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Statement – Call to protect religious freedom and religious harmony in Sri Lanka

National Christian Council of Sri Lanka

Statement
20th June 2017

The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, which represents the majority of non-Roman Catholic churches in Sri Lanka, is disturbed by some of the views expressed over the past few days in relation to the violence, intimidation and the threat posed against Christian churches in the country.

We reiterate the fact that Christian churches have been subject to violence, intimidation and threats over the past few years. This is in addition to the many ongoing issues that the Christian community faces with regard to the construction of places of worship, the registration of churches, house churches, Christian education in state schools and the forced closure of churches etc. which successive governments have failed to address despite us having made clear representations to the relevant authorities.

We are of the opinion that the current crisis, which has been precipitated through TV debates and pronouncements of politicians, is only trying to deal with the visible wounds and symptoms of a problem without trying to address the root causes.

We recognise that many of the problems we face are precipitated by the actions of a small number of extremist elements within each religion. The Council has been involved, over very many years in, formal and informal, consultations and conversations with Religious leaders from all faiths and with a variety forums within the Christian community. We are confident that honest and frank dialogue sustained by a sincere commitment from the Religious Leaders of all faiths can reduce the tension without further damaging the Interfaith cordiality and harmony that has existed in this country.

We once again stress, to all those in positions of authority, that it is of paramount importance that law and order should be enforced by the police without bias and fear. No individuals or groups should be allowed to take the law into their own hands and must be prevented from inappropriately using religious sentiments for personal or political ends. Only last week we issued a statement that was clear in both of these principles.

We appeal to the government to take immediate steps to seek to resolve the underlying problems faced by religious minorities on this island and appeal to the Religious Leaders to come together to collectively address the crucial underlying issues, so that religious freedom for all religious communities is upheld in law and that the right of every individual to proclaim his or her own religion, and to contribute to public life, without being subjected to attack or ridicule, is respected and protected.

Signed by:

  • Rev. Saman Perera –  Chairperson of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka and President, Presbytery of Lanka
  • Rt. Rev. D.R. Canagasabey –Bishop of Colombo, Church of Ceylon, Diocese of Colombo and Bishop of Kurunegala, Church of Ceylon, Diocese of Kurunegala.
  • Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel S. Thiagarajah, Bishop of Jaffna Diocese, Church of South India
  • Rev. Asiri P. Perera, President/Bishop,  Methodist Church of Sri Lanka
  • Rev. Priyantha Wijegoonawardene, President, Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya
  • Rev. Stanley Nelson, President, Christian Reformed Church
  • Colonel Alistair Venter, Territorial Commander,  The Salvation Army
  • Rev. G. Nadarajah, President, Lanka Lutheran Church
  • Rev. Michael Dissanayake, Chairperson,  Assemblies of God of Ceylon
  • Rev. Leslie Keegal, President, Church of the Four Square Gospel Church in Sri Lanka.
  • Rev. W.P. Ebenezer Joseph, General Secretary, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka

The NCCSL also represents the following Ecumenical Organizations:

  • Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)
  • Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)
  • Student Christian Movement (SCM)
  • The Ceylon Bible Society
  • Christian Literature Society
  • Theological College of Lanka.
  • Back to the Bible Broadcast
  • Colombo Theological Seminary
  • Youth for Christ
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