddhist country‖ (p. 1).
One wonders at what point the national government of Sri Lanka becomes accountable for the
actions of authorities and functionaries at the provincial and local levels.
3. Sri Lanka’s religious liberty record
Sri Lanka has enjoyed a relatively good record for respecting religious liberty over the
years. In its most recent report on religious freedom in Sri Lanka, DRL (2003) gave the country
satisfactory marks in this area. The following are excerpts from that report:
The Constitution . . . provides for the right of members of other faiths [besides the
majority faith of Buddhism] to practice their religion freely, and the Government
generally respects this right in practice (p. 1).
Sri Lanka, 6 of 65
There are separate ministries in the Government, led by different ministers, that address
religious affairs. These include: The Ministry of Buddha Sasana (―clergy‖), the Ministry
of Muslim Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Hindu Affairs, and the Ministry of Christian
Affairs. Each of these ministries has been empowered to deal with issues involving the
religion in question (p. 1).
Some evangelical Christians, who constitute less than 1 percent of the population, have
expressed concern that their efforts at proselytizing often are met with hostility and
harassment by the local Buddhist clergy and others opposed to their work. . . . They
sometimes complain that the Government tacitly condones such harassment, but there is
no evidence to support this claim (p. 2).
There were no reports of forced religious conversions [during the period covered by the
report] (p. 3).
Discrimination based on religious differences is much less common than discrimination
based on ethnic group or caste. In general, the members of the various faiths tend to be
tolerant of each other‘s religious beliefs (p. 3).
DRL (2003) took note of a number of incidents of harassment or violence by Buddhists
and Hindus against Christian churches and individuals during the reporting period, but repeated
its disavowal of any knowledge of the national government‘s complicity in these acts (p. 3).
They also said, ―There is no indication of preference in employment in the public sector on the
basis of religion‖ (DRL, 2003, p. 3). They suggested that reports of such preference in the private
sector had more to do with ethnic than religious prejudices.
Sri Lanka has officially proclaimed its intentions regarding religious liberty in its
Constitution and by signing or acceding to a number of important international human rights
accords, most notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
3.1 Constitution. The current Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
Lanka was ratified in 1978. A number of Articles relate to issues of religious liberty and what the
Constitution refers to as ―fundamental rights.‖ These Articles are excerpted here:
Article 3: Sovereignty of the People. In the Republic of Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the
people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental
rights and the franchise (Constitution, 1978, Art. 3).
Article 4: Exercise of Sovereignty. The Sovereignty of the People shall be exercised and
enjoyed in the following manner: . . . (d) the fundamental rights which are by the
Constitution declared and recognized shall be respected, secured and advanced by all the
organs of government, and shall not be abridged, restricted or denied, save in the manner
and to the extent hereinafter provided (Constitution, 1978, Art. 4).
Article 9: Buddhism. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost
place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha
Sri Lanka, 7 of 65
Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e)
(Constitution, 1978, Art. 9).
Article 10: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Every person is entitled to
freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a
religion or belief of his choice (Constitution, 1978, Art. 10, emphasis added).
Article 14: Freedom of Speech, assembly, association, movement, &c. (1) Every citizen
is entitled to: (a) the freedom of speech and expression including publication; (b) the
freedom of peaceful assembly; . . . (e) the freedom, either by himself or in association
with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship,
observance, practice or teaching (Constitution, 1978, Art. 14).
3.2 ICCPR. In addition to providing for religious freedom in its Constitution, Sri Lanka
has agreed to a number of international human rights treaties, covenants and accords. Among
these are some which deal specifically with freedom of religion and belief. Perhaps the foremost
of these is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The ICCPR, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1966 and
entered into force on March 23, 1976, is one of the most important international documents for
securing civil and political rights around the world. Freedom Now (2004) said that the Covenant
―seeks to guarantee a broad range of universal human rights across a wide range of human
endeavor‖ (sec. 1, p. 24, emphasis in original). The following excerpts from the ICCPR (1976)
demonstrate this concern in relation to religious liberty:
Article 18.1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and
freedom . . . to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and
teaching (p. 7).
Article 18.2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have
or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice (p. 7).
Article 19.1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference (p. 8).
Article 19.2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall
include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless
of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other
media of his choice (p. 8).
Article 21. The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized (p. 8).
Sri Lanka became a state party to the ICCPR by accession on September 11, 1980
(UNHCHR, 2004, p. 10). Accession differs from ratification only in that an acceding country did
not take part in the deliberations that led to the creation of the treaty but were invited later by the
negotiating states to affirm the contents and thrust of the treaty and be bound by it. Freedom
Now (2004) noted, ―When a state becomes a state party to the ICCPR, it undertakes to
Sri Lanka, 8 of 65
immediately guarantee to all individuals in its territory or under its jurisdiction all the rights
specified in the ICCPR (sec. 1, p. 24, emphasis in original).
3.3 Assessment of Sri Lanka’s record on respecting religious liberties. It is clear from
the foregoing that Sri Lanka has expressed a respect for religious liberty in its governing
documents and its accession to international treaties. The question, however, is how well does
Sri Lanka‘s practice reflect its declarations on these matters?
One possible measure of Sri Lanka‘s actual record is the assessment offered by Freedom
House, a nongovernmental organization that measures countries‘ respect for civil liberties and
political rights and ranks them on that basis as ―free,‖ ―partly free‖ or ―not free.‖ Freedom
House‘s indicators have been adopted by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the
body established in 2003 to administer US development aid through the newly created
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) (see below, Section 6). Freedom House employs a
seven-point scale in assessing civil liberties and political rights, with a score of 1 indicating
complete freedom and a 7 indicating that the country in question is ―not free‖ (Freedom House,
2003). By these standards, Sri Lanka is rated as a ―partly free‖ country, having received a score
of 3 for political rights and a 4 for civil liberties (Freedom House, 2003).
Freedom House has only a little to say about religious liberty in Sri Lanka, and what it
does say falls in line with the State Department‘s assessment (see above, Section 3): ―Religious
freedom is respected, although the constitution gives special status to Buddhism and there is
some discrimination and occasional violence against religious minorities‖ (Freedom House,
Although both Freedom House and the State Department acknowledge the existence of
discrimination and violence against practitioners of minority religions in Sri Lanka, they seem
not to find in it cause for significant alarm. One must remember, however, that these reports
covered a period before the introduction of anti-conversion legislation in the Sri Lankan
Parliament, a development that may have colored both groups‘ perception of the level of
religious freedom in Sri Lanka.
4. Anti-conversion legislation
In July 2004, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a party composed of Sinhala nationalists
and represented in Parliament by a group of Buddhist monks, introduced a private member‘s bill
in Sri Lanka‘s Parliament entitled, ―Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion.‖ Another
bill, this one presented by the Minister of Buddha Sasana and representing the Sri Lankan
government, was approved by the Cabinet and is currently being re-drafted for introduction in
Parliament later this year.
4.1 Background. The call to create legislation barring ―unethical conversions‖ has been
growing in Sri Lanka for some time. A vocal faction of Sinhalese Buddhists, disturbed at reports
of minority religious groups—most notably evangelical Christians—using financial inducements
or intimidation tactics to convert poor Sri Lankans, began raising their concerns in public. They
have propagated their viewpoint in newspapers, over the Internet and via other media, and a
number of other influential voices in the country have taken up the call for legislation to restrict
Sri Lanka, 9 of 65
proselytizing. A groundswell of public opinion, although hard to measure reliably its extent, has
grown to the point that the anti-conversion legislation has become politically viable.
Balachanddran (2004b) said that the issue has come to a head at this time because of the
recent success in the April 2004 Parliamentary elections of ―an explicitly and unabashedly
Sinhala-Buddhist force‖—the JHU party (p. 2). The government is inclined to listen to the JHU‘s
concerns, Balachanddran (2004b) noted, because ―[t]he minority UPFA government is dependent
on the support of the JHU to stay in power‖ (p. 2). Under pressure from the JHU—pressure that
increased considerably when that party introduced their private member‘s bill—the government
decided to draft its own bill, bearing the curious title, ―Act for the Protection of Religious
Both bills evince opposition to what is variously termed ―unethical,‖ ―fraudulent‖ or
―forcible‖ conversions. There have been widespread (and thus far unconfirmed) reports of
Christian groups offering money, jobs or other inducements to convince poor Buddhists and
Hindus in the rural areas of Sri Lanka to convert to their version of Christianity. Balachanddran
(2004b) quoted Sri Lankan attorney S. L. Gunasekara as saying, ―The new Fundamentalist
groups, backed by foreign money, are indulging in open bribery to get converts‖ (p. 4).
Incidentally, Gunasekara is opposed to the legislation, which he calls ―draconian.‖ His comments,
however, point up the main fears of the bills‘ proponents: the spread of evangelical Christianity
and the supposed negative impact of foreign—European and American, mostly—influence in Sri
Lanka. Balachanddran (2004b) wrote that Gunasekara ―also feared a cultural annihilation if the
trend were allowed to continue unchecked. ‗The new Western-oriented churches create a cultural
cleavage in the village and destroy the traditional harmony‘‖ (p. 4). Other influential figures
agree with Gunasekara‘s assessment. Balachanddran (2004b) said that Ratnasiri
Wickramanayake, Minister of Buddha Sasana, believes ―these evangelical churches are only
interested in increasing their flock in the shortest possible time. And to achieve their goal, they
would adopt any stratagem‖ (p. 4). Representatives of the evangelical Christian community in
Sri Lanka have denied all charges of using unethical means to bring about conversions.
4.2 JHU’s bill. The first bill to be brought to the Sri Lankan Parliament was that of the
JHU, which boasts nine members of the 225-seat body. The JHU introduced their bill on July 21,
2004, but, according to Agence-France-Presse (2004), ―Parliamentary officials said it would take
a long time for the bill to be taken up by the . . . legislature as it was presented as a private
member‘s bill that is outside the government‘s legislative agenda‖ (n.p.).
The bill is entitled, ―Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion,‖ and describes its
intent as: ―An act to provide for prohibition or [sic] conversion from one religion to another by
use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means‖ (JHU, 2004, p. 1). To accomplish this
prohibition, JHU (2004) includes these provisions:
No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person
from on religion to another by the use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent
means, nor shall any person aid or abet any such conversion (Sec. 2).
Whoever adopts a religion from one religion to another shall . . . send an intimation to
that effect to the Divisional Secretary of the area in which such adoption took place (Sec.
Sri Lanka, 10 of 65
Whoever converts any person from one religion to another . . . shall . . . send an
intimation to that effect to the Divisional Secretary of the area in which such adoption
took place (Sec. 3(b)).
Anyone who violates these provisions would, under the terms of the bill, be liable to be
imprisoned for up to five years and fined up to 150,000 rupees. If the ―victim‖ of conversion is a
minor, a woman or a member of a number of designated groups, including welfare recipients,
prison inmates and students, the punishments increase to a possible seven years in prison and a
fine of up to 500,000 rupees (JHU, 2004, Sec. 4(a) and Schedule 1). The bill goes on to define
―allurement‖ as temptations in the form of cash or in-kind gifts, promises of material benefit,
employment or job promotion, and ―fraudulent‖ as ―misinterpretation or any other fraudulent
contrivance‖ (JHU, 2004, Sec. 8(a) and (d)).
Once a bill has been introduced on the floor of Parliament, persons or groups who wish to
lodge legal objections before the Supreme Court have seven days to do so. The seven-day period
for protests to the JHU bill ended July 28, 2004. According to a Sri Lankan online news service,
twenty-one petitions were filed challenging the proposed law‘s constitutionality (―Twenty-one
petitions,‖ 2004, n.p.). The Supreme Court has three weeks to rule on the petitions (Constitution,
1978, Art. 121). If they rule the bill acceptable by constitutional standards, the bill returns to
Parliament for debate. As mentioned earlier, however, there is some question as to when the JHU
bill will be considered, since as a private member‘s bill it falls outside the government‘s
4.3 Government bill. Reports indicate that the government was under pressure from
Sinhalese Buddhists to pursue anti-conversion legislation even before the JHU achieved their
modest success in the April Parliamentary elections. After that time, however, they appear to
have accelerated their timetable, partly because as a minority government they need the JHU‘s
support to remain viable and partly because of their fear that the JHU, by introducing their bill
first, would steal the goodwill and favor of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. Whatever the
reasons, on June 18, 2004, Minister of Buddha Sasana Wickremanayake presented a draft bill
which was given initial approval by the Sri Lankan Cabinet. It should be noted, however, that
even some members of the Cabinet oppose the legislation. Balachanddran (2004b) said that "the
present Commerce Minister and former Christian Affairs Minister, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, will
not support such a bill. He is quoted as saying that he will ask for a 'conscience vote' on it. . . .
The current Minister of Christian Affairs, Milroy Fernando, has described the bill as 'absurd'" (p.
Wickramanayake's bill, entitled, ironically enough, "Act No. ........ of 2004 for the
Protection of Religious Freedom" (Wickramanayake, 2004, p. 1), contains the following
No person shall convert or attempt to convert another person to another religion, and no
person shall provide assistance or encouragement towards conversion to another religion
[Offenders] upon conviction before a magistrate will be liable to imprisonment for a
period not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding Rs. 100,000/- or to both such
imprisonment and fine. However, where the contravention has been in respect of a
Sri Lanka, 11 of 65
minor . . . the offender will be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 7 years
or to a fine not exceeding Rs. 500,000/- or to both such imprisonment and fine(Sec.
All offences under this Act shall be treated as deliberate/conscious offences (Sec. 0.5(iv)).
"Conversion to another religion" means any direct or indirect action or behaviour
designed to cause a person to embrace a religion or religious practice or religious
philosophy to which he does not subscribe or to attempt to cause a person to do so. Or
any direct or indirect action or behaviour designed to cause a person to abandon his
practice of religion, religious philosophy or to attempt to cause a person to do so, or to
exert or attempt to exert any undue influence on a person's religion, religious beliefs or
philosophy or his practice of religion (Sec. 0.8(a)(i) and (ii)).
"Inducement" includes any gift or gratification bestowed in the form of any benefit or
privilege in cash or kind, and also includes the grant of any financial or other benefit (Sec.
"Use of force" includes any form of threat or harassment or hurt, or any threat of divine
curse or ridicule or . . . social ostracization [sic] (Sec. 0.8(d)).
"Unethical" means the use of any procedure contrary to accepted norms of ethics that
may be used to propagate a religion (Sec. 0.8(f)).
4.4 Analysis. Perhaps the most surprising thing about these two bills is that the bill
sponsored by the avowedly secular government is much harsher than the one introduced by a
party of supposedly radical Buddhist monks. In contrast to the government's bill, which defines
conversion, inducement and unethical behavior so broadly and vaguely that almost any religious
expression leading to another person's decision to change religious allegiances would be illicit,
the JHU bill is the picture of moderation.
For example, the bill brought by the JHU specifies that it aims to prohibit conversions
based on the "use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means" (JHU, 2004, p. 1); the
government's bill uses similar language in its introduction, but the actual text of the bill makes
conversions of any kind illegal, with no qualifying language. The JHU bill demands that persons
who convert from one religion to another should register with the appropriate Divisional
Secretary; the government's bill moves directly from the prohibition of conversion to the
announcement of penalties. The JHU bill limits the number of persons who can bring a
complaint to Divisional Secretaries, the police, "a person aggrieved by the offence" (JHU, 2004,
Sec. 5(c)), attorneys and persons authorized by the Minister. The government's bill, on the other
hand, allows a much broader spectrum of persons to initiate action. The police may respond, for
instance, to persons "affected [or] aggrieved by the offences or by any other interested persons"
(Wickramanayake, 2004, Sec. 0.6(i), emphasis added). In addition, Wickramanayake (2004)
allowed for "any person interested in the welfare of the public, who has reason to believe that the
provisions of this Act have been contravened" (Sec. 0.6(iii)), to bring a complaint. In other words,
anyone, even outside observers with no intrinsic interest in the converted person's welfare, can
bring action to declare the conversion illegal.
Sri Lanka, 12 of 65
Others have remarked on the vagueness in the government bill's language. Balachanddran
(2004b) said, "According to [Sri Lankan news weekly] 'The Sunday Leader,' Section 8 of the
government's draft bill defines conversion in such a way that any kind of motivation to convert is
illegal" (p. 3). In a joint statement issued in late June, the Catholic Bishops' Conference and the
National Christian Council of Sri Lanka "said that . . . the proposed legislation would 'pave the
way for the oppression of minority religions in the country.' . . . They pointed out that the bill
would have the effect of banning all charitable work by religious persons and institutions"
(Balachanddran, 2004b, p. 4).
