By Rohan De S Ekanayake –
To All Presidential Candidates of 2019 Election:
I wish to address you on a matter that may be insignificant to you, the candidates, nevertheless the principles if recognized and due attention is given, would be far reaching and first step to stop the speedy highway to the abyss that our nation is heading for.
It is ironic that the Christian Community received attention, when Churches among other places of commercial interest were attacked by a small group of our Muslim community. Ironic I say – as ‘it is appointed for man to die once’ and hence death is universal, although the method of death may differ. It is sad to observe that ‘terrorism’ and ‘martyrdom’ is fast becoming methods of this universal truth. In our Nation it is estimated approximately 1000 abortions takes place a day. In a Country where recitation of ‘thou shall not kill’ takes place daily, such killings of innocent lives go unnoticed and sometimes with tacit approval. Hence the approximate 275 lives loss during the Easter massacre receiving attention could be not necessarily for the evil act itself. It is evident that the reasons are political for many. Further the following detailed account of the oppression directed towards the Christian community since independence affirms this statement.
I say this as the minority Christian community has been at the receiving end from the majority community i.e. which happens to be Sinhala–Buddhist, very specially since independence.
The justification of all violence whether physical or rights violation directed at the Christian community has been justified with the perennial song of “unethical Conversion.”
Towards the end of the 19th century Anagarika Dharmapala among others originated these accusations. Obviously the teachings of Christ of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and his “Great Commission” ‘the proclamation of the gospel’, which we believe as an absolute truth, was misinterpreted. Conversion can never take place without the usage of free will, and “free will is fundamental” for genuine conversion.
The same drum beat was heard from the nationalist movements in the 1940’s prior to independence. Christianity is wrongly referred to a religion of the Western imperialist, while the fact is – it is a Middle Eastern faith. Christianity was brought to Sri Lanka by the western Missionaries while all other religions in Sri Lanka were brought by Asian or Middle Eastern missionaries. It is common in countries who were colonized to reject all – the good and the bad; ‘throwing the baby with the water’ syndrome.
If unethical conversion has taken place, the Christian population should indicate a growth. In the contrary, the Christian population has been declining according to government statistics. The chart below is statistics taken from the Census Department.
2. According to the last census the Protestant community is 1.3%. The accusations, attacks, violations of rights etc. to a community who is a minority within a minority is horrendous. No other community has been subjected to such pressure. In a recent documentation by Prof A.I Ekanayake titled “List of Attacks on Christian churches, Christian Pastors and Christian worshippers – Sri Lanka 2002-2017” gives details of 495 such incidents.
3. In addition to physical attacks the following violations too are reported.
Constructing of Christian centers for worship being refused on the pretext of preserving religious harmony.
Systematic campaign in the media and on public platforms to incite anti-christian feeling -very often with inaccurate reporting.
There is a move to preserve certain parts of our country for the majority religion.
Misusing existing clauses of the constitution to persecute Christian workers Eg: Section 81 of the CPC where “Breach of the peace” is used unfairly. Section 98 under the CPC which deals with the abatement of a nuisance in relation to noise and environment pollution, has been invoked to legally restrict church worship .
Churches have been closed down or ordered to stop by police in some areas, on the basis of a challenge to the legal validity of such places of worship.
General burial grounds been refused to Christian burials.
Christian children have been refused to be admitted/denied the right to study Christianity and in some instances are forced to study Buddhism but also follow its practices.
Action is not being taken or the law enforced in many instances when Christians are assaulted or their rights are violated, although the attackers are identified.
These are some of the issues that the Christian Protestant Community face mainly in the villages of Sri Lanka.
4. A common factor in Countries that has developed is their treatment of all citizens with equality and justice immaterial of religion and ethnicity.To consider them otherwise is a proclamation of ‘sub-humanness ’which is a paranoid of Hitlerism.
The following chart speaks for itself.
|Country||Christianity||Other faiths||No-religion||System of Govenment||Per Capita Income-US $|
|U.S.A||70.6 %||7.4%||22.8%||Federal Democratic Republic||62,641.0|
|U.K||59.5%||10%||25.7%||The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch||42,491.4|
|Japan||Christianity and other faiths
|–||A multi-party parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy System of Government||39,286.7|
|Canada||70.6 %||7.4%||22.8%||Federal Parliamentary Democracy||46,210.5|
|South Africa||81.2%||–||18%||A parliamentary
|France||51.6%||6.6%||39.6%||A semi presidential system of government||41,463.6|
|Germany||61.1 %||6%||27.9%||A democratic, federal parliamentary republic||48,195.6|
|Singapore||18.7%||64%||17.5%||A parliamentary representative democratic republic||64,581.9|
|Australia||52.1%||10.6%||30.1%||A federation, a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy||57,305.3|
In South Africa, soon after the apartheid war ended in 1994 a new constitution was drawn by the Parliament elected. It was promulgated by President Nelson Mandela on 18 December 1996 and came into effect on 4 February 1997. When Bishop Tutu was consulted for his opinion as to a religious constitution in view of over 80% being Christian his wise counsel was that South Africa should adopt a secular constitution if it is avoid religious conflicts and should consider all citizens equal.
|Country||Christianity||Other faiths||No-religion||System of Govenment||Per Capita Income|
|South Africa||81.2%||–||18%||A parliamentary
On the contrary; countries that do not treat their citizens as equals, one of the main features of those societies are disunity which hiders development. Open Doors –a group which monitors persecution of Christians in their latest list gives the following countries where Christians are most persecuted.
According to Open Doors the Profile of Persecution in Sri Lanka is as follows
The gradual deterioration of the religious liberty situation since independence and the country moving into ‘religious nationalism’ could be seen by the chronological events in modern history.
1956- The introduction of the Sinhala Only Act in 24 hours, which affected mostly the Christian Community short term and the Tamil community long term.
1957-1965 -Takeover of the Christian schools in 1960, removal of nuns from all public hospitals and cancellation of visas of missionary priests, Brothers and Sisters.
1966-Removal of the Sunday Holiday
1972-A new constitution introduced moving away from the 1948 secular constitution. Introduction of a special clause for a majority community.
1978-Further strengthening of the article which gave the majority community a superior place in the constitution.
1980-1990-Waves of violence against the Church
1992- Commission appointed to investigate into NGO’s and the repercussion to the Church and Waves of violence.
2004-Waves of violence against the Church subsequent to the demise of a prominent Buddhist Monk
2005/2006- An interpretation given by the then Chief Justice to Article 9 of the Constitution, (was taken up at the Human rights Commission in Geneva, where a ruling was given that it violates the human rights charters signed by Sri Lanka and requesting the Government to take action to correct the situation which was never rectified) has disabled any Christian organisation to obtain any valid registration.
Under these circumstances, I urge you to give due attention to the principles addressed above, and to ensure equality and justice under strict adherence to the rule of law to all citizens so that under your rule this country would regain its status as a ‘peace loving paradise nation’.