Published: 00:01 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 24 March 2010
Praying for the Persecuted Church in Lent - Sri Lanka
Project(s): 85-673, 85-595
Country/Region: Sri Lanka
In recent years Christians in Sri Lanka have been beset by problems on every side. They have suffered persecution at the hands of Hindus, Muslims and especially Buddhists, including attacks on their church leaders and buildings. Some of them work in terrible conditions on tea and rubber plantations in the south, without proper accommodation, and a recent drought has reduced them to desperate poverty and need. There has also been serious flooding in the north. Many Christians were caught up in the violence and deprivation of the long civil war, which ended only in 2009.
The Sri Lankan constitution upholds freedom of religion, although it gives Buddhism “the foremost place”. The powerful Sinhalese Buddhist lobby demands privileges for itself at the expense of the Christian minority, and campaigns for legislation to control religious conversion. There is observable discrimination against minority religions in taxation, employment and education. Small churches in rural areas are often the targets of organised opposition by Buddhists. Certain areas are viewed as Buddhist preserves.
The proportion of Christians in Sri Lanka has declined steadily since the end of colonial rule, owing not to numerical decline, but to a faster expansion of the non-Christian population. Buddhism is practised by about 70% of the people, and Hinduism by about 14%. Christians now make up only some 8%, and are concentrated in the south-west. Muslims also comprise around 8%. Most of the Christians are Tamils, and they therefore tend to be ostracised by the majority Sinhalese community.
Christian tradition claims that Sri Lanka was first evangelised by the apostle Thomas. Small Christian communities existed on the coasts during the succeeding centuries, but Christianity made significant progress only from the sixteenth century. Christianity is perceived by many Sri Lankans as a product of Western colonialism.
Bible college students support (Ref. 85-673)
Religious liberty advocacy ministry (Ref. 85-595)
A “Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion” bill is being considered by the Sri Lankan parliament. If passed into law, it would ban conversion by “allurement”, “force” or “fraudulent means”, and could easily be used to prevent Christians from engaging in legitimate evangelism and humanitarian work.
- Please pray that the bill will not be approved and that the government will uphold the constitutional commitment to freedom of religion.
- Pray too for Christians in Sri Lanka facing hostility and violence from many directions, that the Lord will grant them peace and courage in their ordeal, and enable them to witness effectively to Him.