Monday, September 18, 2006

Sri Lanka Enters Latest US Worst Offenders List

"The United States on Friday classified six Asian countries as religious freedom violators, aside from China, Myanmar, North Korea and Vietnam already blacklisted as worst offenders in the region.

Afghanistan, Brunei, India, Laos, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were included in a `significant` list of violators of religious freedom in the US State Department`s annual International Religious Freedom Report 2006."

From The Daily Mirror (September 18 2006) via Lanka Newspapers

It's heartening to note that a country headed by a guy who dismisses evolution as "just a theory", uses the Bible as his guidebook and authorises secret prison cells outside the US, takes the time to compile such a list.

In all the years I have lived in Sri Lanka, I have never once personally encountered a single case of "a violation of religious freedom". What is a "violation of religious freedom" in the first place? To find out more, I visited the US Department of State site which had this to say: (random extracts)

"On July 16, 2005, in Pulasthigama, Polonnaruwa the Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church was attacked during the night and set on fire. The central crucifix, holy altar, sacrificial items, and other valuable items were destroyed because the church was almost completely burnt down. One of the caretakers was stabbed with a knife by the attackers.

On December 20, 2005, in Lunugala (Uva Province), a group of Buddhists told a Christian family's pastor that a deceased Christian man could not be buried in the local cemetery. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka intervened on the family's behalf, after which the burial was permitted.

On February 6, 2006, a man arrived at the Dutch Reformed Church in Galle looking for the pastor in charge, who was not there at the time. The assailant then told the pastor's wife that if the pastor visited the neighboring town of Hikkaduwa, people would kill him. The man also made derogatory and obscene statements about Jesus Christ and Christians.

On April 23, 2006, a Methodist Church in Pilyandala re-opened for the first time since 2003, when threats from Buddhist monks caused the church to close. At the re-opening, the same group of monks led a mob who let air out of congregants' tires, pushed over motorcycles, and damaged vehicles. The congregants continued to face threats, and on April 30 burning tires were placed on the road outside the church. A court hearing was scheduled for June 16.

In 2003 Brother Manoharan, a member of the Ceylon Pentecostal Mission, was arrested in connection with the death of an eleven year-old girl. The young girl, who had been sick, was prayed for by Brother Manoharan. He, along with the victim's parents, were taken into police custody on charges of "culpable homicide," tantamount to manslaughter. The three were released on bail on June 2, 2006, and a hearing was set for July 28, 2006."

These are only a few of the examples of "violations" given on the site. In each case, the victim turns out to be a Christian and the perpetrators' are almost always Buddhist. No surprises there! I didn't expect to find anything vice-versa on that list - really, I didn't.

The best of course, was reserved for last on the massive article which concluded with the eloquent yet much used sentence:

The U.S. government is a strong supporter of the peace process launched by the Government, and the U.S. embassy encourages the interfaith efforts by religious leaders to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict."

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