Sri Lanka Eyes Anti-Conversion Law

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, JAN. 1, 2004 ( Sri Lanka hopes to introduce a law that will limit conversions from one religion to another, the country’s Minister of Religious Affairs announced.

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The Colombo government will promote a legislative disposition directed to those who use a variety of «incentives» to convince others to change their religion.

«More than 7,000 Hindus, from the northeast and central provinces of Sri Lanka, have converted to Christianity in the past 10 years,» Minister of Religious Affairs Thiagarajah Maheswaran, a Hindu, told the press during a visit to Madras, India.

Maheswaran added: «The conversions have grown in recent months, since international humanitarian agencies committed to the reconstruction of the country have begun to construct churches.»

Sri Lanka has been devastated by devastated by two decades of conflict between the government and the rebel Tamil Tigers.

In recent days the question of conversions has come to the fore again with the death of a Buddhist monk who led the struggle against religious conversions from Buddhism to Christianity, according to the Missionary Service News Agency.

According to doctors, Venerable Gangodavila Soma Thera died in Russia in early December following a heart attack. However, some Buddhists blame Christians for his death, thus fueling the tensions between the two communities.

About 70% of Sri Lanka’s 20 million inhabitants are Buddhist; 15% are Hindu, 8% Christian (of the latter 6.7% is Catholic) and 7% Muslim.

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