Global alliance calls for religious freedom in Sri Lanka

Global alliance calls for religious freedom in Sri Lanka

A group of more than 30 religious organisations from 20 countries is calling on Sri Lanka to ensure religious freedom for Christian groups.

In a so-called “Colombo statement”, named after the Sri Lankan capital city, the group called the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) asked the worldwide church to pray “against the continued violent attacks on clergy and places of Christian worship”, and for the enjoyment of “constitutional guarantees on religious freedom” by all religious groups.

Members of the RLP include Release International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

Sri Lankan evangelicals are represented by the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. The organisation is part of the WEA, a group representing 600 million evangelicals worldwide.

RLP Chairman Mervyn Thomas, also Christian Solidarity Worldwide CEO, said, “We are concerned about forced closures of churches and violent attacks on clergy and churches.”

Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission, said the statement was designed to ignite action and was a significant expression of concern by the global Christian community on issues of rights, justice and equality as Sri Lanka emerges from civil war and progresses towards peace.

“It is essential that all communities are treated equally and are able to live in an environment that is conducive to the fullest and unhindered enjoyment of their fundamental freedoms,” said Yogarajah, who also heads the Sri Lankan Evangelical Alliance.

Sri Lanka’s quarter-century civil war, which ended in May 2009, killed more than 80,000 people. Reports of human rights violations persist, and the Sri Lankan government is under international pressure to probe abuses in the final months of the war.

About 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20.8 million people are Theravada Buddhists, 15 per cent are Hindus, 7.5 per cent are Muslims and 7.5 per cent are Christians.

Release International UK director Colin King said protection of religious freedom is essential if Sri Lanka is to move forward as a nation. “The country’s long civil war may be over but it is Christians — and particularly evangelicals — who continue to face persecution today,” he said.

By David Crampton, Ecumenical News International

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