The JHU bill poses similar problems, however. It defines "fraudulent" as
"misinterpretation or any other fraudulent contrivance" (JHU, 2004, Sec. 8(d)). Balachanddran
(2004b) said, "The state may construe a Christian's claim that Jesus is the Son of God as a
'fraudulent' claim made to influence the target of conversion" (p. 3). In other words, the simple
articulation of one of Christianity's most central assertions could, if it were to lead to an
individual's decision to convert to Christianity, become a criminal offense punishable by fines,
imprisonment or both. Furthermore, the JHU bill's insistence that persons having undergone a
conversion experience must register with the government could understandably cause a "chilling
effect" that would effectively thwart the Constitution's (1978) guarantee of "the freedom to have
or to adopt a religion or belief of [one's] choice" (Art. 10).
Both bills, in short, have the potential to restrict religious freedom in Sri Lanka in ways
that contradict that nation's Constitution and its international obligations as espoused in its
accession to the ICCPR. And what it appears to boil down to are: a) disagreements about what
constitutes ethical behavior and fraudulent speech; and b) animosity toward evangelical
Christians. The government's bill mentions the "accepted norms of ethics that may be used to
propagate a religion" (Wickramanayake, 2004, Sec. 0.8(f)), but does not specify what those
accepted norms are. (Apparently, the "accepted norms" are not accepted by every party
involved.) Moreover, Balachanddran (2004a) reported that Minister of Buddha Sasana
Wickramanayake has unequivocally stated that "the proposed legislation . . . is aimed only at the
new-fangled evangelical movements bent on converting people" (p. 1). In a letter to the director
of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Minister said, "I wish to categorically state that
those professing the Christian religion should not be afraid, as this legislation is only against the
misdeeds of those whose only ambition is to convert people of other religions by force to their
evangelical faiths" (Balachanddran, 2004a, p. 1).
Unfortunately, that is not what the bill Minister Wickramanayake drafted actually says,
and that is where it runs afoul of the better angels of Sri Lanka's nature, as enshrined in its
Constitution and its participation in international treaties on civil liberties. Both it and the JHU's
bill present serious moral and diplomatic problems for the government and people of Sri Lanka.
5. Persecution of religious minorities
The call for anti-conversion legislation has been accompanied by an even more sinister
phenomenon: persecution. Consistent reports have come from a variety of sources within Sri
Lanka of persecution of religious minorities, especially evangelical Christians, in that country
over the past several years. These sources include the Sri Lankan media, the US State
Department and a Sri Lankan NGO, whose report detailing nearly 200 incidents of harassment,
vandalism and violence against Christians since 2002 is appended to this report (see Section 9.1).
Sri Lanka, 13 of 65
5.1 Media reports. A number of media outlets operating in Sri Lanka, some domestic
and some international, have reported on persecution of and attacks against the Christian
minority. The Tamil Eelam News Service, for example, reported in December 2003 that at least
nine churches had been attacked by Buddhist mobs from August to December, and cited a
―national church group‖ as saying that ―at least 65 churches have been attacked [in 2003] and 15
came under attack in December alone‖ (TNS, 2003, n.p.). Police sources characterized the
attacks as ―the latest in a pattern of violence against churches in Sri Lanka‖ (TNS, 2003, n.p.). In
January 2004 the BBC (2004) reported that ―the Sri Lankan president said there had been more
than thirty attacks on churches since November, but Christian groups put it at double that‖ (n.p.).
Media organizations that focus on the issue of persecution of Christians have been even
more adamant in their reports of attacks. Compass Direct, a Christian wire service, reported on
an attack on a church in the Sri Lankan village of Wadduwa in June 2004, during which a crowd
of 200 people surrounded the Christian Fellowship Church and threw ―bricks, stones and petrol
bombs, . . . damaging the roof and windows‖ (Page, 2004a, p. 3). The attack led to the pastor‘s
announcing that all meetings at the church would be suspended. Page (2004a) further noted that
―the disturbance in Wadduwa was the latest in a series of 50 incidents throughout Sri Lanka in
the first six months of 2004‖ (p. 3).
Sources agree that the attacks on churches intensified following the death of a popular
Buddhist nationalist monk, the Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero, who died of a heart attack
in Russia while preparing to receive an honorary doctorate in December 2003. Newton (2004)
reported that the monk‘s death gave rise to conspiracy theories among his supporters that he had
been murdered ―despite an autopsy showing he died of natural causes‖ (p. 1). Soma Thero had
been a vocal opponent of ―unethical conversions,‖ especially the conversion of Buddhists to
Once the anti-conversion bills began to have some success in Parliament, the attackers
developed a new tactic: the attempted suppression of dissent. Page (2004b) reported that
―unidentified vandals‖ broke into the offices of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of
Sri Lanka (NCEASL), apparently searching for documents related to their advertising campaign
opposing the government‘s bill. Page (2004b) claimed, ―The break-in . . . represents one of over
150 similar attacks against Christians and Christian organizations since January 2003‖ (p. 2).
5.2 State Department reports. The US State Department has also acknowledged reports
of persecution against religious minorities in Sri Lanka. DRL (2004a) contained a section on
―Freedom of Religion,‖ which mentioned both government-sponsored discrimination and
grassroots agitation. As to the former, DRL (2004a) reported that ―the Government sought to
limit the number of foreign religious workers given temporary work permits. Permission usually
was restricted to denominations registered with the Government. The Government prohibited the
entry of new foreign clergy on a permanent basis‖ (p. 12). The report also noted that ―in January
, the Supreme Court ruled against incorporation of New Harvest Wine Ministry, an
Evangelical group, stating that Christian institutions should not couple religious education with
charitable deeds‖ (p. 12).
On the subject of grassroots agitation, DRL (2004a) stated, ―During the year [of 2003],
there were confirmed reports of assault on Protestant and Catholic churches and church members
by Buddhist mobs, often led by extremist Buddhist monks. Christian organizations reported an
increase in attacks, with several per week by year‘s end‖ (p. 12). In its 2003 Religious Freedom
Sri Lanka, 14 of 65
Report on Sri Lanka, DRL(2003) stated, ―Some evangelical Christians . . . have expressed
concern that their efforts at proselytizing often are met with hostility and harassment by the local
Buddhist clergy and others opposed to their work. . . . They sometimes complain that the
Government tacitly condones such harassment, but there is no evidence to support this claim‖ (p.
The US government has, however, expressed its concerns about these attacks to ―Sri
Lankan high-level government officials, including the President and Prime Minister, officials
responsible for Buddhist, Tamil and Christian affairs, and top police officers‖ (DRL, 2004b, p. 3).
US officials reportedly urged the Sri Lankan government to arrest and prosecute the responsible
parties, and ―also expressed concerns about draft legislation targeting so-called ‗unethical
conversions,‘ noting that the campaign for such legislation was a contributing factor in the
deterioration of the religious freedom situation in the country‖ (DRL, 2004b, p. 3).
Finally, in contradiction to the rumors and stories that have provoked widespread outrage
among Sri Lanka‘s Buddhist population and demands for anti-conversion legislation, DRL
(2003) asserted flatly, ―There were no reports of forced religious conversion‖ (p. 3).
5.3 Excerpts from Freedom report. Perhaps the most damning evidence, however,
comes from Freedom, an arm of the Religious Liberty Commission of the National Christian
Fellowship of Sri Lanka, who in July 2004 supplied Jubilee Campaign with a report detailing
nearly 200 incidents of assault, vandalism and intimidation against churches and Christians from
2002 to May 2004. The following excerpts from Freedom (2004) are a sampling of those
incident reports; they are meant to be representative, not exhaustive. (Note: the italicized words
at the beginning of each entry are the locations of the incidents.)
Anuradhapura. During the night of 7 February , a group of men scaled the wall to
gain entry to the AOG [Assemblies of God] Church premises and threw burnt engine oil,
excreta and firecrackers, desecrating the church. The curtains caught fire from the
firecrackers but workers put out the flames. A police entry was made and police
protection sought, but a police guard was not provided. A mobile police unit was asked to
check the place while on patrol during the night (p. 3).
Matugama. A group of armed people entered Pastor Jeevan‘s house in the early hours of
26 January , locked his wife and two children in a room, blindfolded the pastor,
tied him to a tree and brutally assaulted him. They set fire to his belongings valued at Rs.
90,000 (about US$892) (pp. 4-5).
Udugampola (District of Gampaha). On the night of 6 November , while some
members of the Calvary Worship Center were praying at the church, a hand grenade was
thrown at the church by an unidentified man who arrived on a motor bicycle. The grenade
shattered the windscreen of a car parked outside and caused some damage to the wall of
the building. There were no injuries to the worshipers inside. A police entry was made on
7 November, at 9:45 p.m. (p. 11).
Lunawa. In August , a mob instigated by Buddhist monks threatened some female
workers of the AOG Church with rape. A police entry was made (p. 16).
Sri Lanka, 15 of 65
Kottawa. Pastor Tilak of the Zion Church was mercilessly assaulted by a Buddhist monk
and a mob; Pastor Tilak‘s arm was broken in the assault (p. 19).
Many of the items in Freedom‘s report include specific details, such as locations, victims‘
names and suspected identities of the attackers. Many indicate that the victims filed police
reports and in some cases the actual police entry numbers are provided. Even allowing for
exaggeration or embellishment, one must concede that a pattern of abuse and intimidation
against religious minorities—primarily evangelical Christians—persists in Sri Lanka.
6. Sri Lanka and the Millennium Challenge Account
As noted above in Section 5.2, the US government has already communicated its
concerns to Sri Lankan officials about the reports of religious liberty abuses and the proposed
anti-conversion legislation in that country. Those conversations took place in 2003, and one
assumes that the US used as much persuasive power as was available to it at that time. The
situation has changed, however, since May 2004, and new opportunities for the US to put
pressure on Sri Lanka to protect religious liberties have emerged. Specifically, President Bush
announced on May 10 that Sri Lanka had been selected as one of the first sixteen countries
eligible for assistance from the newly created Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).
Considering the principles upon which the MCA was founded, one suspects that Sri Lanka will
be even more open to hearing and responding to the concerns of the US in regard to their respect
for religious freedom.
6.1 Background of the MCA. The President first proposed the MCA in a speech at the
Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, in March 2002. He called for a new
approach to development assistance that would make the criteria for selecting aid recipients more
stringent and would demand greater accountability from them. He said, ―Greater contributions
from developed nations must be linked to greater responsibility from developing nations‖ (MCA
fact sheet, 2002, n.p.). Bush proposed a new entity, the Millennium Challenge Corporation
(MCC), to administer the MCA, which he suggested would be funded at $5 billion per year by
Fiscal Year 2006. For the first year, FY 2004, he asked for $1.3 billion. Congress authorized the
MCA and appropriated $1 billion for it in the first year. President Bush signed the Millennium
Challenge Act of 2003 into law on January 23, 2004.
6.2 Selection criteria. The MCC is authorized to declare countries eligible for MCA
assistance based on a number of criteria. First is an income consideration: a nation‘s per capita
income must qualify it as a ―low income country,‖ as determined by the International
Development Association (IDA). Second, countries must have positive records or demonstrate
consistent improvement in three broad areas: governing justly, encouraging economic freedom
and investing in their people. Each of these criteria is measured by more specific indicators. For
example, under ―investing in people,‖ one of the indicators is the country‘s rate of childhood
immunizations. For ―governing justly,‖ two of the indicators are how well the country protects
the civil liberties and political rights of its citizens. Civil liberties, of course, include religious
Sri Lanka, 16 of 65
Sri Lanka made the first cut to become a candidate for MCA assistance by qualifying as a
low-income country. According to Nationmaster (2004), Sri Lanka‘s per capita income in 2003
was $831.27 in US dollars. In the next step of the selection process, Sri Lanka ranked above the
median for thirteen of the sixteen indicators. For the ―political rights‖ and ―civil liberties,‖ the
MCC used the indicators developed by Freedom House (see above, Section 3.3). As mentioned
earlier, Freedom House gave Sri Lanka a score of 3 for political rights and 4 for civil liberties.
According to that organization‘s rankings and definitions, these scores put Sri Lanka just at or
above the median for the two indicators and give Sri Lanka the designation of ―partly free.‖ For
no discernible reason, the MCC (2004a) gave Sri Lanka a score of 3 for both indicators, as
compared to a median score of 4.
6.3 Compact development process. Simply being selected as an eligible country does
not, however, guarantee MCA assistance. Eligible countries must develop proposals for the
compacts that will serve as the agreements between the US and the recipient nations. A compact
proposal must offer a strategy for how the country will use the MCA funds by providing
information in six key areas. According to MCC (2004b), these include: 1) purpose/objectives—
how the country plans to use MCA funds for economic growth and poverty reduction; 2)
justification—why the proposed plan has a high likelihood of success; 3) consultative process—
how the country implemented consultations between the public and private sectors in developing
the proposal; 4) implementation—a detailed description of how the recipient country will put the
plan into practice; 5) sustainability—how the country will maintain progress on the proposed
goals after the MCA compact expires; and 6) commitment to MCA criteria—a description of the
efforts the country has made and will continue to make to meet the MCA selection criteria (pp.
For the purposes of putting a stop to religious abuse and persecution in Sri Lanka and
holding that nation accountable for its stated commitments to protect religious liberty, the sixth
area of consideration in the compact proposal is the most pertinent. When it comes to the MCA,
recipient countries do not have the option of resting on their laurels. Just because they ranked
high enough in comparison to other candidate countries to be considered eligible for assistance
does not mean their status as an eligible nation is assured for all time. Secretary of State Colin
Powell, who serves as the Chairman of the Board of the MCC, put it this way:
The 16 nations that were selected . . . come in and they give me all their promises of what
they‘re going to do, and I said that‘s fine because we‘re entering into a compact, a
contract, and if you want this funding and if you want it to continue, and you want it to be
multiyear, if you want us to stick with you, you‘ve got to get better every year with
respect to these basic tests of democracy and openness and economic freedom and end of
corruption and the rule of law. You‘ve got to get better (Powell, 2004, n.p.).
Sri Lanka, then, if it wishes to enter into a compact with the United States to receive
development assistance from the MCA, has the responsibility to maintain its commitments to
protecting the civil liberties of its people. Based on events of recent weeks and months, one may
very well question whether the government of Sri Lanka is taking that responsibility seriously.
Sri Lanka, 17 of 65
7. Conclusions and Recommendations
In light of the foregoing, Jubilee Campaign has drawn a number of conclusions regarding
the religious liberty situation in Sri Lanka and would like respectfully to present a number of
recommendations for action by the US government and the international community. Our hope is
that such action will convince the Sri Lankan government to honor its commitments and take
steps make its society free and safe for all its citizens, regardless of their religious faith.
7.1 Assessment of Sri Lanka’s religious liberty record in light of recent events. As
noted above (see Section 3.3), the US has determined that Sri Lanka generally respects religious
liberty, while at the same time acknowledging that repression and violence against religious
minorities sometimes occur. Freedom House joins the US government in this assessment. One
must remember, however, that the reports of the State Department and Freedom House covered
events in 2003 and before. Neither group has yet issued a report covering the current year, and it
has been in 2004 that an escalation in violence and harassment against evangelical Christians has
taken place and two bills to restrict or prohibit religious conversions have been drafted, one of
which has already been introduced in Parliament and the other of which has received the
approval of the Cabinet. Jubilee Campaign asserts that the events of 2004 cast an ominous
shadow over Sri Lanka‘s human rights record and places in jeopardy the international goodwill
Sri Lanka has earned in the past as a respecter of religious liberty. We call on the US government
and international human rights monitors such as Freedom House to revisit their assessments in
light of these recent events.
7.2 Decrial of “unethical conversion” tactics. Jubilee Campaign unequivocally
denounces the use of unethical means such as bribery, force or deceit in persuading persons to
convert from one religion to another. If anyone in the Christian community in Sri Lanka is
actually using these rumored tactics in their evangelistic efforts, we urge them to desist
immediately. Such tactics stand in direct opposition to the call to love and respect all persons
upon which the church was founded.
