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Christians Protest Anti-Conversion Bill

01/29/09 COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (UCAN) — An estimated 4,000 members of evangelical churches in and around the capital rallied recently to protest a bill against religious conversion.

National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka (NCF). an umbrella body of evangelical churches in Sri Lanka, stage a prayer rally in Vihara Maha Devi park in Colombo on January 26 to protest against the Anti Conversion Bill currently pending in Parliament.

The Prohibition of Forcible Conversion Bill will be debated and voted on in parliament sometime in February, local media recently reported.

Evangelical protesters gathered for five hours on Jan. 26 at Vihara Maha Devi Park in central Colombo. They prayed and sang hymns using amplifiers, and listened to speeches by their leaders. The people reportedly fasted for three days before the event.

The Christians had two demands of the government: stop the debate on the anti-conversional bill in parliament and appoint a committee representing all religions to discuss conversion issues. Organizers submitted a petition of their demands to some Christian parliamentarians who attended the rally.

Local media reported that according to bill, the offer of a gift, cash or any other incentive to convert or attempt to convert a person from one religion to another is punishable with up to seven years imprisonment and a maximum fine of 500,000 rupees (about US$4,400).

Rally organizer Rohan de Silva Ekanayake of the Margaya Fellowship Church said: “We are for religious freedom. For that, we call for unity among Churches. It is the way for lasting peace in the country.”

National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka (NCF). an umbrella body of evangelical churches in Sri Lanka, stage a protest campaign in Vihara Maha Devi park in Colombo on January 26 against the Anti Conversion Bill currently pending in Parliament. Participants came from the country’s evangelical churches, such as the Holy Trinity Church, Gethsemane Prayer Center and the Margaya Fellowship Church, among others.

John Amaratunga, a Catholic opposition member of parliament, told the rally the bill is an indirect violation of the country’s constitution in that it restricts religious freedom and fundamental democratic principles. “Therefore, people who love democracy should oppose and protest against the implementation of the bill,” he said.

If the anti-conversional bill is passed, warned Kumar Mendis, 29, pastor of Gethsemane Prayer Center in Kurana, “We can be jailed.”

Mendis led the protesters in praying that the law of the jungle would not prevail in the country. He claimed more than 200 churches have been attacked during the last five years.

After the rally, participants walked in procession along city streets holding placards, some of which read: “Preaching the Gospel is our freedom. Right of expression is a human right.”

Meanwhile, the Buddhist Commission on Unethical Conversions is pressuring the government to pass the anti-conversion bill.

Also, Venerable Galagodatte Gnanasara Thera, head of the Center For Monitoring Religious Conversions, told media that taking up the bill for vote in parliament as soon as possible is important to avoid a national religious problem.

Source: http://www.ucanews.com