Statement on the increase of incidents of violence and intimidation against religious communities

We are deeply concerned and saddened by the increase in incidents of violence and intimidation against religious communities and especially those recently directed towards minority communities.

Our member churches come together regularly to reflect on the values and principles that should underpin the human right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in a truly inclusive, pluralist Sri Lanka. We recognise that there are a wide variety of still unresolved issues that are faced by each religious community which require immediate attention and action. It is vital that law and order is maintained and enforced by the appropriate law enforcement authorities at every level to effectively and visibly respond to the variety of instances of violence and intimation that occur – irrespective of who instigates such acts. The police must be active and supported in their ability to enforce current legislation and maintain safety, law, order and stability for all and there should be clear directives for law enforcement for dealing with attacks and intimation against places of worship and religious communities. There should be no room whatsoever for any groups or persons to act on their own initiative in taking matters of law and order into their own hands.

There are many unclear aspects of the current legal framework including those which relate to the construction of places of worship, the identifying and safeguarding of archaeological sites and the propagation of one’s own religious beliefs that are governed by conflicting and confusing circulars. We thus believe it is time to review the laws of our country so that there is a clear enforceable legal framework to preserve religious harmony whilst not denying the rights and privileges already enshrined in the constitution.  We consider that it is vital to ensure that the rights of individuals and communities to practice and live out their faith are protected by law with guarantees for the protection for freedom of religion, belief and expression, as well as legislation against discrimination and hate crimes.

This alone will not be enough. There must be dialogue and understanding between the leaders of religious communities at every level. We appeal to all religious leaders to come together in dialogue in order to build community cohesion and peacefully resolve issues that arise between us which may impact national harmony. As churches we are open to participating in or facilitating these conversations in a constructive manner whether through existing forums or via new mechanisms. We believe that dialogue, the building of relationships and mutual understanding are the key to bringing about a peaceful and harmonious society whilst recognising that it is our duty to expose all forms of extremism and violent discourse within our own religion and within our own communities.

We cannot reflect on these issues without also expressing our solidarity with all those, throughout the world, who are experiencing violence, hatred and intimidation because of their faith or beliefs. We extend and express our support to the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to peacefully combat all forms of extremism and violence and urge the Government to make our country a leading example of protection for freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and the rights of all religious groups.

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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