At the same time, we point out that the Christian community in Sri Lanka has been
adamant in denying the charges of using unethical means to bring about conversions. We
conclude that what is at issue here is a difference in interpretation as to what constitutes
acceptable behavior in evangelical activity. Handunnetti (2004), for example, quoted a Buddhist
monk, the Venerable Kolonnawe Sri Sumangala Thero, who said, ―The only Buddhist
propagation is through intelligent discussion. Buddha said, ‗Question and accept. Do not blindly
accept.‘ Increasing numbers by banging on uninterested peoples‘ doors has never been our call.
We maintain a presence in society and make religion available to people‖ (n.p.). By contrast,
many evangelical Christians consider it acceptable, even imperative, to propagate their faith
through more assertive and persuasive means. As long as those means do not cross the line into
manipulation or force, Jubilee Campaign defends the Christians‘ (or, for that matter, any other
religious group‘s) right to employ them to persuade persons to adopt their faith. It would seem
that one person‘s unethical behavior is another person‘s religious duty, and we recommend
interfaith dialogue and respect for differences rather than the introduction of repressive,
draconian laws forbidding conversions.
Sri Lanka, 18 of 65
7.3 Call for Sri Lanka to respect its religious minorities and fulfill its constitutional
and international obligations. Jubilee Campaign calls on the government of Sri Lanka to live
up to the commitments it has made in its constitution and by agreeing to international
conventions such as the ICCPR. Both of those documents reflect Sri Lanka‘s declaration that
religious freedom is an important right and make the government accountable for protecting that
right, especially for minority religious groups who, without such protections, would be at the
mercy of the majority. The attacks on churches and Christians mentioned above (see Section 5.3)
and presented in detail below (see Section 9.1) suggest that those protections have been lacking.
We urge the government to take care of all its citizens by aggressively investigating reports of
violence and vandalism against religious minorities and prosecuting the offenders. We further
urge the government to withdraw all proposed legislation designed to restrict any religious
group‘s ability to exercise freely the expression of their faith.
7.4 Call for further investigations by the US government before proceeding with
compact development with Sri Lanka. In consideration of the aforementioned reports of
harassment of and violence against Christians in Sri Lanka, of the proposal of repressive anti-
conversion legislation in that country‘s Parliament, and of the declaration of Congress and
President Bush that development assistance through the Millennium Challenge Account would
be contingent in part upon the recipient country‘s commitment to protecting its citizens‘ civil
rights, including the right of free expression of religion, Jubilee Campaign calls on the President
and Congress, together with other responsible agents of the US government, including the State
Department and the MCC, to investigate further these issues before entering into an MCA
compact with Sri Lanka. We feel that recent developments in Sri Lanka have jeopardized that
country‘s international reputation for respecting human rights and religious liberty, and that the
US should not reward Sri Lanka with additional development assistance through the MCA until
it addresses and corrects these wrongs.
7.5 Call for indigenous NGOs in Sri Lanka to hold the Sri Lankan government
accountable in religious liberty matters. It is the policy of Jubilee Campaign to work in
partnership with indigenous nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in defending the religious
freedom of citizens in various countries. In the case of Sri Lanka, we have been in contact with
Freedom, an arm of the National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka, a group that is already
working for reform and redress of grievances on the ground in that country. We support
Freedom‘s efforts to secure justice and we call on other Sri Lankan organizations, both religious
and secular, to demand that the government address their concerns and follow through on its
commitments to protect the rights of all its citizens.
Sri Lanka, 19 of 65
Agence-France-Presse. (2004, July 21). Lankan monks seek law against conversions to
Christianity. Retrieved July 29, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
Balachanddran, P. K. (2004a, July 1). Lanka's anti-conversion law targets evangelical
movements. Hindustan Times.
Balachanddran, P. K. (2004b, July 5). Anti-conversion law will inflict yet another socio-political
fracture. Hindustan Times.
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). (2004, January 24). Armed guards for Sri Lankan
church. BBC News World Edition. Retrieved August 3, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. (1978). Retrieved July 16, 2004,
from the World Wide Web: http://www.priu.gov.lk/Cons/1978Constitution/Index.html
Ekanayake, R. D. S. (1998). ―Christian Perspective in the Sri Lankan Context.‖ The Oslo
Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Freedom—Human Rights for Minorities in Sri Lanka. (2004). Details of Violations to the Rights
of Christians: Incidents/Attacks/Arson—2002-2004. Nugegoda: The National Christian
Fellowship of Sri Lanka.
Freedom House. (2003). Freedom in the World 2003: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and
Civil Liberties. Retrieved July 23, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
Freedom Now. (2004). Training Guide: Freeing Prisoners of Conscience. Washington: Freedom
Handunnetti, D. (2004, July 4). Conversion has become a ―dirty issue‖—JHU. The Sunday
Leader, vol. 10 (51).
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). (1976). G.A. res. 2200A (XXI),
21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171,
entered into force March 23, 1976.
Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). (2004). Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion. Received
as part of e-mail correspondence July 23, 2004.
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) fact sheet. (2002). The White House. Retrieved August 3,
2004, from the World Wide Web: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/
Sri Lanka, 20 of 65
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). (2004a). Country data viewer. Retrieved July 23,
2004, from the World Wide Web: http://www.mca.gov/Operations_Country_Selection/
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). (2004b). Guidance for developing proposals for
MCA assistance in FY 2004. Retrieved July 23, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
Nationmaster. (2004). Asia: Sri Lanka: Economy. Retrieved August 3, 2004, from the World
Wide Web: http://www.nationmaster.com/country/ce/Economy
Newton, J. (2004, January 22). Violence against Christians escalates in Sri Lanka. Compass
Direct News Service.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). (2004). Status
of Ratifications of the Principal International Human Rights Treaties, As of 09 June 2004.
Retrieved July 16, 2004, from the World Wide Web: http://www.unhchr.ch/pdf/report.pdf
Page, S. (2004a, June 24). Sri Lankan Cabinet approves anti-conversion law. Compass Direct
Page, S. (2004b, July 6). Sri Lanka‘s Evangelical Alliance suffers break-in. Compass Direct
Powell, C. L. (2004, July 20). Millennium Challenge Corporation Board of Directors meeting
open session. Retrieved August 3, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
Tamil Eelam News Service (TNS). (2003, December 30). Buddhist extremists target Christian
churches in Sri Lanka. Retrieved August 3, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
Twenty-one petitions against JHU‘s anti-conversion bill. (2004, July 28). ColomboPage: Sri
Lankan Internet Newspaper. Retrieved July 29, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
U.S. Department of State, Office of Counterterrorism (CT). (2004, April 22). Foreign Terrorist
Organizations. Retrieved July 26, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). (2003,
December 18). Sri Lanka: International Religious Freedom Report 2003. Retrieved July
16, 2004, from the World Wide Web: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2003/
Sri Lanka, 21 of 65
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). (2004a,
February 25). Sri Lanka: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices—2003. Retrieved
July 16, 2004, from the World Wide Web: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). (2004a, May
17). South Asia: Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004.
Retrieved July 16, 2004, from the World Wide Web: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of South Asian Affairs (SAA). (2004b, May). Background
Note: Sri Lanka. Retrieved July 16, 2004, from the World Wide Web:
Weersooriya, N. R. (2004). Anti-conversion Bill—the Other Side. Nugegoda: The National
Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka.
Wickramanayake, R. (2004). Sri Lanka Government's Draft Bill on Anti-Conversion. Received
as part of e-mail correspondence July 23, 2004.
Sri Lanka, 22 of 65
The attached appendices have been included to shed additional light on the issues and
incidents addressed in the above report.
9.1 Freedom report on religious liberty abuses. Jubilee Campaign received this report
from the Sri Lankan organization known as Freedom in July 2004. It has been edited to make it
more readable according to standard English usage and to place the incidents in chronological
order starting with the most recent events, but otherwise it has not been substantially altered from
the original. Copies of the original document are available from Jubilee Campaign upon request
for comparison purposes.
* * * * * * *
human rights for minorities in Sri Lanka
(RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION OF THE NATIONAL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP OF SRI LANKA)
P.O.Box 122, Nugegoda
Mob.077-417434 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of Violations to the Rights of Christians:
Incidents/Attacks/Arson – 2002 - 2004
1. Dhunugaha. Bro. Sudarman reported that on or around 2 May, a mob stormed a house church
in the Diwulapitiya area and asked them to stop services. This is a branch church of Bro. Benny
and Sis. Celina, who conduct their services in the Russian Cultural Center under the name
―Heavenly Vision.‖ The police intervened and brought order.
2. Pandiwera. Bro. Udara of the Gethsemane Church reported on 2 May that a mob led by a
Buddhist monk attacked his church and destroyed the pulpit.
3. Bandarawela. On 29 April, a mob led by a monk demolished the construction work at Pastor
Kumarasiris‘s prayer center.
Sri Lanka, 23 of 65
4. Location unknown. On 14 April, Bro. Winston, local agent for the Christian TV program of
Joyce Meyer, which is televised on Saturdays and Sundays, reported that he has been receiving
threatening calls for the last 1½ months asking him to stop the program. He has also received
death threats. On the 14th he received five calls. A police complaint has been made.
5. Location unknown. On Sunday, 11 April, the Christian Fellowship Church was attacked by a
mob led by a monk. The mob also assaulted the pastor and his wife and children.
6. Talduwa, Panadura. On 9 April, Pastor Sunil Hewage received a telephone call asking him to
stop the Good Friday Service at his church. The threatening phone call was followed by an attack
on the congregation on Easter Sunday by club-wielding mob led by Buddhist monks. Pastor
Hewage made a police complaint and the police provided an escort of two constables. A few
weeks later, the church was attacked again despite police protection. A mob led by a Buddhist
monk came on a Saturday, dragged the pastor‘s two daughters out of the church and threatened
them. (The pastor was not present at the time.) The mob vandalized the church, broke a few
things and promised to return the next day after threatening a female church worker. On Sunday,
the monks and the mob came; the police arrived but faced trouble with the crowd. The pastor
was handled roughly and asked to promise that he would close the church and leave the area,
which the monk said was an ―ethnically and religiously cleansed area exclusively for the Sinhala
Buddhists.‖ Under pressure from the mob and the monk who was holding him by the hand,
Pastor Hewage agreed. Today, the church is closed and the pastor and his family are staying in
an undisclosed location because threats still exist.
7. Kandy. On 9 April, Pastor Mani reported that posters had been put up demanding that shops
owned by Christians close down and vacate the premises.
8. Madiwela. On 15 February, while a worship service was being conducted at the Prayer Center,
a mob of about 150 led by a group of Buddhist monks stormed the place, demanding that the
meeting be stopped and threatening violence. The police were informed and they arrived with
Army personals. In the presence of the HQI and the forces, the chief monk, Rev. Sirivimala,
district leader for the Kurunagala district of the JHU (the political party led by Buddhist monks
that contested the elections in April 2004), assaulted the father of the worker in charge of the
Prayer Center. The wounded man had to be treated at the Colombo South Hospital.
9. Location Unknown. An Apostolic Church was attacked on 15 February, resulting in damages
of Rs. 1,200,000 (about US$11,700).
10. Panadura. On 13 February, the Panadura Magistrate Courts served Pastor Sarath Chandradas
of King‘s Revival Church with an Injunction Order prohibiting him from conducting services at
his Prayer Center, No. 257A, Diggala Road, Keselwattha, Panadura. Background: On 24
December 2003, OIC Panadura North, Mr. Prasanna Rathnayake, arrived at 3:30 p.m., thirty
minutes before the Christmas program was scheduled to begin, and requested that Pastor Sarath
stop the meeting. The pastor agreed. On 27 December 2003, the OIC called him and informed
Sri Lanka, 24 of 65
him that he should not hold a service on the 28th and should not remain at home, to which the
pastor agreed. On 30 December, the pastor was called to the police station and informed that
there was opposition in the area and he should obtain permission from the Local Authority. He
obtained permission on 29 January. The police requested a copy of the approval, which found its
way into the hands of the temple priests who were spearheading the opposition. A further letter
followed on 1 February revoking the earlier permission granted by the Local Authorities. On 13
February, the pastor was delivered with the aforementioned Injunction Order: Court Order 38946.
He was given until 27 February to file an answer. On that date the Injunction Order was extended
until 12 March 2004.
11. Kebithigollewa Anuradhapura. On 9 February, more than a dozen men hurled gasoline
bombs at a building used by partners of the NGO World Vision. Media reports indicated that
nine arrests were made, including three Buddhist monks and a university professor.
12. Makola. In January, some youth in the village informed the son of the Bethany Prayer
Center‘s pastor that there was a plan to attack the Prayer Center on Sunday, 4 January. Pastor
Rajendran has been serving in this area since 1988. Around April 2003, the Mankada Rajamaha
Vihara had distributed incendiary leaflets in the area. The church held a low-key worship service
on 4 January. The following week the pastor was threatened by phone to stop the meeting and
handbills were also pasted in the neighborhood. The service was not held the following Sunday
due to these threats. The Sunday morning service was conducted on 18 and 25 January, however.
On Sunday, 1 February, at around 7:30 p.m., the Center was stoned. The police were informed
and they responded by providing protection. On Sunday, 8 February, the villagers organized
themselves to storm the Center. The police came in strength and prevented any violent action.
An inquiry was held at 5:00 p.m. at the police station. Rajamaha Vihara, chief monk of
Sapugaskanda, and the monk from Mankada, Rajamaha Vihara, came for the inquiry along with
ten to fifteen people. Due to the pressure brought upon him, the pastor was compelled to agree to
stop the meetings in order to prevent violence.
Lalith Thennakoon and Janaka, prominent members of the JVP, along with Charles Wijethunge
and Saman Ranjith of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance, are the key leaders behind these
oppositions to the Prayer Center. Police entry C.I.B. (2) 16-02-2004 was made with the
13. Anuradhapura. During the night of 7 February, a group of men scaled the wall to gain entry
to the AOG Church premises and threw burnt engine oil, excreta and firecrackers, desecrating
the church. The curtains caught fire from the firecrackers but workers put out the flames. A
police entry was made and police protection sought, but a police guard was not provided. A
mobile police unit was asked to check the place while on patrol during the night.
14. Wiranagama, Dimbulangala Polonnaruwa. On 5 and 6 February, gangs visited the homes of
parishioners of the Suwa Dahara Independent Church and threatened them.
15. Wiranagama, Dimbulangala Polonnaruwa. On 2 February, monks and some local
government officials held a public meeting in a school, demanding that services at the Suwa
Dahara Independent Church be stopped. They used loudspeakers to make derogatory statements
Sri Lanka, 25 of 65
about the pastor, who has been ministering for 18 years. The services were stopped. A police
entry was made.
16. Moratuwa. On 1 February, the Ceylon Pentecostal Mission was stoned, resulting in damage
to a few windows.
17. Madiwela. On 1 February, during the worship service at the Margaya Fellowship Prayer
Center, the chief monk of the Bodhirukkarama temple, Ven. Sirivimala, stormed the meeting
along with a group of fifteen men and women. He threatened that the meetings should be stopped
and the workers should leave the premises. He warned of serious consequences if they did not
comply with these demands. Police entry C III 265/03 (dated 1 February 2004) was made. The
Mirihana HQI, Mr. Quintus Raymond, and two other police officers held an inquiry. The monk
demanded that the meetings be stopped. He stated that people were being converted and
forwarded a petition accusing the church of unethical conversion. He further stated that he would
not be responsible if his adherents turned violent. He said that 150 youth had already
congregated at his temple. He further warned that if the matter were referred to the courts he
would bring 100,000 people and there would be bloodshed. He stated that both his life and the
life of the pastor were at stake if the meetings were not stopped. The pastor pointed out that, as
the church had been incorporated by an Act of Parliament, there was no reason to stop holding
meetings, and that if there had been any violation of the law the church was willing to correct it.
The pastor also stated that it was the duty of the local authority to file action if necessary. The
pastor agreed with the police to change the venue of the next Sunday‘s (8 February) worship
service, until the matter could be referred to the courts and a court order could be obtained.
18. Piliyandla. An unnamed church was attacked in February.
19. Polonnaruwa. On 31 January, Bro. Nishantha of the Margaya Fellowship of Sri Lanka was
20. Kottawa. A Roman Catholic Church at Mattegoda was attacked and vandalized by a group
that had arrived in a van in the early hours in the morning of 28 January.
