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Prayer Alert: Sri Lanka: Violence and Anti Conversion Threat

WEA (World Evangelical Alliance) The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU or National Heritage Party) is a political party of right-wing Buddhist monks whose agenda is to turn Sri Lanka into a Buddhist state with Buddhism as the official state religion and conversions out of Buddhism banned. They describe Christianity as foreign, aggressive and a threat to social harmony. They also oppose federalism and autonomy for Tamils. In September 2005 the JHU signed a quid pro quo deal with the then presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse. Rajapakse, who is happy to play ethnic and religious communal politics, then won a narrow victory in the November 2005 presidential elections after the Tamils in LTTE-controlled areas boycotted the elections. (LTTE: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.) Rajapakse’s win greatly strengthens the hand of the JHU, as may the present LTTE aggression.

In August 2004 Sri Lanka ‘s Supreme Court ruled that parts of proposed anti-conversion legislation needed to be amended. In May 2005 an amended draft was tentatively approved. However, the continued Tsunami redevelopment effort, the presidential elections and the subsequent breakdown in peace negotiations with LTTE kept the anti-conversion legislation on the back-burner. On 5 April 2006 Sri Lanka ‘s parliament appointed a 19-member committee to review the anti-conversion legislation again so it can be presented to the parliament for a final vote. The draft Bill on Prohibition of Forcible Conversion calls for prison sentences of up to five years and/or a fine for anyone found guilty of converting others ‘by force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means’. The definitions of these terms ensures all conversions may be deemed illegal.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka ‘s Christian minority continues to face anti- Christian protests and violence from militant Buddhist nationalists. On Sundays 9 and 16 April a Methodist church in Piliyandala, southeast of Colombo , was beset with angry anti- Christian protest rallies. Then on Sundays 23 and 30 April the protesters turned to violence. Only police intervention prevented serious damage or injury. Compass Direct (CD) reports an Assembly of God church in Piliyandala also is facing intense opposition. CD reports too that on Saturday 6 May the pastor of the United Christian Fellowship in Poddala, Galle district, was threatened.

The pastor and a construction worker were building a community hall on land they had purchased. The mob assaulted the construction worker and threatened to torch the hall if construction continued.