Conversions: Work of Evil or Work of Good?

Aug 24, 2004 04:24 PM EDT

The Prohibition of Forcible Conversions of Religion Bill of Sri Lanka, proposed by a member of a party of Buddhist monks, was published in a local gazette late May. Among other clauses, the bill proposed that anyone involved in illegal conversion, may be fined up to $5,027 and serve up to seven years in prison. Both the convert and the person responsible for his or her conversion would suffer penalties if found guilty. 

Shortly afterwards, the Sri Lankan government drafted a similar bill that was approved by the Cabinet June 24. 

While sources say that the bill would punish only those convicted of coercion, allurement, or fraudulent means to convert a person from one religion to another, Christians have voiced concern that the tough measures may be misused in the country of Buddhist-majority. 

In protest of the bills, heads of the Anglican, Baptist, Dutch Reformed, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, the Church of South India and the Salvation Army, and the Catholic Churches in Sri Lanka signed a statement on June 29. 

"No fetters should be placed in the path of the exercise of [religious] freedom by legislative or other means," the statement read. "All religions teach their adherents to perform works of charity and all such works of charity cannot be permitted to be criminalized on the assertion that they serve as allurements. It is both a basic feature and duty of all religions to teach and propagate their faith, for in doing so they spread the highest human values." 

Evildoers abuse the trust of their victims when they have gained it through allurement. Though the surreptitious motive may not be visible before affliction; its consequences reveal the heart of an ill-motivated offender. Feasibility of construction of anti-conversion laws lies in evaluating the effectivity of the policy by observing the results of alleged cases of proselytizations. In other words, the law makes sense only when there is a sufficient number of cases in which the induced conversion has afflicted the convert.  

If there is a notable number of cases that renders the policy useful, then in a nation where Christianity is the most prominent religion of those who engage in pro-active propagation of spiritual message; anti-conversion law is an attempt to curb Christian mission works and evangelism.  

Many Christians will be falsely accused, convicted, and punished, as well as the diverse religious bodies in Sri Lanka whose efforts to share their faith are seen as attempts to "allure" others. Conclusively, the Prohibition of Forcible Conversions is a strategic element to stifle the expansion of His Kingdom, and our missionaries who stand firmly against it will attest to their greater love for Sri Lanka.