21. Mattegoda. On the night of 26 January, a mob of about twenty persons attacked the Catholic
shrine, Church of Our Mother Most Pure. They smashed sacred statues and set Bibles on fire. No
arrests were made. The police reportedly claimed it to be the work of drunks. Church authorities,
on the other hand, say this attack fits the pattern of the organized attacks that have taken place in
22. Kahathuduwa. Christian worker and church attacked on the night of 26 January.
23. Matugama. A group of armed people entered Pastor Jeevan's house in the early hours of26
January, locked his wife and two children in a room, blindfolded the pastor, tied him to a tree
and brutally assaulted him. They set fire to his belongings valued at Rs. 90,000 (about US$892).
Sri Lanka, 26 of 65
24. Mathugama. Four attackers broke into the house of the pastor of the King‘s Revival Church
on the night of 25 January. They tied up the pastor and assaulted him. The police have been
25. Makola. On 25 January, the Bethany Church (independent) was stoned and the building
26. Horana. On 20 January, a group dressed in black surrounded the house of the pastor of the
Foursquare Gospel Church from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., shouting at those inside. Only the
pastor's wife and 14-year-old daughter were home.
27. Hokandara. A Roman Catholic Church was attacked on 18 January. (Reported in press on 19
28. Thalapathpitiya. On 16 January, a trishaw parked on the premises of Calvary Church was
premises set on fire. The door of the church was damaged.
29. Dematagoda. On 16 January, someone attempted to burn down the Calvary Church at 12:45
a.m. A window was damaged.
30. Yakkalamulla, Galle. Someone threw stones at the Calvary Church on 16 January, damaging
31. Kotawa. On 16 January, a mob threatened members of the Calvary Church as they met at
premises belonging to a parishioner.
32. Nawinna. The AOG Church was stoned again on 16 and 23 January (see no. 62 below).
33. Homagama. On 15 January, the interior of the Roman Catholic Church was set on fire. (This
church had been earlier desecrated on 30 November 2003.) The incident was reported on MTV
and Sirasa TV on 16 January.
34. Wattegedara. A mob of about twenty people armed with bicycle chains attacked the Calvary
Church at midnight on 13 January. The mob attempted to cut the telephone wire. The police
35. Mahara, Kadawatha. On the night of 13 January, a pastor of Calvary Church was attacked
with a knife. He sustained injuries to his hand.
36. Matugama. On 11 January, a group of men arrived on about ten motorbikes and attacked the
Margaya Fellowship Church, damaging the building. The pastor and a family with two children
escaped and hid in fear.
37. Homagama. Pastor Asoka of Prayer Hall Church reported that on 11 January, the Buddhist
monks gathered together about 5,000 - 7,000 people for a protest march against Christians in the
Sri Lanka, 27 of 65
town of Homagama and brought pressure on the Homagama police to withdraw action against
those who attacked his church.
38. Homagama. On 11 January, about 5000 persons marched in a demonstration rally to a nearby
playground. An ultimatum was given to the police to guarantee that the suspects of the attack on
the Catholic Church would not be taken to court on the 12th (Monday). A countdown was
conducted over loudspeakers. The police reportedly agreed not to take any monks to court. (One
of the suspects is a monk.) The OIC was removed on Friday 9 January. A large rally in
Homagama on 25 January, to be attended by prominent monks, was announced.
39. Pugoda. On 10 January, a worker at the Foursquare Gospel Church received a death threat
from a group claiming to be followers of the late Ven. Soma Thero, a prominent Buddhist monk
who died of natural causes during Christmas 2003. The group wrote a letter promising to carry
out the threats once the almsgiving (the traditional ceremonies that take place three months after
the death of a Buddhist) for the monk had been completed.
40. Thennekumbura. On 10 January, a crowd of about fifteen persons broke into the Good News
Central Church and set fire to the pews. They also broke windows and doors. The crowd was
chased away and the fire was put out. The police responded with speed and prevented further
41. Homagama. On 9 and 10 January, an independent prayer center received threats that
thousands would surround the home, the courthouse and the police. Upon being alerted, the
police agreed to provide protection.
42. Homagama. On 7 January, a gang of approximately 25 people threatened to close the
Kithuhimi Sevena (―Christian Shelter‖) church.
43. Maharagama. On 7 January, monks issued threats to close down Kings Revival Church and
gave an ultimatum of seven days. This church was earlier attacked on 28 December (see no. 82
44. Mirigama. On 4 January, the pastor of the AOG Church was threatened to stop services.
45. Kirimatiyana,Negombo. On 4 January the AOG Church was attacked. A storage shed was
burned down and some furniture was damaged.
46. Anamaduwa. A pastor returning home after services at the Foursquare Gospel Church on 4
January was accosted and assaulted.
47. Homagama. On 4 January, the Foursquare Gospel Church was threatened to vacate the
premises within three days. The Church withdrew.
48. Wadduwa. On 4 January, the Independent Church was stoned and threatened to close down.
The church has since closed down.
Sri Lanka, 28 of 65
49. Wadduwa. On 4 January, a mob attempted to attack the Christian Fellowship Church, which
had previously been mobbed on 28 December 2003. Police negotiated to prevent the attack and
sent away the congregation. Services were stopped on the police‘s advice.
50. Pita-Kotte. At midnight on 3 January, the Foursqare Gospel Church‘s pastor's house was
51. Kumarakattuwa,Putlam. During the first week of January, unidentified persons threatened
the pastor of the Margaya Fellowship with death if he continued the church.
52. Andigama. During the first week of January, a monk threatened a pastor of the Margaya
Fellowship with death.
DATE UNKNOWN (2004)
53. Hokandara. The Roman Catholic Church was attacked and vandalized—statues were broken.
Buddhist monks led the mob. The church was set on fire with tires.
54. Horana. The Lutheran Church was attacked and Pastor Premasiri threatened with death.
55. Horana. Assemblies of God (AOG) Bethany Church was threatened. Under duress, Pastor
Lakpriya Kuruppu had to abandon services.
56. Hirasgala Kandy. Pastor Kumara Mendis of Gethsemane Church reported that a local church
had been attacked. The church apparently has Korean support.
57. Kandy. Pastor Kumara reported that five churches have received letters warning them to stop
58. Mahara, Kadawatha. A member of the AOG Church was denied burial in the public
cemetery. The police were informed and a magistrate's order was issued to allow the burial.
Hundreds of people led by monks, however, prevented entry to the cemetery. A large number of
police officers were deployed but were unable to facilitate entry for the burial. The family was
compelled to bury the deceased in the family garden.
59. Homagama. A number of pastors in the area reported that Buddhist monks visited Christians
in their homes and issued death threats against those who attended church.
60. Mirihana. The house of Pastor Niranjan of Four Square Gospel Church was stoned.
61. Mirihana. The house of Pastor Ravi Silva of Margaya Church was stoned..
62. Nawinna. AOG Church was stoned while two police officers stood guard.
Sri Lanka, 29 of 65
63. Thalapathpitiya. Pastor Deepal‘s Three Wheeler and the main door of the church were set on
64. Meegoda. The Christian Center conducted by Pastor Tyronne was set on fire by a mob led by
Buddhist monks and completely destroyed. Damages amounted to more than Rs. 275,000 (about
65. Meegoda. A Roman Catholic Church was attacked.
66. Meegoda. A Pentecostal Assembly worker was stoned.
67. Moragahahena. Buddhist monks, with a crowd of over 150 people, came to threaten Brother
Roshan of the Jeevana Diya Church.
68. Borella. A mob of about 400 invaded the Voice of Prayer Church and demanded that
meetings be stopped.
69. Panadura. The house of Pastor Anton of the AOG Church was set on fire with gasoline
bombs thrown by a gang led by Buddhist monks.
70. Panadura. Brother Razakamaldeen of Jeevana Diya Church was threatened with eviction; a
Buddhist monk exerted pressure on the landlord.
71. Pannipitiya. Christ Church (Roman Catholic) was attacked and sustained severe damages.
72. Wadduwa. Pastor Sunil Hewage was threatened with death and forced to sign a letter
indicating his intent to stop ministry in the area. Services have been stopped.
73. Wadduwa. Pastor Athula, a Christian worker, was threatened not to hold services.
74. Weliveriya. The body of a Christian believer who died was refused burial in the cemetery and
had to be buried in the Christian‘s own premises. The deceased had attended the AOG Church.
75. Matugama. Margaya Church was attacked by a mob. Two front doors were broken and four
explosives were thrown inside.
76. Pannipitiya. On 31 December, Pastor Anandage had to be removed from the Calvary Church
in order to save his life. The Buddhist monks also pressured the landlord to evict the pastor.
77. Mirihana. The head office of the Margaya Fellowship was stoned on New Year's Eve.
Sri Lanka, 30 of 65
78. Mirihana. The house of Pastor Nihal of Calvary Church was attacked on New Year's Eve.
79. Grandpass. On 31 December the Gospel Tabernacle Church branch was invaded by a group
of about five. At the time, the church was about to hold the watch night service. The pastor and
parishioners were threatened to stop the service and cease any activity in the area. Furniture
belonging to the church was broken and thrown into a nearby canal. The service was stopped for
fear of further violence
80. Peralanda, Kandana. The Harvest Ministries Church came under attack on the night of 29
December. An unidentified group attempted to burn down the church and Bible school during
the night. At approximately 10 p.m., the building was doused with gasoline. The fire was put out
by church workers who were awakened by the commotion, preventing serious damage to the
building. The doors of the building were burned and light fixtures were smashed. The police
were alerted and arrived on the scene promptly. Investigations are continuing.
81. Maharagama. On 24, 25 and 26 December, the King‘s Revival Church was stoned during the
night, damaging windows. On the 28th, at approximately 12:30 in the afternoon, a group of
persons attacked the church. The police were called and they arrested some of the attackers. A
monk from the Vajiraghnana temple spoke with the pastor that night and an agreement was
reached with the police to release the arrested persons on the monk‘s guarantee that they would
not cause any more trouble. The church is now under constant police guard. Police entry
numbers: PCIB 2003/225 of 25/12 and PCIB 2253/428 of 28/12.
82. Thalapathpitiya. Pastor Deepal of the Calvary Church was attacked on Christmas Eve. His
church was stoned and damaged.
83. Thalapathpitiya. The house of a Christian worker in children's ministry was stoned on
Christmas Eve by a mob.
84. Maharagama. The house church of Pastor Fonseka (King's Revival) was stoned many times
on Christmas Eve.
85. Udawalawe (Ratnapura District). On the night of 9 December, after the incident at the AOG
Church in Embilipitiya (see no. 105 below), the police sent officers to alert the AOG Church in
nearby Udawalawe of a possible attack. At approximately 7:30 pm, after the officers had left, the
church was stormed by a mob of about thirty people who arrived in four vehicles. The electricity
supply was disconnected. The mob smashed windows, doors and chairs, and took furniture and
other belongings outside and set them on fire. The pastor escaped unhurt. Another pastor‘s house
was stoned and damaged. A police entry was made.
86. Embilipitiya (Ratnapura District). The Catholic Church also came under attack on 9
December. This building is situated in close proximity to an Army camp. The mob told the
soldiers who attempted to prevent the church being set on fire that they had orders from ―higher
authorities‖ to burn the church and that the soldiers should not intervene. The church was set on
fire. After the mob dispersed, the military personnel put out the fire.
Sri Lanka, 31 of 65
87. Homagama. In December 2003, Pastor Asoka of the Prayer Hall Church was threatened with
death unless he removed the church.
88. Matugama. In December 2003 Buddhists in the area threatened Pastor Jegan.
89. Homagama (Colombo District). On 30 November at approximately 1:30 p.m., a mob
including about twenty Buddhist monks in sixteen vehicles arrived at the home of the pastor of
the AOG Church. The pastor was away and only his wife and three female parishioners were
present. The mob was very loud and unruly, demanding that the pastor leave immediately. They
asked the landlord to evict the tenants. They gave the pastor an ultimatum to leave or face violent
consequences. Someone brought in a video camera and taped the interior of the house, the
pastor's wife and the other women present. The pastor's files, including membership lists, notes,
etc., were taken away. A police entry was lodged in this regard. The police are making inquiries.
90. Mathugama. The AOG Church branch was attacked on 18 November.
91. Anuradhapura. An independent church was set on fire during the night of 14 November. A
gasoline bomb was reportedly thrown at the church. The damage was assessed at over Rs.
92. Borella, Colombo. On 13 November, the office of World Vision (WV) was stormed by a
group of Buddhist monks and men. A tense situation ensued and a female WV staff member was
slapped by a monk. The director and several other officials were forced to go to the Buddha
Sasana Ministry. The monks demanded that the ministry seal the WV office and begin
investigations into their work. They accused WV of rejecting the 2002 report of the Commission
on Buddhism appointed by the Buddha Sasana Ministry, and of ―unethical conversion.‖ WV
stated that they did not reject the 2002 Commission report, but denied the comments made in the
report regarding their organization and the allegation of unethical conversion. WV entered a
police report. The incident was reported on TV on the evening of the 13th on Rupavahini’s
―Newsline‖ and ―Live at 8‖ on Swarnavahini. Reports were also carried in the Leader, Divaina
and Lankadeepa newspapers.
93. Digana. During the early morning hours of 10 November, unidentified persons set the Four
Square Gospel Church on fire. The fire was brought under control by the pastor and others,
preventing structural damage. The pulpit, mats and musical instruments were destroyed. A
gasoline can was found in the premises. A complaint was made and the police are investigating.
94. Nawala, Rajagiriya (Colombo District). On 8 November, the Emmanuel Church was closed
for the night with only the security officer on duty. At approximately 8:30 p.m. a white Hiace
van drove up with five Buddhist monks, one elderly man and about ten young men. They entered
the building by force. They removed telephone indexes, files, books, etc., from the office. They
also attempted to remove a computer. A pastor of the church, alerted by neighbors, arrived at the
scene and protested the removal of church property. He was prevented from calling the police
Sri Lanka, 32 of 65
and the telephone was disconnected. The security officer was threatened not to interfere or they
would "do to him what they did to the man at Arunodaya Mawatha, Obeysekerapura." (This was
possibly a reference to the attack on 26 October, at the Philadelphia Church anniversary
celebration at Arunodaya Mawatha, Obeysekerapura—see No. 100 below.) The pastor and two
parishioners from the neighborhood were questioned as to their ethnic identity. The intruders
drove away, telling the pastor to come to the Welikada Police Station. When the pastor and other
eye witnesses arrived at the station, the monks were already there making their statements to the
police. The monks lodged an accusation of unethical conversion by financial and material
enticement. The following entries were made by the pastor and witnesses: 174/71 MOIB 2003-
11-08, 138/98 CIBI 2003-11-09. The police called both parties for a meeting on 14 November.
The stolen property was not returned to the pastor. A further meeting was called by the police for
95. Udugampola (District of Gampaha). On the night of 6 November, while some members of
the Calvary Worship Center were praying at the church, a hand grenade was thrown at the
church by an unidentified man who arrived on a motor bicycle. The grenade shattered the
windscreen of a car parked outside and caused some damage to the wall of the building. There
were no injuries to the worshipers inside. A police entry was made on 7 November, at 9:45 p.m.
Entry No. MOIB 330-74 at the Gampaha Police Station.
96. Hettipola. The Margaya Church has faced hostility for some time. On 2 November, a mob
led by Buddhist monks invaded the property and demanded the withdrawal of the church.
97. Hettipola. Margaya Church has faced hostility for some time. In November, mobs physically
attacked ten believers mercilessly, including women and elderly persons. Two were hospitalized.
Attackers then went to the hospital at night and threatened them with death. Later, the house of a
Christian believer was burned down.
98. Homagama (District of Colombo). On 30 October, the AOG branch church was threatened
by two Buddhist monks and three others. The incident occurred at about 3:30 in the afternoon.
This church meets in a rented house belonging to a Buddhist family. The intruders dragged out
the pulpit and hymn books and burned them. Some musical instruments were stolen.
99. Rajagiriya, Obeysekerapura (District of Colombo). The local branch of the Philadelphia
Church celebrated their seventh anniversary on Sunday, 26 October. The church hired a local
community meeting hall (Obeysekarapura Arunodaya Mawatha Praja Shalawa) for the event, in
order to accommodate over 150 worshipers. At approximately 6:30 p.m., a large crowd,
including a few Buddhist monks, arrived at the hall and disrupted the service. The pastor was
falsely accused of treating a Buddha statue with disrespect by placing it on the floor. The mob
placed the statue on the floor and demanded that the pastor worship the statue. He refused to do
so and they beat him. The pastor and another worshiper were surrounded by the mob and held
hostage for over an hour until the police arrived and took the two of them to the police station for
their safety. The pastor explained the truth about the statue to the police and the intact statue was
Sri Lanka, 33 of 65
handed over to the police. Some of the monks demanded that the church stop all Christian
activities and worship services in the area. Material damage included broken chairs, torn and
burnt banners and damage to a set of drums and guitars. A police entry was made.
