11/16/2011, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Card. Ranjith against the aggressive proselytism of Protestant Churches in Sri Lanka

by Melani Manel Perera
The Archbishop of Colombo has asked the government to set up a commission to oversee the work of inter-religious evangelical groups in the country. Perplexity in the Catholic world: these communities do not understand the complexity and delicacy of evangelism in Sri Lanka, but it is not fair to ask for state intervention. The evangelical pastors reject allegations of forced conversions.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - Card. Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, has asked the Sri Lankan government to form an inter-religious committee to monitor the inter-evangelical churches in the country. The Cardinal explained the reasons for the request stating that some of these communities have offered money and assistance of various kinds to Buddhists and Catholics in rural areas to encourage them to convert. The Catholic world the country is divided over the move of the Archbishop: on the one hand, they criticize the aggressive proselytizing of evangelical churches and on the other, call for a solution of dialogue between the parties, to defend the fundamental right of religious freedom, without the external intervention of the state.

Venerable Samitha Thero, head of the temple of Sri Paada Chaiththayaramaya Baddegama (southern province), declares: "I think of what happened after the 2004 tsunami. The Evangelical communities used the pain of the families who lost everything as a leverage. Sometimes dragging them away from the temples. It was a threat, especially for Catholics and other Christians, rather than for us Buddhists. Everyone has the right to spread their religion, but we despise the methods used by these groups to spread the Word of God. These are forced conversions ".

Contacted by AsiaNews, for some Catholics Card. Ranjith’s request is a cause for concern: "We should not turn to the political machine. Instead, we should sit down and discuss together how to solve these problems, without damaging the deepest meaning of Christian teachings. As true Catholics, we should be able to accept all our brothers and sisters, whether their actions are right or wrong. "

Anglican bishop Illangasinghe explains the narrow view of evangelization of these groups cause problems. "Understanding the delicacy of the context in which pastoral care takes place is essential – he says -; praying and spreading the Word of God in a country and a pluralistic society like ours needs special care." And he adds: "An aggressive evangelism is not important, but the approach you have to people”.

According to other Christians, Buddhists and Muslims, the Archbishop's move is an attempt to protect the right of the Catholic faithful, but "we must not forget that all human beings are free to follow any religion." Moreover, "anyone can proclaim the Word of God, provided he or she does not hurt others." For this reason, respondents emphasize that it is right to stop any religious community committed to converting people by force, but "do to single out the evangelicals, or any other church."

Some evangelical pastors reject the allegations of conversion through coercive, physical or psychological means: "We've never done this sort of thing. We teach the Word of God and the people come to us according to their conscience. We don’t force anyone".

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