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Catholics and Evangelicals Unite To Oppose Anti-Conversion Laws
“These laws are a threat to the entire Christian community”
A special rally facilitated by ‘Solidarity for Religious Freedom’ and the Catholic Diocese of Chilaw was held on the 7th May 2005, at the Sudasuna Hall from 4 pm – 6 pm. Over 2,500 people from different Denominations gathered for this meeting. The seats within the hall and outside quickly filled up, and many were seen standing in the surrounding area, listening to the proceedings through public address systems. Catholic and Christian clergy, pastoral workers, nuns and ordinary citizens gathered together in a spirit of unity.
A significant feature of this meeting was that it brought together the Catholic community, Protestant and Evangelical Christian communities, to express objection to the proposed anti-conversion laws.
The meeting was chaired by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Chilaw the Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus. Among the special dignitaries who attended were the Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala the Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasekera, Leaders of Evangelical Christian Denominations, the Hon. Minister of Christian Affairs Milroy Fernando and local government Members from Chilaw.
One of the purposes of the meeting was to educate the Christian public about the practical implications of the proposed anti-conversion laws, the Church’s response and the role of Christian citizens within the Sri Lankan community.
The Catholic Bishop of Chilaw Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus, addressing the gathering stressed that the threat to religious freedom is not against any one group of Christians, but against the entire Christian community. He further said that some of the proposed laws will violate the rights of all citizens, including Buddhists.
The Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasekera commented on the dangers of laws which can be easily misused. He drew a parallel with the ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act’ which, he said, even twenty years after its enactment is misused to oppress people.
The Minister of Christian Affairs Hon. Milroy Fernando expressed his opposition to the proposed anti-conversion laws, promising that he will do everything in his power to stop the Bill being made law.
Among the other speakers were clergy and professionals from different denominations who spoke on the subject of ‘the Sri Lankan Christian identity’ with a historical perspective, the legal and practical ramifications of the proposed laws and an inspiring message, on the church’s response to challenges before it.