100. Athurugiriya. The local branch of the New Covenant Life Center was attacked during a
worship service on Sunday, 19 October. The church had not met in their usual place of worship
for two weeks (a reception hall where they had been meeting for the past two years) due to
threats. On this Sunday the service was held in a low-key manner to avoid any altercation. A
Buddhist monk leading a group of about fifty young men arrived, however, and demanded that
the believers vacate the building within ten minutes. Pastor Dushantha De Silva was able to keep
the congregation calm and they left the church as requested. The monk stated that they would
not be allowed to meet in this Buddhist village for Christian meetings. A police entry was made -
CIB II 99/274. The police called for an inquiry on 20 October. The attackers were not present.
The OIC informed all parties to be present at an inquiry on Saturday 25 October at the meeting
hall where the church meets.
101. Bollatte (Batuwatte). On 19 October, the AOG Ja-ela branch church of Batuwatte was in the
midst of their Sunday worship service when a group of about 1,000 people from the Catholic
Church, including altar servers carrying bells, disrupted the service. The group was led by the
Catholic priest and four monks; they demanded that the services be discontinued. The Catholic
priest announced that any Christians should worship in the Catholic Church and the Buddhists
should worship in the Buddhist temple. The pastor was accused of unethical conversion and
102. Kadawatha. On 12 October, statues of Buddha were brought into the church during an
attack by a mob that invaded the church while a worship service was in progress. The mob came
with two Divayina reporters. They broke Buddha statues they had brought inside the church
building, then took photographs of the broken statues and published them in the Divayina of 13
October. A factual report (true picture) was published by the Daily Mirror on 14 October. The
mob attacked many present with iron rods and destroyed equipment worth Rs 200,000
(approximately US$1,950). Relevant police entries are available at the Kadawata police station.
(Police reports CIB (II) 03237, CIB (II) 04238, GCIB 177210.) The Divayina Journalists
themselves lodged an entry alleging manhandling by the Christians who attempted to stop them
photographing the statues they themselves had broken.
103. Kadawatha. On 12 October, as the congregation of 350 believers was at the morning
worship service, a crowd armed with rocks and sticks broke into the church and began beating up
the believers, including women and children. The pastor too was beaten and kicked. The roof,
furniture and fittings were destroyed, including a music set valued at Rs. 350,000 (about
US$3,400), which the church hires from a third party. Bibles were torn and spat upon.
The most horrifying incident was that some persons in the mob brought in about six Buddha
statues and began smashing them on the ground, while a cameraman who came with them
proceeded to take photographs of the broken statues inside the church. While this incident was
taking place, several witnesses reported seeing a black luxury car carrying a Buddhist monk
driving up and down the road, surveying the attack.
Sri Lanka, 34 of 65
At the time of the incident, three worshippers went to the police station to lodge a complaint
about the attack. The police first told them that they had no paper to record the complaint. They
did, however, take down the complaint when one of the complainants showed his service ID,
indicating that he was an officer in the Air Force. Complaint number CIB2 03/237. The police
arrived at the scene long after the incident and collected pieces of the broken Buddha statues.
They did not seem interested in the injured or in the damage caused to the church. Two more
complaints were made to the police by the pastor and two other believers—CIB2 04/238 and
GCIB 177/210 (the third person was not issued a number). The complainants were treated very
shabbily by the police.
Some of the worshippers had taken down numbers of the vehicles involved in the attack: a
pickup truck, motorbikes and tri-shaws. These, however, were not recorded by the police. The
police officer instead insisted on the names of the people who took down the numbers. The
police conducted no proper investigation into any of the complaints. On Monday, 13 October,
the Lankadeepa and Divaina newspapers carried distorted versions of the incident. The state TV
station Rupavahini, however, and the private TV station Swarnawahini reported the incident of
the attack on the church.
104. Embilipitiya. On Sunday, 12 October, the AOG Church was meeting for their Sunday
worship service when seven Buddhist monks accompanied by a gang disrupted the service. They
demanded that the worship services be stopped and threatened the pastor and the believers to
leave the area. A bottle of poison was brought out and the monk challenged the pastor to drink it
as proof that his God was real, citing Scripture in which Jesus told his disciples that poison
would not harm them. The pastor responded by saying that the Scripture also says not to test God.
The gang left after threatening the believers.
105. Balapitiya. A branch of the Ambalangoda AOG Church was threatened during the first
week of October by a crowd of about seventy people led by the Balapitiya Bauddha
Balamandalaya members and Buddhist monks. They demanded that the church be closed down
within one month. The police were informed, but the OIC refused to post the complaint in the
complaints book. He stated that he would consult his superiors and take the necessary action.
106. Vankalai, Mannar. On 5 October and 12 October, the AOG Church was threatened by the
members of the Vankalai Roman Catholic Church. It is reported that some worshippers have
been beaten up and their lives have been threatened. The internally displaced refugee population
that worships at this church, along with the church‘s pastor, have been ordered to leave Vankalai
or face death.
107. Kandy. On 5 October, the local branch of the Gethsemana Prayer Center Church held their
usual Sunday evening service. It was attended by around 160 believers. During the service, the
Ven. Yatinuwara Nanda and three other monks, accompanied by local government member Mr.
Ranasinghe and a mob armed with rocks and crude weapons, stormed the church. They
demanded that the service be stopped. The pastor, fearing for the safety of the believers,
complied. The mob, however, began to attack the Christians; they brutally assaulted the young
women in the congregation in particular. Many were injured and received treatment at the OPD
Sri Lanka, 35 of 65
while some were hospitalized for treatment. The church too sustained damage. Complaints were
made to the Kandy police on the same day (entry no. CIB III 98-69 / CIB III 102-70). The police
have referred the matter to a local mediation committee (samatha mandalaya).
108. Marandagahamula (Peliyagoda). The Gethsemane Prayer Center Church branch was
attacked by a mob on Sunday, 28 September. This church has a membership of about 95 families.
A protest rally against the church was organized by a group who took to the streets on this day.
They prevented many Christian believers from attending the morning worship service. About
thirty families made it to the church for the service at 9.30 a.m. During the service, a mob of
protesters attacked the church with stones and rocks. They attacked the believers, causing injury
to many. Bibles and handbags were snatched from their hands. The mob then made their way to
the new church building and set it ablaze. Police complaints were made to the Divulapitiya
Police (entry nos. GCIB 187 / GCIB 183/175).
109. Kesbewa. At 2:00 a.m. on 25 September, the AOG Church was torched and completely
gutted. This church has had to endure harassment for a number of months, including threats
against members‘ lives, oil thrown on the building repeatedly, stoning and even a bomb attack
leaving one person injured from shrapnel. The church has repeatedly complained of the
harassment to the Piliyandala Police and the growing tension has been reported to the senior
police officers. The anti-Christian efforts at Kesbewa are being spearheaded by Chandrasiri
Katuwawala, who is supported by a prominent temple in the area. The building and everything in
it was completely gutted.
110. Kotadeniyawa (Gampaha District) – On 17 September, the AOG Church Center was
attacked, furniture was destroyed and windows were broken. A politically powerful monk
warned church workers to leave or suffer the consequences. That evening, a mob of thirty drunk
men attempted to rape four single female workers. They beat and dragged the women. The
women fought powerfully and the Lord saved them from rape. The mob took them to the police
station and complained they were prostitutes. The OIC, in tow with the monk, produced them in
the Magistrate's court under the Brothel's Ordinance. But the Magistrate questioned the OIC. The
case was fixed for hearing on 6 October.
111. Wattala. On 7 September, a mob led by monks threatened members of the New Wine
Harvest Church that blood would be shed if the church did not cease to function.
112. Kadawatha. In September, the Eternal Church was set ablaze and the floor was completely
destroyed. Threats were issued against the church. Two weeks later, Mr. Anura Jayakody, a
member of the Mahara Pradeshiya Sabha (local government council), arrived at the church and
threatened the believers.
Sri Lanka, 36 of 65
113. Wadduwa. On 31 August, a mob forcibly poured tar on the front entrance of the Apostolic
114. Gampola. On 31 August, a mob forced the closure of the Dutch Reformed Church. It
115. Kesbewa. The AOG Church has been under threat and faced opposition for some time. On 7
August, the church was stoned. Posters against the church have appeared in Kesbewa and
Piliyandala areas. The church was bombed on the night of 13 August. The police requested the
pastors of the Assemblies of God & Calvary Church to be present for the inquiry. When they
came for the inquiry, the vehicle of the Calvary Church was attacked and the pastor assaulted in
front of the police station. To date no action has been taken about the incidents.
116. Rathgama - The Methodist Church was attacked by a mob on 2 August. Previously, on
Sunday, 27 July, an attempt to attack the church had been averted. A Christian alerted the police,
who arrived and prevented the mob of Buddhist monks and youth from entering the church
premises. The monks issued an ultimatum, stating that if the church was not closed down by
Saturday, 2 August, they would tear it down and burn the parishioners. The police requested the
parties to be present at an inquiry on Saturday, 2 August. On Saturday, about ten monks
presented themselves at the police station for the inquiry and on their way from the police station
they went to the church. They threw rocks at the church and broke pews and benches. They beat
two workers, Brother Mahesh and Brother Richard Silva, who were later warded in hospital for
treatment. Another worker, Brother Ariyadasa, was chased by a monk armed with a mammoty
(sharp-edged shovel used to till the ground), but he escaped. The monks also attacked his home,
destroying chairs, tables, a radio and other possessions. A police report was filed and the police
are investigating, but no arrests have been made at the time of the writing of this report.
117. Thanamalwila. Pastor Ranjith of the AOG Church in Lunugamvehera was attacked and
chased away by about ten Buddhist monks on Saturday, 2 August. A sister who tried to protect
him was also beaten. The monks threatened to attack again if the church is not closed. The mob
was armed with a grenade and a pistol.
118. Hikkaduwa. On Saturday, 2 August, at around 8:45 am, a mob led by Buddhist monks
arrived at the Calvary Church and threatened the occupants. The wife of a worker was verbally
abused and framed Scripture verses hanging on the walls were smashed. Another Christian was
beaten. A police entry was made. The mob that attacked this church is believed to be the same
one that attacked the Rathgama Methodist Church.
119. Hikkaduwa. On 2 August, the AOG Church was threatened that they will be the next in the
spate of attacks (reported above).
120. Lunawa. In August, a mob instigated by Buddhist monks threatened some female workers
of the AOG Church with rape. A police entry was made.
121. Maharagama. In August, Pastor Ravi Silva of the Margaya Fellowship Church was
preaching at a home cell when a Buddhist monk of the area came and threatened him not to visit
Sri Lanka, 37 of 65
the area again. The monk forced the landlord of the premises to threaten the Christian believer
with eviction if the prayer group continued. The believer had to leave his premises.
122. Maharagama. In August, a Buddhist monk of the area, together with a group of people,
forcibly entered the house of a Christian believer in Pamunuwa Maharagama and tried to chant
pirith against the believer's wishes.
123. Maharagama. The same monk visited several houses of Christians who had converted from
Buddhism and warned them to return to the Buddhist temple.
124. Kadawatha. The Eternal Church, pastored by Bro. Jayatissa, is situated on a block of land
donated by a parishioner. On 19 July, tires were placed inside the premises and burned. A police
report was filed with the Kadawatha Police (CIB I 98/401).
125. Padhaviya, Siripura (Anuradhapura District). The Apostolic Church has been facing
opposition from an organized group led by some Buddhist monks. On 16 February, this group
held a public protest rally, demanding that the church cease all its activities immediately. Black
flags were hung all over the town area of Padhavi Siripura as a mark of protest against the church.
The protest was followed by a demand that the church be closed. On 27 March the church was
set ablaze during the night.
126. Borella. On 26 January a mob of about fifteen visited the Voice of Prophecy Prayer Center
and threatened the worker.
DATE UNKNOWN (2003)
127. Ganemulla. Houses of parishioners of the AOG Church were attacked.
128. Colombo. About thirty monks invaded the Voice of Prophecy prayer hall at Maradana and
demanded that meetings be stopped.
129. Attidiya. The Methodist Church and Rev. Lee, a Korean pastor, were threatened and warned
to stop ministry.
130. Borella. A mob visited Gospel Ministries Church, threatened church members with death
and cut the church‘s telephone wires.
Sri Lanka, 38 of 65
131. Bulathkohupitiya. The Margaya Church was completely burned down by a mob that had
come in a van.
132. Bulathkohupitiya. The AOG Church was attacked by a mob that had come in a van; items
belonging to the church were set on fire.
133. Bulathkohupitiya. A Christian worker's premises were forcibly entered and documents,
books, etc., were taken away.
134. Deraniyagala. The AOG Church was attacked by a mob led by Buddhist monks.
135. Devundara. A pastor was returning home after a worship service when he was attacked by a
mob of about forty people led by Buddhist monks.
136. Diganaa. The New Life Center, run by Pastor Lakshman Perera, was threatened with
eviction and attacked.
137. Dikhathapma. The Catholic Church was attacked and vandalized; statues were destroyed.
138. Doongaha. Christian believers were threatened and prevented from attending church by a
mob led by Buddhist monks.
139. Embilipitiya. The World Vision office was attacked by mob of over 1,000 people led by
Buddhist monks. The mob beat up the security guard, smashed telephones and caused great
damage to the office. Over 300 Buddhist monks participated in the attack.
140. Galle. A mob instigated by a Buddhist monk attacked the drug rehabilitation center run by
Brother Raja Wijekoon.
141. Godagama. Ceylon Pentecostal Mission was threatened and Bibles and some documents
were taken forcibly.
142. Hettipola. Pastor Upali of the Margaya Church was assaulted mercilessly. During a public
meeting, a church worker was manhandled in the presence of the police. Police entries were
made. The mobs forced the shops to close in protest and hoist black flags.
143. Horana. Pastor Kumarawansa of Four Square Gospel Church was threatened and asked to
leave. Church services were stopped.
144. Homagama. Mobs have threatened Christian believers from Four Square, Prayer Hall,
Assembly of God and other churches.
145. Homagama. The Four Square Gospel Church, located in the same area, was closed,
following intimidation and threats from Buddhist monks.
Sri Lanka, 39 of 65
146. Homagama. Siripala, a Christian believer from the Prayer Hall Church, was, along with his
family, threatened, attacked and chased away.
147. Kadawatha. Pastor Geeth of the Calvary Church was knifed and warned to stop church
work in the area by a mob instigated by Buddhist monks.
148. Kalutara. The Salvation Army was threatened with eviction.
149. Kesbewa. The AOG Church was attacked consistently over a period of five or six months.
Pastor Kumar received death threats. Once, a gasoline bomb was thrown at him and a worker
who was with him was seriously injured. The church was subsequently set on fire and
completely destroyed. The pastor had to move to a secret location to avoid being killed. The
Kesbewa Sasana Sansadaya (the Kesbewa Buddhist Association) has openly claimed
responsibility for the attacks.
150. Kesbewa - A Christian worker, Sister Amarasinghe, who conducts church services at home
at Halpita Kesbewa, was threatened and her house was attacked by a Buddhist monk and his mob.
Her son sustained injuries and the house was damaged in the attack. The damages amount to
approximately Rs.25,000 (about US$245). The police took no action.
151. Kesbewa. Buddhist monks threatened Christian believers not to attend church.
152. Kirimetiyawa. The AOG Church was set on fire and Pastor Cabraal was threatened with
153. Kottawa. A prominent Buddhist monk in the area warned Pastor Lakshman Senaviratne of
Calvary Church to stop services that have been held for over twelve years.
154. Kottawa. A mob led by Buddhist monks visited a branch church of Pastor Lakshman‘s at
Makubura and threatened to stop the services.
155. Kottawa. Pastor Tilak of the Zion Church was mercilessly assaulted by a Buddhist monk
and a mob; Pastor Tilak's arm was broken in the assault.
156. Kuliyapitiya. Pastor Dileep of the Jeevana Diya Center was questioned by CID regarding
157. Lahirugama. A mob instigated by Buddhist monks attacked the church run by Pastor
Gunasiri of the Margaya Fellowship and caused damages.
