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.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Christian Fanaticism in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 09 August 2007
By Meredith De Silva

The arrival of Christianity to Sri Lanka was marked by violence and bloodshed. In contrast to Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, which arrived on the island in a peaceful manner, Christianity arrived with sword in hand. The native Buddhists and Hindus were slaughtered, their temples destroyed and looted, and their priests killed - all in the name of Jesus Christ. For close to 500 years the people of Sri Lanka were subjugated and Christianity was forced down upon the populace with an iron fist.

Buddhists and Hindus were forced to convert to Christianity to get an education, and their marriages were not recognised by the Christian rulers. In order to gain any position of importance, one had to convert to Christianity. Buddhist and Hindu religious observances were prohibited in areas controlled by Christians and churches were built upon the destroyed remains of Buddhist and Hindu temples. Buddhists and Hindus who refused to convert were either killed, harassed or relegated to second class status. Men and women were paid by Christian groups to produce books and go from village to village attacking the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism. In this manner, Christian fanaticism was brought into full force in Sri Lanka.

Today, even after independence, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims are still being targeted by Christian extremists. While foreign Christian groups have set up shop in the island, many of the most fanatical followers are actually locals who care naught for religious diversity and pluralism. Extremist Sri Lankan Christians have attacked Buddhist temples, destroyed Buddha statues and beaten up Buddhist monks who have dared to stand against their aggressive and unethical methods of proselytism. In the eastern city of Trincomalee militant Christians have tried to convert Hindus by planting crosses near Hindu temples and handing out inflammatory phamplets that attack Hindu Gods and ask people to convert to Christianity to supposedly escape the caste system. The driving force behind this fanaticism are both foreign and Sri Lankan Christian priests, who have been brought up to hate non-Christians and non-Christian faiths.

Currently, hundreds of Christian groups in the island are attempting to convert non-Christians to Christianity by planting churches in villages that are virtually 100% Buddhist or Hindu, and then going from door to door attacking Buddhism or Hinduism. They use money and material gifts as bait to gain the attention of the poor. Once they have gained a convert they ask him or her to destroy statues of the Buddha or Hindu Gods, or burn the sacred scriptures of Buddhism or Hinduism in order to signify their conversion to Christianity. Understandably, this has created much religious tension in the island.

Like in neighbouring India, Christian extremists in Sri Lanka have one goal in mind - to convert all Sri Lankans to Christianity. Their aim is to destroy religious diversity and claim Christianity as the sole religion of the people. Christian fundamentalists in Sri Lanka believe that they have a God-given right to convert people as they wish and when they wish. Their militant attacks on Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims is a testimony to the hatred taught by the ideology they follow.

Militant Christians in Sri Lanka continue to fulfill their extremist and intolerant ambitions unhindered. In the process they are destroying religious harmony and trying to establish a climate of ill-will. The Christian priests who are behind the hate attacks on Buddhists and Hindus continue to operate without concern for the country or her people. Sri Lankans of all faiths need to stand up against this violent and intolerant brand of Christianity and tell the hateful Christian priests who are spearheading the movement where to get off. Sri Lankans come from various different religious backgrounds and the Christian extremists want to end that. They want everyone to follow only one religion, Christianity alone. Today is the time for Sri Lankans to stand up against that fanaticism.

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