The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

UN Special Rapporteur accused of Pro-Missionary Bias

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Janaka Perera, Asian Tribune, June 6, 2005

The Joint Committee of Buddhist Organizations, Sri Lanka, has accused United Nation’s Special Rapporteur Asma Jehangir of falsifying and distorting facts in a press release on the issue of unethical conversions in the island.

In a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, JCBO Coordinator Gamini Perera has expressed his "astonishment" over her denial that there was no concrete proof of anyone being forced or coerced into giving up his/her ancestral religion.

Following is the full text the JCBO's letter to the UNHCHR:

Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10

Madam Asma Jehangir's Press release on her visit to Sri Lanka

The statement released by Madam Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, at the press conference held on the12th May 2005 on the eve of her departure from Sri Lanka, comes as no surprise to us. On the basis of some of the views she expressed at our meeting with her on the 3rd May 2005, a day after she was supposed to have arrived in Sri Lanka and even before she had met a representative cross section of her interlocutors, we got the impression that she had come with certain preconceived ideas.

It was for this reason that we were constrained to place on record, by a letter to her dated 10 May 2005, the official position of the Joint Committee of Buddhist Organisations and the Hindu Organisations represented at the said meeting, on the discussions and issues we raised on the 3rd May.

We regret very much that Madam Jehangir has exhibited apparent bias towards forces operating against the interests of Buddhists and Hindus who constitute over 80% of the country's population.

Destruction of places of worship.

Madam Jehangir refers to reports of violence and destruction of places of worship, which she considers to be mostly churches, but refrains from mentioning the hundreds of Buddhist shrines and invaluable archeological monuments destroyed over the past few decades including the attacks on the Sacred Bo Tree and the Temple of the Tooth which are venerated by millions of Buddhists the world over, by organized anti-Buddhist elements.

Improper conversions.

Madam Jehangir in her statement states, "During my visit I have received numerous allegations of organized groups involving in improper or unethical practices to induce individuals to change their religion. While it was not claimed that anyone was coerced to or forced to change his or her religion in a manner that is clearly incompatible with the right to freedom of religion or belief, many of these allegations have remained vague as to the identity or circumstances of the so-called victims. Despite several requests and efforts in this direction, I have been unable to hear direct testimonies of such cases. Nevertheless, second hand accounts by credible sources indicate that conversions through improper means have indeed occurred and certainly raise a concern". Regrettably this statement is factually incorrect.

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