158. Mawadawila. Pastor Ariyadasa of the AOG Church was assaulted by a Buddhist monk who,
along with a mob, also caused extensive damages to church property.
159. Maharagama. Pastor Mervyn Wijesinghe's church, Power Ministries, was forced to leave
Maharagama following threats by Buddhist monks. As a result, the Christians in the area have
been unable to congregate and continue in their faith.
Sri Lanka, 40 of 65
160. Maharagama. Buddhist monks sponsored and instigated a rally against the building of the
Margaya Fellowship premises at Nallewatte Maharagama. They later threatened a Christian
believer living near the church building.
161. Maharagama. Construction workers at the Margaya Fellowship premises (the pastor's
residence) at Nallewatte, Maharagama, were threatened and driven away and the building was
set on fire. The damage and loss to construction work totaled more than Rs. 35,000 (US$340). A
police entry was made.
162. Maharagama. Posters against Pastor Dulkith of Calvary Church were distributed and pasted
and his life was threatened. Mobs tried to set fire to the church but were not successful. Many
believers were also attacked.
163. Matugama. The AOG Church headed by Pastor Tillekeratne at Badureliya was attacked and
set on fire.
164. Matugama. Pastor Anton's house at Wettewa was set on fire.
165. Matugama. Pastor Ruwan of the AOG Church was threatened by Buddhist monks several
times and also assaulted many times.
166. Mutwal. Extensive damages resulted when the ―Jesus Lives Ministry‖ of Pastor Rajendran's
church was attacked.
167. Neluwa. Pastor Sylvester de Rozairo's AOG Church was attacked by a mob that set the
church on fire and caused bodily harm to a worker.
168. Homagama. A Christian worker's house church, or Kithu Sevana (―Christian Shelter‖), was
169. Kesbewa. A mob led by Buddhist monks attacked Pastor Kumarasinghe of the AOG Church
with bicycle chains and then chased him away. After the attack, Pastor Kumarasinghe‘s church
was set on fire. Subsequent events included an assassination attempt—someone threw a bomb at
the pastor but he managed to escape. A local Buddhist monk affiliated with the monk-led
political party, the JHU, told the pastor that he wanted the area ―religiously cleansed‖ and would
not permit a church to operate there. Today, the church no longer exists and Pastor
Kumarasinghe is in hiding.
170. Pannipitiya. Christ Church (Roman Catholic) was attacked and damaged severely.
171. Maharagama. Pastor Sunil Siriwardena of Christian Center was asked to leave by his
landlord under duress from a Buddhist monk. The pastor had to leave.
172. Piliyandala. A mob led by Buddhist monks forcibly entered the house of Pastor Wicky, a
Christian worker, while he was out. Valuable books and Bibles were thrown outside and burned.
Sri Lanka, 41 of 65
173. Piliyandala. Pastor Anton of the Christian Assembly received death threats. In a separate
incident, other Christian believers were also threatened.
174. Piliyandala. The Pentecostal Assembly was attacked at Suwaripola. It was forcibly locked
from the outside and the mobs tried to create problems for the church with the local community.
175. Thanamalwila. Protests were held against World Vision work in the area.
176. Thibirigasyaya. A mob forcibly entered a Methodist foreign pastor's house; they took a
computer and other material.
177. Thibirigasyaya. The house of a foreign pastor of the Presbyterian Church was forcibly
entered; a computer and other material were taken.
178. Wijerama. A mob instigated by a Buddhist monk in the area warned a Christian worker
conducting Suva Setha Sevaya (―service for all‖) to leave town.
179. Wilpotha. A Christian children's home maintained by the Aroma Church of Pastor Rodney
was set on fire; one side was completely destroyed.
180. Weeraketiya. Pastor Lakshman of the AOG Church was forced to halt services when
threatened by a mob led by Buddhist monks who came to protest against the church.
181. Weerawila. A house church was burned down by mobs led by Buddhist monks.
182. Kirimetimulla, Akuressa. On Christmas Day, Mrs. Indrani Abeysinghe, a native of
Kirimetimulla, and her four adult children who live in Colombo were at home for Christmas.
Many of the Buddhist villagers visited her home during the day to enjoy a meal. At midnight an
unidentified gang disconnected the electricity and broke into the house. Fearing for her
daughter's safety, Indrani ran to her daughter's room and closed the door behind her. She could
hear the sound of her sons trying to keep the back door from being forced open. The mob was
armed with a gun, a mammoty, clubs and other weapons. They carried flashlights and wore
masks and hoods concealing their identities. They brutally attacked Indrani‘s sons. Her second
son, 28-year-old Suranga, was beaten senseless and left for dead. He received a serious head
wound from a mammoty. The house was surrounded by some members of the gang, who chased
away any of the neighbors who heard the family's cries for help and came to help or investigate.
The mob numbered ten to fifteen in all. The neighborhood streetlights were also switched off
during the attack and there were reports of three-wheeler taxis parked up the road for a quick
getaway. Suranga was taken to the Matara hospital in the morning, as they were afraid to travel
Sri Lanka, 42 of 65
by night. He was hospitalized for treatment of a severe head injury, which required about eight
183. Matara. On Christmas Day, the AOG Church was attacked. The electricity was cut off and
the landlord of the church premises was attacked on the head with a mammoty. Due to regular
threats and attacks, Pastor Jayantha de Silva has had to abandon the church.
184. Padukka. On Sunday, 15 September, The Lord is Our Strength Worship Center was
attacked by a mob led by a Buddhist monk. Around 30-35 believers were gathered together on
Sunday morning for worship. They were in prayer when at 9:00 am a monk from a nearby
temple walked in with a mob of about 100 people. He threatened the stunned believers to leave
the church and instructed the mob to attack them and if necessary kill them. The monk struck the
first blow, attacking Pastor Shawn Turin with his umbrella. When Pastor Turin fell to the ground
from a blow to his stomach, the monk picked up a wooden chair and dealt two brutal blows to his
head. The entire gathering witnessed this. As the pastor lay bleeding, the mob overran the church,
assaulting the believers—including women and children—with wooden chairs from the church,
window bars and iron rods removed from the church. Several believers were treated at the
Homagama government hospital while Pastor Turin was rushed to Colombo, as his condition
was serious. He received twenty stitches on his head, covering the wounds. His two brothers
were also badly injured: one sustained head injuries and the other received a blow to his stomach.
DATE UNKNOWN (2002)
185. Akuressa. A Campus Crusade worker was assaulted by a mob led by Buddhist monks.
186. Akuressa. Pastor Neville of the AOG Church was assaulted by a mob.
187. Akuressa. The pastor of the Four Square Gospel Church in Akuressa Malimbada was
threatened with death.
188. Veyangoda. Pastor Chandrakumar and his family, who have lived in the area for over ten
years, were attacked by Buddhist monks. The mob destroyed the church and attacked the
believers; one of the pastor's sons, age six, sustained severe head injuries.
189. Vendesiwatte. Living Life Church at Vendesiwatte was attacked by a mob.
Sri Lanka, 43 of 65
ADDENDUM: RALLIES AND PROTESTS
Editor‘s note: These entries were included in the original report from the Sri Lankan organization
Freedom. I have chosen to remove them from the body of the report because they document
presumably legal rallies or demonstrations against churches and Christian organizations, not
attacks, threats or other illegal acts. In an explanatory e-mail communication, however, a
representative of Freedom had this to say about these entries:
You must understand what these Buddhist rallies usually mean. Whenever the local
Buddhist monk organises a rally and gets his faithfuls together, it usually means that it is
the signal to attack the local church. In many of our experiences, soon after a gathering of
the Buddhists led by the monks, they went on if not immediately, then a few days later, to
attack the closest church. So therefore, in that context, it could be said that while a
meeting per se is not harmful but what concerns us Christians is the meeting being held
as some sort of a prelude to an attack.
Bearing this in mind, I have decided to include the four entries in question as an addendum.
1. Moratuwa. Over 800 monks participated in a rally held against the AOG and other churches in
the area and incited the local people.
2. Anuradhapura. Throughout 2003, Buddhist monks have held a demonstration against the
work of World Vision.
3. Sevenagala. Buddhist monks brought pressure to close the World Vision office by holding a
4. Weligama. Buddhist monks organized and held a protest rally against Pastor Jayantha de
Silva's work in Weligama.
Sri Lanka, 44 of 65
9.2 Other documents from N. R. Weersooriya. The documents contained in this section
offer glimpses into the thoughts and actions of representatives of the evangelical Christian
community in Sri Lanka in response to recent events there. Jubilee Campaign received them via
e-mail correspondence with a representative of Freedom, N. R. Weersooriya.
* * * * * * *
9.2.1 List of violations of Christian minority rights in Sri Lanka in 2004.
human rights for minorities in Sri Lanka
(RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION OF THE NATIONAL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP OF SRI LANKA)
Serious violations of Christian Minority Rights in Sri Lanka – 2004
On the pretext of preserving religious harmony, churches have been refused building
permits for places of worship.
A systematic campaign to incite anti-Christian feeling has been conducted in the media
and on public platforms, and there has been a clamour to introduce laws prohibiting
one’s free choice of religion.
Parties have distributed inflammatory literature.
Parties have initiated the process to bring legislation to prohibit propagation of the
Parties have brought pressure on landlords to evict Christian tenants or not to rent
houses or sell land to Christians.
There is a move to preserve certain parts of our country for the majority religion,
preventing Christians from entering these areas and evicting those already there. Here
again the provision for legislation could be activated, on the basis of maintaining
Existing clauses of the constitution have been misused in order to prosecute Christian
workers. For instance, section 81 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides for
binding over those liable to cause a “breach of peace,” is used unfairly. In situations
where Christian workers have been assaulted, police officers, who should be prosecuting
the assailants, end up binding both victim and assailant in court to keep the peace. This
is due to pressure from Buddhist monks.
Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which deals with the abatement of a
nuisance in relation to noise and environmental pollution, has been invoked to restrict
Sri Lanka, 45 of 65
Police have closed down churches in some areas or have ordered them to stop their
meetings on the basis of a challenge to the legal validity of such places of worship.
General burial grounds have been refused to Christian burials.
Christian children in school have been denied the right to study Christianity and in some
instances they are forced not only to study Buddhism but also to practice that faith and
follow its traditions.
Children of new converts have been denied the right to follow Christianity in their school
on the pretext that the child’s birth certificate indicates she or he is a Buddhist.
The government insists on religious education for all children in the school curriculum,
but certain government schools refuse to admit non-Buddhist children, claiming they do
not have the teachers for Christianity.
Churches wishing to construct their places of worship have been asked to obtain prior
approval from the Buddhists Affairs Ministry, although there is no constitutional
requirement to do so.
Action is not being taken or the law enforced in many instances when Christians are
assaulted or their rights are violated. Although over 200 cases of arson attacks against
Christian centers and places of worship, or death threats against pastors and Christian
believers, have taken place during the last year and in most cases have been reported
to the police, no indictments have been made, even though in many instances the
attackers have been identified.
Church properties, places of worship and the personal belongings of workers and
Christian believers have been damaged and destroyed.
Church workers, their families and Christian believers have been harassed and
threatened, especially in the rural areas.
In an effort to prevent Christians from leasing or purchasing property in village areas,
sellers and lessors have been threatened and restrained from entering the required legal
procedure. This has restricted the right of Christians to stay in any part of Sri Lanka.
Injunction orders have been issued under section 106(1) to stop churches conducting
Parties have prevented Christians from obtaining legal registration of any form by citing
that the propagation of the faith, which is a basic and fundamental belief of the
Christian community, violates Article 9 of the constitution, wherein Buddhism is given
the foremost place, and claiming that the state is bound to protect it.
Sri Lanka, 46 of 65
9.2.2 Letter from Freedom to police officials in Panadura.
human rights for minorities in Sri Lanka
(RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION OF THE NATIONAL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP OF SRI LANKA)
P.O.Box 122, Nugegoda
April 13, 2004
ATTACK ON CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP CHURCH, WADDUWA
This refers to the discussion we had with you on 8 April 2004 at your office, pertaining to the
threats received by the pastor and the congregation of the abovementioned church.
For the purpose of clarity I wish to detail the background to the current situation.
1. Pastor Sunil Hewage, the pastor in charge, has been ministering in the area for the last
eighteen years and has been conducting services at the current location for the last six years.
2. The property belongs to the church – Deed No 22871.
3. The church has been registered under the Companies Act and therefore permitted to hold
4. The building has been approved by the Panadura Pradeshiya Council by their approval –
5. On 28 December 2003 a mob led by Buddhist monks invaded the premises. They threatened
and demanded that the meetings be stopped.
6. On 4 January 2004 the monks, along with a mob, stormed the premises while the service was
going on. With the intervention of the police, the pastor was forced to sign a document
stating that the meetings would be stopped.
7. This church has approximately 200 adherents who gather for worship on Sundays.
You may recall that, in answer to the many questions raised by you and the A.S.P. who was in
attendance, we pointed out that we have not violated any law and we were only exercising our
rights as guaranteed in the Constitution under Article 14. We also pointed out that the question
about the church being planted in a Buddhist village or any person practicing his religion in
private in his home too is no violation of any law. The position taken by some that no Christian
place of worship should be tolerated in Buddhist villages amounts to religious cleansing. It is an
irony that these same people condemn the ethnic cleansing being carried out in some parts of our
Sri Lanka, 47 of 65
As you may be aware, on 11 April 2004 (Easter Sunday), when the congregation had gathered,
Ven. Rahula of Bodhidhumaramaya, Talpitiya, Wadduwa, along with a mob, disrupted the
service, attacked the building and assaulted the pastor, women and children.
We regret that even after bringing this matter to your notice no proper action has been taken to
prevent such a situation. It is sad that arguments are being leveled and attempts are made to raise
issues to prove that the existence of this church is illegal, even though there is no trace of
evidence for this claim, while no action is taken against those who take the law into their hands
and engage in violent attacks against people who are innocently practicing their religion.
In our conversation you inquired about the case at Keselwatte, where an injunction had been
obtained by the O.I.C. Keselwatte and the church have now made a fundamental rights
application to the Supreme Court. We are disturbed at the comments you made: ―Wait and see—
there is a coup being planned against the church.‖ We call upon you to take immediate action on
the information you apparently possess about the situation at Keselwatte.
We trust that these matters will receive your attention and law and order will be maintained
without fear or favor.
Rev. Rohan de S. Ekanayake
Secretary – Freedom
Religious Liberty Commission
National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka.
c.c: D.I.G. Kohombavitarne
Hon. Chandrika Kumaranatunga – Minister for Defence
Minister for Christian Affairs
The Police Commission
Mr. Elmo Perera, Attorney-at-Law
Sri Lanka, 48 of 65
9.2.3 Press release from NCFSL.
Update – Update – Update
National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka
News Release –
Anti-Conversion Bill presented in Sri Lankan Parliament sees Buddhist monks agitate for
legislature banning religious freedom
The Buddhist monk-led anti-minority political party in Sri Lanka, Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU),
presented the controversial Anti-Conversion Bill in the Sri Lankan Parliament on 20 July 2004.
The bill, which seeks to impose draconian laws that prohibit the changing of one‘s religion, is
seen by many at a religious and a secular level as threatening to the multi-ethnic, multi-religious
diversity that is Sri Lanka.
In addition to the bill already presented by the JHU, the Government which is Marxist-
dominated through its coalition partner, JVP, is also trying to bring in its own Anti-Conversion
Bill. The Government was elected on a platform of Sinhala Buddhist sentiments. Grappling with
failed peace talks with the LTTE and a desperately needed international donor aid package not
forthcoming, political sources point out that the Government is anxious to divert the attention of
a nation wanting to see the Government deliver everything they promised. The Anti-Conversion
Bill seems to fit the bill, so to speak. According to National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka
(NCFSL) sources, both bills, although not obviously stated, oppose conversions into Christianity.
Freedom of worship and practicing one‘s own religion are rights guaranteed under the Sri
Lankan Constitution which, however, also assures Buddhism a place above other religions.
