Friday, April 01, 2005

An Orwellian Law Name

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sri Lanka is about to pass a law named "Act for the Protection of Religious Freedom." What the law does is make it a crime to change religions or to abet someone else in changing religions. Link.
the impending law (...) is an attempt to protect Buddhism, which is in decline, and check the growth of Christianity, which is growing. Buddhism is afforded a special status, or a "foremost place" to be exact, in the Sri Lankan constitution.

The corollary to the exalted place Buddhism enjoys is that minority religions such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, suffer from sporadic persecution. (...)

The Act will do nothing less than to exacerbate the already existent persecution of religions other than Buddhism. It will make it illegal to even "abet" acts of conversion, punishable in some instances by seven years in prison.

In practical terms, the Act could interfere with the post-tsunami relief efforts in Sri Lanka if religious groups aiding victims come under suspicion of "attempted conversion." It hasn't helped that some press reports over the past three months have criticized some of these groups for proselytizing at such a sensitive time.

This seems like a case of "no good deed goes unpunished." Wherever there is a disaster, and the government allows foreign help, religious groups, including missionary groups, are there to help. I doubt that any overt proselytizing is going on, but devastated people receiving selfless help from Christian missionaries and seeing little from their Buddhist government officials, may have second thoughts about the religion of their birth.

Sri Lanka is already in the midst of a long, bloody civil war between the Buddhist government and the Hindu Tamils. It appears that the Sri Lankan government has the same view of religious freedom as the Saudi royal family.


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