If the bill is passed into law, human rights activists and religious bodies fear that the Buddhist
clergy, many of whom have been openly attacking churches, destroying property and harassing
Christians, would virtually take the law into their hands. They also point out that the bill would
make Christian events such as baptisms and prayer meeting illegal—there are heavy fines and a
prison sentence imposed if any event that could be interpreted as encouraging a conversion is
proven. Activists argue that most ordinary Christian activities that take place could be
misrepresented as events conducted with an objective of obtaining converts. Already, anti-
Christian feelings are running high among Buddhist organisations – many Christians remain
fearful. ―It seems like another Black July 1983 is waiting to happen,‖ says one Christian activist
who refers to the infamous race riots that the majority Sinhala Buddhists staged against the
minority Tamils in 1983. The riots resulted in hundreds of deaths and damage to property and set
the stage for the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Today, the scene is somewhat similar. The Buddhist monk-led JHU preaches a One Race, One
Religion doctrine; their public stance reflects their anti-minority sentiments. The Minister for
Christian Affairs in the Sri Lankan Government is silent, says a Christian worker who also adds
that already, thanks to the bill‘s being presented in Parliament, the local Buddhist priests are
Sri Lanka, 49 of 65
busy organizing mobs to attack churches. ―It could be the beginning of the worst attacks yet,‖ he
The response of the Christian church to the bill was swift. The Methodist Church today filed a
case against the bill, citing violations of fundamental rights—the Sri Lankan state permits
objection, if any, against a proposed bill to be filed in the Supreme Court within seven days.
According to NCFSL and other Christian organizations, many such organizations are planning
on filing as many cases as possible. Activists feel that there would be many cases filed against
the bill, not just by Protestant and Catholic organizations, but also by secular human rights
groups. However, activists also feel that given the biased attitude of the Sri Lankan Judiciary
(last year, there were two judgments given against Christians, citing similar cases in India; one
was in relation to opening a children‘s home by the Catholic Church), the cases may be refused.
The same Christian worker adds, ―It is a well known fact that the Sri Lanka Chief Justice Sarath
Silva , along with many other senior judges, harbor anti-minority sentiments.‖ It is likely that the
same set of judges, all of them Sinhala Buddhists, would hear the cases. ―Nothing much can be
expected from the courts,‖ says a Christian lay worker, who adds that ―the police are Sinhala
Buddhist- dominated and biased against the minorities, so is the local media, not to mention the
judiciary. It is just like what happened to the Tamils in 1983. Today, Christians cannot expect
justice in Sri Lanka. It is becoming a Buddhist Taliban.‖
Christians, Moslems and Hindus, who for centuries have lived alongside Sinhala Buddhists, have
had to face discrimination at some time. However, according to activists, the situation has never
been so bad before.
9.2.4 Commentary by N. R. Weerasooriya.
ANTI-CONVERSION BILL: A Convert’s View
Nayomini Ratnayake Weerasooriya
Colombo, June 27, 2004 – There was a time when a Tamil going about his business in the city
had every reason to look over his shoulder. He was a marked man—this was before the LTTE
took up the Tamil cause and made the majority sit up and take notice. Today, no Tamil need to
look over his shoulder. His brother is watching out for him.
Today, I feel what that Tamil brother would have felt in July 1983. Because we have yet another
July 1983 waiting to happen. In 1958, when Sinhala Only became effective in 24 hours, Sri
Lanka succeeded in driving out the Burghers. Overnight, they had been made to feel lesser than
the Sinhalese, but they had somewhere to go, migrating by the hundreds Down Under. We lost
many talented Burghers in the exodus. In the eighties, with the July 1983 riots, we started losing
the talented Tamils, driven out of their own homes, no longer even welcome. The same sad
scenario is repeated—this time, the target is the Christian. In Buddhist neighborhoods such as
Maharagama, a Colombo suburb, Christians are not given houses on rent. Neighbors do not
forget to mock Christians going to church on Sunday with Bible in hand. Reminiscences of pre-
Sri Lanka, 50 of 65
What started as a political agenda of attacking churches—over 200 Protestant and Catholic
places of worship have been attacked and many pastors assaulted, with the perpetrators free to go,
no charges brought against them—is today a full- blown prejudice and persecution against the
Christians. Christians are harassed and marked; one particular incident illustrates this best. A
female Christian worker whose house church was attacked in Piliyandala went to the police
station to make a complaint. The female police officer attending to the case simply told the
Christian, ―You are a Christian. You have no right to speak—this is a Buddhist country.‖
Christians have borne it all in silence. There has not been a single act of retaliation from this
silent, hard working, civic conscious 8% of the Sri Lankan population. The latest point of
discontent, that of conversion, is a thorn the extremist elements of this nation love. Not even the
intellectuals are willing to listen to the argument that yes, there are many who have experienced
the powerful, personal experience of conversion. Many accusations have been made of so-called
―unethical conversions,‖ but nothing has been proven with facts. No one has walked into a police
station and said, ―Yes, I was given inducements to convert to Christianity.‖ Everyone cries
―unethical conversions‖ hoarse but no one has bothered to find any John and Jane Does who
have been converted.
In this nation where protests are held at the drop of a hat and the very ones who profess religion
do the exact opposite of what religion preaches, this is to be accepted. Silently too, because
Christians who follow Jesus Christ must essentially tread the path of non-violence and display
love towards all. This very concept, as against the ―tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye‖ of the Old
Testament still valid in other religions, has perhaps painted the Christians to be a meek, voiceless
people against whom any act of offense can be committed safely, without any retaliation. For the
majority who support such acts of violence against Christians, well, it‘s a little like the king who
wore no clothes but was admired by all. It took a child to tell everyone else that their ruler was in
fact stark naked.
Although the attacks against churches were thought to have stopped, thanks to the Anti-
Conversion Bill fever, attacks have in fact been stepped up. A church in Talduwa, Wadduwa,
was attacked first during the Easter Sunday service and yet again on 20 June. A mob numbering
over a thousand led by a Buddhist monk caused mayhem and not even the police could stop them.
As a nation we were shocked when Buddhist priests were manhandled in Parliament recently,
but Christian pastors have been more than manhandled many times over.
One pastor in Kalutara was tied to a tree and beaten up and his house set on fire. All this was
witnessed by his six-year-old son who to this day is traumatized. No culprit was found; often, in
attacks against Christian places of worship, the law‘s arm is just not long enough to catch up
with the perpetrators, for reasons best known to them. Kavuda mewata wagakiyanne?
There were over five incidents when the local Buddhist priests came forward to stop Christians
being buried in a common cemetery. One was reported in Bingiriya: the family of a Christian, a
convert for over twenty years, was refused burial by the Buddhist monk. The monk forcibly
conducted Buddhist funeral rites. When the BBC went to film the family and their story, the
village gathered to stone them. In yet another instance, the family had to bury the body in their
Sri Lanka, 51 of 65
own garden. And in yet another, the hapless family was able to find a Baptist churchyard to bury
their dead. And someone said that this was the Dharmadeepa with metta and Karuna given the
Enough is enough. Violence against Christians will soon become an issue taken up worldwide;
already, Christian associations such as the National Christian Fellowship (NCF), an association
of indigenous Christian churches and their human rights arm, Freedom, are taking the plight of
the Sri Lankan Christians to the world. The BBC recently aired a program on the violence
against Christians and other networks are picking up the story. The NCF is lobbying the UN and
other international bodies, including western governments and their local embassies here.
Already, many western media have highlighted the issue. Once more, thanks to religious
prejudice, Sri Lanka will become famous for violence—this time, not against the Tamils but
against the Christians who make up the largest religious group in the world.
The attacks, the violence, the prejudice—we can stomach it all. That‘s the Christian call:
brethren everywhere go through trials of various kinds. Trials will continue in one form or
What concerns Christians most, converts such as myself in particular, is the attempt at legalizing
religious suppression in the form of the Anti-Conversion Bill. How could a piece of legislature
specify conversion, which is a very private, intensely personal experience? How could it seek to
impose conditions on conversion? Those who preach Buddhism to the West, with viharas
opening in largely Christian Western countries (although building a new church is not allowed in
Sri Lanka), would not like to see legal conditions imposed on such conversions in those countries.
We like to think we live in a civilized world, in a country with a 2,500-year-old culture. The
culture of the Sinhala kings was not the perverted edition that is being touted proudly today. It
did not provide for prejudices, for unfair treatment of subjects, be they Buddhist, Christian or
whatever. Sinhala kings treated all subjects alike. Theirs was no hidden agenda, no second-class
treatment, which was first the lot of the Burghers after independence and then the Tamils and
today the Christians. God help Sri Lanka indeed.
What those proposing the legislation forget is that suppression is not the way to prevent anyone
converting—for material benefits or otherwise—if they are so inclined. Suppression has always
made the faith grow. In countries such as China and Saudi Arabia, there are strong underground
Churches with thousands of believers. Legislation against drugs, crime and other evils of society
has failed in Sri Lanka, as we all know. Instead of bringing in tougher legal measures to combat
the social evils, the state is bothered about Buddhists converting to Christianity. Without
sufficient proof in a court of law or at least in a police station. Crime is escalating, road accidents
claim lives, illness runs rampant and alcoholism is growing, but the state must persecute the
Christians before dealing with any of these ills.
Let‘s face facts. We are a poor Third World country at the mercy of the international donor
community. We cannot play religious, ethnic or any other prejudice cards because they are on
their way out. The global village is in motion and even strictly religious states such as Saudi
Arabia have had to accept it.
Sri Lanka, 52 of 65
We are not rich enough to impose a religious Taliban; we cannot afford the nonsense of a bill
that seeks to ban religious freedom just to please the majority. We have to look beyond that. We
have to be able to see the big picture.
We cannot get our act together, be it peace, political coexistence or the economy. We are more
divided than united on every issue. Incest is common—not even an old woman can walk the
roads without being stared at or commented upon. Even the houses of judges and police officers
are robbed; forget about the rest of us. Drivers respect no road rules...pedestrians are worse.
Children kill parents over the slightest insult and parents are no better. We have high rates of
alcoholism and rape, not to mention abortions. We have prisons, but there are not enough for all
the criminals. Every level of society is corrupt beyond belief—it takes Rs. 100 to get anyone to
do anything, especially in the state sector. Drains are full of dirty water, gardens are neglected
and garbage is thrown on the road—and we complain of dengue! We have lost the respect and
dignity we have had for religious leaders—Buddhist monks were manhandled in the Parliament.
You cannot expect such a people to be nice to the Christians. In such a nation, nothing seems
sacred—there are no values, nothing that is beyond destroying.
Let‘s get our act together as a nation before trying to split it, this time on religious lines. We have
just seen the end of a bitter twenty-year war and if we have learned nothing from it about
prejudice, we will never progress, never become one strong nation that can find unity and
strength in diversity—a multi-racial, multi-religious country like Singapore.
Let‘s talk sense before we talk of the Anti-Conversion Bill.
9.2.5 Letter from NCFSL to Milroy Fernando, Minister of Christian Affairs.
National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka
22 July 2004
Hon. Milroy Fernando,
Minister of Christian Affairs,
Proposed Anti-Conversion Law
We the National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka, being the representative body for Indigenous
Evangelical Churches in Sri Lanka, who are concerned about the protection of our Fundamental
Rights, wish to bring the following to your urgent attention.
1. As you are aware, the Christian Community in various parts of our country has been
religiously oppressed by threat, harassment and in some instances assault and arson,
Sri Lanka, 53 of 65
for reason of the practice of their religion. The Annexure (A) lists 180 incidents that
have taken place during the recent past alone.
2. We are deeply disturbed at the gradual erosion of the fundamental rights of the
Christian Community particularly since independence. We have listed in Annexure
(B) eighteen areas where fundamental rights have been violated.
3. It is in this context that unsubstantial accusations of ―unethical‖ conversion and a
demand from the majority religious community that conversion be proscribed by law
have been made. The Jathika Hela Urumaya has already presented the ―Prohibition of
Forcible Conversion of Religion‖ bill in Parliament and the Minister for Buddha
Sasana, on behalf of the Government, is to present a bill titled ―Protection of
Religious Freedom.‖ This is not only a violation of the individual‘s fundamental
rights as enshrined by the Constitution, but also violates the United Nations charter on
rights of an individual to ―thought, conscience and choice of religion,‖ to which Sri
Lanka has subscribed.
4. It is also pertinent to mention that shortsighted legislation introduced in an apparent
attempt to please the majority, such as the ―Sinhala Only Act,‖ which affected the
Burgher community in particular, the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the 13th
amendment to the Constitution, have been counterproductive. These pieces of
legislation have led to a ―brain drain‖ from Sri Lanka and to an ethnic conflict which
the country after 20 years of war has not been able to resolve. Further, these have
contributed to the fragmentation of society and to a violent culture. The loss of human
life and adverse effects to the economy and damage to the country‘s image
internationally is irreversible and immeasurable.
5. In the present circumstances we have good cause for fear that the bills, if passed in
Parliament, would stifle our worship, expression and gathering as Christians and
would lead to further fragmentation of society and legalize violence against
minorities and serious consequences locally as well as internationally, which Sri
Lanka can ill afford.
Therefore we request that:
a) The conversion bill to be presented by the Government be withdrawn forthwith
b) Steps be taken that the unethical conversion bill presented by the Jathika Hela
Urumaya is defeated in parliament.
c) All rights that have been deprived to the Christian community since independence
d) All religious minority groups be ensured protection, as in Article 14E in the
e) Legislation be brought to amend the Constitution to its secular status as in the
Sri Lanka, 54 of 65
9.2.5 Excerpts from “Christian Perspective in the Sri Lankan Context,” by Rev.
Rohan De S. Ekanayake, Secretary, Christian Consultation of Sri Lanka, presented at
the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Oslo, Norway, August 12-15,
Buddhist revival and its anti-Christian overtones since the nineteenth century
The grant of religious freedom in 1806 by the British was beneficial to the Buddhist
majority of Sri Lanka. From that time Buddhism began to regain the strength that it lost during
the previous three centuries. The revival of Buddhism is marked by its anti-Christian overtones.
The Buddhist leaders who tried to see a close association between the Sinhalese language and
Buddhist religion sought to regain the Sinhalese who had become Christian in the last three
centuries. Therefore anti-Christian activities formed the basis of Buddhist revival since the
second half of the nineteenth century.
The last decade was a period of unprecedented bloodshed and violence in the country,
which has hardened the attitude of Sinhalese Buddhists, and created an atmosphere of suspicion
attitude to Sinhalese Christians despite their common language and culture.
Some Buddhist leaders have represented the church growth in Sri Lanka villages as an
invasion of imperialism through multinationals. The fact that Christianity was closely connected
to the colonial regime in the past has acted as a hindrance to the church. Even today Christians
are looked upon as elements of foreign influence.
Growth of New Churches
During the 1980s many new Christian groups developed in Sri Lanka. While the old
established churches like Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodist and Baptist have been
complaining about falling numbers in their flocks, the new churches have reached areas hitherto
unreached by any Christian mission. Their growth has been a cause for alarm both to non-
Christians and to traditional and nominal Christians.
These new churches have taken Christianity to many villages in Sri Lanka. They have
made converts from all walks of life. The majority of the leaders of the new churches are new
converts to Christianity. They are from ordinary village families, not exposed to English-
speaking urban society. Very few have had training in a Bible college. But their enthusiasm has
taken them to far away places. Attempts have been made therefore to show that this is a secret
project to invade Sinhala Buddhist society with the aid of western imperialists.
The impact of these conversions to Christianity has been marked, because of the
appearance of Christian churches in hitherto predominantly Sinhalese Buddhist villages. Their
converts not only leave Buddhism, but also refuse to take part in traditional ceremonies. They
shun astrology and occultism, which are practiced popularly in Buddhist villages. This irritates
Buddhist leaders as an anti-national behaviour.
Organized Attempts to Resist Christianity
It is interesting to note that there is a revival today of the anti-Christian activities seen in
Sri Lanka during the nineteenth century. In fact, the Buddhist leaders who had been in the
Sri Lanka, 55 of 65
forefront of the anti-Christian movement have been commemorated recently. Their methods and
tactics have been revived. Anti-Christian pamphlets and tracts have appeared and there is a new
move to imitate modern Christian practices. In the nineteenth century Christianity was the
privileged religion, but today Buddhism has become the state religion in Sri Lanka. Today it is
disadvantageous to be a Christian in Sri Lanka if one is serious about his faith.
Some recent developments in Sri Lanka have caused alarm among Christians in the
country. In 1991 the government appointed a Presidential Commission to probe the activities of
non-governmental organizations (NGOs). However, when the Commission turned it‘s attention
to Christian NGOs and then church bodies, there was cause for alarm in the Christian community.
The wild allegations made against Christians (under the presidential immunity from defamation
afforded by the Commission) were carried to the nation by a hostile press, and fanned
widespread opposition to Christianity. In a democratic set up where public opinion is decisive,
this kind of development is bound to have negative impact on the future of the country and the
Christian Church in Sri Lanka in particular.
The Sri Lanka Constitution and Religious Freedom
Today the world is a plural society where all communities including religious and ethnic
groups should exist in peace without conflict. Sri Lanka is no exemption with three ethnic groups
of significant proportions and adherence of all four major religions of the world in sizeable
numbers. Thus Sri Lanka is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-linguist and multi-cultural
society. The refusal of Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu extremists to accept this reality has seen
this country in much turmoil and bloodshed for the past 40 years, which has affected every segment of
It is in these perspectives that the rights to religious freedom and the need for a secular
state have emerged in recent times as a significant political and legal concept. The chart below,
which details various acts of violence against the Christian community during the past 10 years
makes the case for a secular state even more an urgent necessity.
Type of violation Murder Arson Assault Threats
No. of incidents 2 21 90 204
From time to time Buddhist leaders have suggested the idea that conversion to other
religions should be stopped. However, the fact that the Constitution of the republic in clause 10
allows every person the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including ―the freedom to
have or to adopt a religion of his choice‖ has been a problem to those who want to prevent
conversion to Christianity. Some Buddhist leaders have suggested that this clause should be done
away with in order to give the pre-eminent place to Buddhism.
Early drafts of the new constitution sought to bring this the Freedom of thought,
conscience and religion under the clause providing for restrictions, but due to strong agitation by
Christians and other minorities, this has been returned to its original status as an absolute right in
the last draft.
The 1972 Constitution gave the foremost place to Buddhism and went on to state that ―it
shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism while assuring to all religions the
Rights granted by section 18(1) (d).‖
Sri Lanka, 56 of 65
The constitution of 1978 in article 9, apart from giving the foremost place to Buddhism,
stated ―it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana while assuring to
all religions the rights granted by article 10 and 14(1) (e).‖ It must be noted that the words
―Buddha Sasana‖ encompass more than the word Buddhism does.
The mere provision of article guaranteeing religious freedom to other religious
denominations, but at the same time giving ―a foremost place‖ to a particular religion, does not
ensure the right to religious freedom in actual practice.
In fact the equal protection of the law will be denied to minority religious groups if a exalted
place is given to any one religion as preference for one particular religion is written into the
In this light, the draft constitution, which has been placed before parliament, which goes
still further is alarming. The provisions for the establishment of a Sangha (Buddhist clergy)
council, as a constitutionally sanctioned institution, land which cannot be abolished by
parliament, but only by a referendum, are a matter of grave concern. These are direct violations
of the ICCPR, which Sri Lanka has ratified, Since independence, the gradual entrenchment of
majoritarian democracy, where the language and religion of the majority have been given
priority, has increased ethnic tensions and undermined the concept of a truly multi-ethnic, multi-
religious, plural society.
The introduction of the first republican constitution of 1972, where the Sinhala language
and Buddhism were given an exalted place in the constitution, was a landmark in the division of
the country. If the proposed draft constitution were passed, it would further strengthen
majoritarianism as well.
If the State wishes to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights,
it should then go back to Article 29 of the Soulbury Constitution or make suitable changes to
ensure that the Constitution is secular.
Situation of the Church in Sri Lanka
The deterioration of the constitution is alarming in the context of what has been experienced
by the church in the recent past:
Churches have been refused building permits for their places of worship, on the pretext of
preserving religious harmony.
There has been a systematic campaign in the media and on public platforms to incite anti-
Christian feeling, and a clamour to introduce laws prohibiting the free choice of one‘s
De Silva, K.M., History of Sri Lanka, p. 515.
Sri Lanka, 57 of 65
There is a move to preserve certain parts of our country for the majority religion, preventing
Christian from entering these areas and evicting those already there. Here again the provision
for legislation could be activated, on the basis of maintaining religious harmony.
Misusing existing clauses of the constitution to prosecute Christian workers. For instance,
section 81 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides for binding over those liable to
cause a ―breach of the peace,‖ is used unfairly. In situations where Christian workers have
been assaulted, Police officers, who should be prosecuting the assailants, end up binding both
victim and assailant in court to keep the peace. This is due to pressure from Buddhist monks.
Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which deals the abatement of a nuisance in
relation to noise and environmental pollution, has been invoked to legally restrict church
Churches have been closed down or ordered to stop their meetings by police in some areas,
on the basis of a challenge to the legal validity of such places of worship
General burial grounds have been refused to Christian burials.
Christian children in school have been denied of the right to study Christianity and in some
instances they are forced not only to study Buddhism but to also follow its practices.
The children of new converts have been denied the right to follow Christianity in their school
on the pretext that the child‘s birth certificate indicates he is a Buddhist.
The government insists on religious education for all children in the school curriculum, but
certain government schools refuse to admit non-Buddhist children since they claim that they
do not have the teachers for Christianity
Churches wishing to construct their places of worship have been asked to obtain prior
approval from the Buddhists Affairs Ministry, although there is no constitutional requirement
to do so.
Action is not being taken or the law enforced in many instances when Christians are
assaulted or their rights are violated. Although 21 cases of arson against Christian centres and
places of worship, and two brutal killings of pastors, have been reported, no indictments have
been made, even though in some instances the attackers have been identified.
Church properties, places of worship and personal belongings of workers and believers have
been damaged and destroyed.
Church workers, their families and believers have been harassed and threatened, especially in
the rural areas.
Sri Lanka, 58 of 65
In an effort to prevent Christians from leasing or purchasing property in village areas, the
sellers and lessors have been threatened and restrained from entering the required legal
procedure, restricting the right of Christians to stay in any part of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, 59 of 65
9.3 Text of JHU bill. This section presents the actual text of the draft anti-conversion bill,
―Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion,‖ presented in the Sri Lankan Parliament by
representatives of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party as a private member‘s bill on July 21,
2004. It has been edited for English usage but not otherwise altered.
* * * * * * *
Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion
An act to provide for prohibition or conversion from one religion to another by use of force or
allurement or by fraudulent means and for matters incidental therewith or incidental thereto:
WHEREAS Buddhism, being the foremost religion professed and practiced by the majority of
people of Sri Lanka, due to the introduction of the great Thathagatha, the Sambuddha in the 8th
Month after he had attained Buddhahood on his visit to Mahiyangana in Sri Lanka and due to the
complete realization after the arrival of Arahat Mahinda Thero in the 3rd Century B.E;
AND WHEREAS the State has a duty to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana while assuring to
all religions the rights granted by articles 10 and 14 (1) (e) of the Constitution of the Republic of
AND WHEREAS the Buddhist and non-Buddhist are now under serious threat of forcible
conversions and proselytizing by coercion or by allurement or by fraudulent means;
AND WHEREAS the Mahasanga (Buddhist clergy) and other religious leaders realize the need
to protect and promote religious harmony among all religions, historically enjoyed by the people
of Sri Lanka;
BE it enacted by the Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka as follows:
1. This Act may be cited as the Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act
No….. of 2004.
2. No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person
from one religion to another by the use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent
means, nor shall any person aid or abet any such conversion.
(Forcible conversion illegal)
a. Whoever adopts a religion from one religion to another shall, within such period
as may be prescribed by the Minister, send an intimation to that effect to the
Divisional Secretary of the area in which such adoption took place.
(Intimation to the Divisional Secretary)
b. Whoever converts any person from one religion to another either by performing
any ceremony by himself for such conversion as a facilitator or by taking part
Sri Lanka, 60 of 65
directly or indirectly in such ceremony shall, within such period as may be
prescribed by the Minister, send an intimation to that effect to the Divisional
Secretary or the area in which such adoption took place.
a. Notwithstanding contrary to any provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure Act.
Whoever contravenes the provisions of section 2 above shall, without prejudice to
any civil liability, be guilty of any offences and on conviction before a magistrate
be liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term which may not exceed five
years and also be liable to a fine not exceeding Rupees one hundred and fifty
Provided that whoever contravenes the provisions of section 2 above in respect of
a minor, a woman or a person referred to in schedule 1 hereof shall on conviction
before a Magistrate be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding
seven years and also be liable to a fine not exceeding Rupees five hundred
b. Whoever fails, without sufficient cause, to comply with the provisions of section
3 (a) and (b) above shall on conviction before a Magistrate be punished with
imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or with a fine not exceeding
Rupees one hundred and fifty thousand.
5. Proceedings before a Magistrate may be instituted in one of the following ways:
a. By the Divisional Secretary or by an officer authorized by him for the purpose;
b. By the Police in terms of Section 136 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act. No.
15 of 1979, upon a complaint made to the Police by a person aggrieved by the
offence or in the case of a Minor, by his or her father or mother or a lawful
Guardian or any other interested person who has reasons to believe that the
provisions of the act have been violated, acting in the public interest;
c. By a person aggrieved by the offence;
d. By an Attorney-at-Law;
e. By any person authorized by the Minister.
6. The Minister for the time being in charge of Justice may make rules and regulations
for the enforcing and carrying out the provisions of this act and all such rules and
regulations so made shall be published in the Government Gazette and shall be placed
before the Parliament for approval.
Sri Lanka, 61 of 65
7. In the event of any inconsistency between the Sinhala and Tamil texts of this Act, the
Sinhal text shall prevail.
(Sinhal text to prevail in case of inconsistency)
8. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires:
a. ―Allurement‖ means offer of any temptation in the form of:
i. Any gift or gratification whether in cash or kind;
ii. Grant of any material benefit whether monetary or otherwise;
iii. Grant of employment or grant of promotion in employment.
b. ―Convert‖ means to make one person to renounce one religion and adopt another
c. ―Force‖ shall include a show of force including a threat or harm of injury of any
kind or threat of religious displeasure or condemnation of any religion or religious
d. ―Fraudulent‖ includes misinterpretation or any other fraudulent contrivance;
e. ―Minor‖ means a person under eighteen years of age.
1. Those persons classified as Samurdhi (welfare) beneficiaries;
2. Prison inmates;
3. Inmates of rehabilitation centres;
4. Inmates of detention centres;
5. Physically or mentally disabled;
6. Employees of an organization;
7. Members of the armed forces or police;
9. Inmates of hospitals and or places of healing;
10. Inmates of refugee camps;
11. Any other category as may be prescribed by the minister by regulations.
Sri Lanka, 62 of 65
9.4 Text of government bill. This section presents the actual text (in tabular form) of the
draft anti-conversion bill, ―Act No. ......... of 2004 for the Protection of Religious Freedom,‖
drafted by Hon. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Minister of Buddha Sasana and given initial
approval by the Cabinet of Sri Lanka in June 2004. It has been edited for English usage but not
* * * * * * *
Sri Lanka Government’s Draft Bill on Anti-conversion
Presented by Hon. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Minister of Buddha Sasana
(Translated to English from the Official Version in Sinhala)
With a view to strengthening the mutual trust/unity that exists among religions and with a view
to protecting the religious freedom that people have enjoyed in the past, an Act to provide for the
prohibition of conversion to another religion forcibly or by use of force or inducement, or by
fraud, or by unethical means or any other manner as well as to provide for matters connected or
incidental there unto.
Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka enacts as follows:-
Title in brief: 0.1 This act will be known as ―Act No…… of 2004
for the Protection of Religious freedom‖.
That conversion to 0.2 No person shall convert or attempt to convert
another religion is another person to another religion, and no person
illegal shall provide assistance or encouragement towards
conversion to another religion.
Conversion by force 0.3 An employer or any person holding position of
trust or responsibility; or any officer of the armed
forces or police; any teacher or principal of any
school or institute of higher education or any
institute where teaching or training is imparted; or
any authorized person in charge of any prison, or
detention camp, or refugee camp, or hostel, or
hospital, or nursing home, or medical centre, or
children‘s home, or home for elders or the disabled
or the sick, or any other such place shall not induce
or compel any other person to attend any prayers
or prayer meetings of any religion of which he is
not a member, nor attempt to do so; nor subject
any such person to any punishment or
disadvantage whatsoever for not attending any
such prayers or prayer meetings, nor deny him any
right or privilege which he would otherwise have
been entitled to.
Sri Lanka, 63 of 65
0.4 (i) No person shall remit, hold, be in charge of,
exchange or use funds or resources for the purpose
of engaging in any act that is declared an offence
under this Act.
0.5 (i) Notwithstanding any provisions whatsoever in the
Code of Criminal Procedure, any person
contravening Sections 2, 3 or 4 of this Act shall be
guilty of an offence and upon conviction before a
magistrate will be liable to imprisonment for a
period not exceeding 5 years or a fine not
exceeding Rs. 100,000/- or to both such
imprisonment and fine.
However, where the contravention has been in
respect of a minor, notwithstanding anything to the
contrary in the Criminal Procedure Code, the
offender will be liable to imprisonment for a
period not exceeding 7 years or to a fine not
exceeding Rs. 500,000/- or to both such
imprisonment and fine.
(ii) If the offence has been committed in a place
mentioned in Section 3, the matter shall be
regarded as more serious when determining the
punishment to be meted out.
(iii) Where a person is convicted of contravention of
Section 4 of this Act, all funds or resources in his
charge or that portion of such funds or resources to
be determined by Courts, shall be forfeited to the
(iv) Notwithstanding anything contrary to the Criminal
Procedure Code Act No. 15 of 1979, all offences
under this Act shall be treated as
(v) Where an offence under this Act has been
committed by a group of persons.
(a) Where the group of persons form a corporate body,
every director or shareholder or officer or member
or employee shall be guilty of that offence.
(b) Where the group of persons do not form a
corporate body or company, each partner, member,
employee or officer of that group or company shall
be guilty of an offence
(vi) Where a person who is not a citizen of Sri Lanka
but who has arrived in Sri Lanka on a visa issued
to him is declared guilty of an offence under this
Act, the Minister in charge of Immigration and
Sri Lanka, 64 of 65
Emigration shall, notwithstanding whatever
contrary provisions found in Sub-Section 31 (1) of
the Immigration and Emigration Act or any other
provisions, issue an extradition order against him.
Where such a person is declared guilty, the
relevant Minister shall issue a further order under
Section 12 of this Act declaring such person
‗persona non grata‘. Such order shall be enforced
once the sentence imposed by the magistrate is
0.6 Action may be initiated before a magistrate in the
(i) By the police or by any such officer or a complaint
made to the police or to any such officer by any
persons affected aggrieved by the offences or by
any other interested persons.
(ii) By any person affected aggrieved by an offence.
(iii) By any person interested in the welfare of the
public, who has reason to believe that the
provisions of this Act have been contravened.
However, the police shall not be exempt from its
obligation to enforce this Act.
0.7 (i) The Minister in charge of Justice for the time
being may frame rules and regulations for the
enforcement and execution of the provisions of
this Act, and all such rules and regulations shall be
published in the Government Gazette and shall be
presented to Parliament for approval.
0.8 In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) (i) See below
(b) ―Inducement‖ includes any gift or gratification
bestowed in the form of any benefit or privilege in
cash or kind, and also includes the grant of any
financial or other benefit.
(c) ―Forcibly‖ includes use of force, compulsion or
any undue influence.‖
(d) ―Use of force‖ includes any form of threat or
harassment or hurt, or any threat of divine curse or
ridicule or any religion or religious belief or social
(e) ―Fraudulently‖ includes the submission of false
information and the use of any dishonest means.
(f) ―Unethical‖ means the use of any procedure
contrary to accepted norms of ethics that may be
Sri Lanka, 65 of 65
used to propagate a religion.
(g) ―Person‖ includes a person or establishment
whether incorporated or not. It also includes any
project incorporated by an Act, or approved by the
Registrar of Companies, or the B.O.I. It also
includes trusts registered under the Trustee‘s
(h) ―Priest‖ includes any cleric/religious or any
member or a clergy of any religion.
(i) ―Person‖ may also include a bank, a finance
company, and company supplying credit, the
Public Trustee or any other trustee.
(a) (i) ―Conversion to another religion‖ means any direct
(ii) Indirect action or behaviour designed to cause a
person to embrace a religion or religious practice,
or religious philosophy to which he does not
subscribe or to attempt to cause a person to do so.
Or any direct or indirect action or behaviour
designed to cause a person to abandon his practice
of religion, religious philosophy or to attempt to
cause a person to do so, or to exert or attempt to
exert any undue influence on a person‘s religion,
religious beliefs or philosophy or his practice of