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Reply to Prasad on Unethical conversion and Christian fundamentalism

By Sumith Perera

Dear Prasad,

Thank you for your reply.

“I wonder whether our Christian brothers and sisters would like it if Buddhist or Hindu preachers enter an overwhelmingly Christian village and start enticing the poor villagers to adopt either Buddhism or Hinduism by providing clothes, money, medicine, and declare that everyone will be delivered from poverty and sickness if they accept the Buddha or Brahma as their only saviour. I wonder if our Christian brothers and sisters would like it if Buddhist or Hindu preachers encourage Christian converts to Buddhism or Hinduism to take up a statue of Jesus Christ or the Mother Mary and smash it on the ground, in order to declare their faith in Buddhism or Hinduism.

I wonder whether our Christian brothers and sisters would like it if when the Buddhists and Hindus are challenged with the inhumanity of such activities, the Buddhists and Hindus reply "Our religion orders us to propagate our religion, we are only practicing our religion." Does not such an attitude smack of religious extremism and intolerance? Is it not correct to say that only a person with no scruples would engage in and encourage such activities? But it is happening in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, many Christian evangelists are engaged in such activites among the poor and destitue Buddhists and Hindus of Sri Lanka.

Their activities only serve to rile up religious tension and cause the disintegration of the community. Does not the buying of converts cheapen Jesus Christ? Does not the smashing of Buddha statues go against Christ's teachings of love and compassion? Does not buying souls for God make a mockery of him? Why are these Christian evangelists so blind to their intolerance of other religions? Is it really so necessary for the whole world to become Christian? These are some of the questions that Christian evangelists should ask themselves. Fundamentalism only engenders problems wherever it goes, and one can only hope that Christian evangelism (or fundamentalism) in Sri Lanka will not cause any religious problems in our country.”

-- Achala Perera | http://geocities.com/focussrilanka/0012.htm

Prasad you ask for “proof beyond reasonable doubt” because you simply refuse to believe that Christian groups could be acting in a manner that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. It is strange how you want “proof beyond reasonable doubt” when nothing remotely close to that is needed to accept as fact (1) The virgin birth of Jesus Christ (2) The existence of an all-powerful, all- knowing supreme being called “God” and (3) The resurrection of Jesus Christ. These can be accepted as iron fact, but it cannot possible be true that certain Christian groups in Sri Lanka are engaged in aggressive and unethical methods of proselytism that have resulted in the deterioration of religious harmony? Christian evangeilists have strained religious harmony not in Sri Lanka alone, but in many other countries as well. As I have mentioned before they are obsessed with converting everyone to Christianity and will use means necessary to fulfill their agenda.

When has the Sri Lankam state identified itself as a Buddhist state? If you are talking about modern history, Buddhism is not an official religion in Sri Lanka. It certainly was during the period of kings, but has not been so ever since the arrival of the colonials. The current status of Buddhism is actually a demotion of the position it has historically enjoyed in the island.
Giving Buddhism “foremost position” in the constitution does not make it the official religion of the state – unlike Evangelical Lutheranism in Norway. And yes the offical name for Sri Lanka is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka or “Sri Lanka Prajatantrika Samajawaadi Janarajaya in Sinhala” or “Ilankai Jananayaka Socialisa Kudiarasu” in Tamil. There is no mention of Buddhism there. I have no idea why you bring in the word “racism” when religions are not ethnic groups.

I do not spend my spare time reading the Joshua Project, Prasad. I put it forward as an example of how extremist Christians are working to try and convert all the non-Christians to their particular sect of Christianity. They have no respect for religious or cultural diversity. They believe that everyone in the world should follow their religion and their religion alone. This is a facist idea. The idea that everyone should subscribe to only one ideology and anyone who doesn’t is a “target” until he or she accepts the ideology. I ask, why do Christian evangelists come to Sri Lanka, attack Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam and claim that only Christianity is the one true religion? Why do they demand converts not to celebrate Sinhala and Tamil New Year because they are apparently pagan festivals? Why do they demand that Christians should not take part in the festivities of other religions?

Once again, obviously you do not feel the same way as I do, but I find it disconcerting to see Christian groups keep official statistics of who is Christian and who is not, especially since their avowed purpose is to convert all the “non believers” to whatever sect of Christianity they are following. In other words, they want to wipe out Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam – that is their final aim, even though it is expressed as “harvesting souls” for their God. They are not content to live and let live. They cannot stand the fact that there are people who follow different religions.

You ask why read websites if they upset you. Good point. But personally I do not get upset very easily. I don’t think I’m a weak-hearted person. I enjoy reading viewpoints vastly different from mine. I love learning about other cultures and other religions. I like having my worldview challenged. I like examining the foundations upon which my understanding rest. I might as well ask you why do you continue to read Lankaweb if you perceive that is “attacking Christians” as you claimed in your first submission. What motivated you to write that? If you were upset or annoyed by what the website printed, shouldn’t you have followed your own advice and just not read Lankaweb?

The allegations that non-Christians have against Christians are not “limited” Prasad. Look around the world where these Christian extremists have gone and you see religious conflict. Just look at neighbouring India – Christians are creating religion tension there as well, with their extremist idea of converting everyone to their religion. Millions of people have been killed in the name of Christianity and many beautiful cultures have been lost. Look at the history of Latin America alone. And the only religion that was brought to Sri Lanka with violence was Christianity – first by the Portuguese (Catholicism), and then by the Dutch (Protestant) and British. In contrast, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam came to the island peacefully.

In answer to your questions.

(1) Sri Lanka is not a Buddhist state.

(2) Why does the USA, which is a so-called “secular state,” celebrate ONLY Christmas and Easter?
Why do they provide funds ONLY for Christian charity groups? Why do they have references to only Christianity in their pledge of allegiance and on their currency? Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, not long ago we had ministries for Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, and Sri Lanka officially celebrates ALL major religions – not just those practiced by the majority like in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, France and in every single other Christian-majority country. Hindu- majority India also does the same. Muslim-majority Malaysia does the same. Can we find one Christian-majority country that does likewise?

(3) In case you haven’t realised, the crimson background of the Sri Lankan flag represents all the other religions. The Bo tree (ficus religiosa) is considered sacred not only by Buddhists, but also by Hindus and Jains. The four leaves on the flag do not represent Buddhism per se, but Karuna (compassion), Metta (loving kindness), Muditha (sympathetic joy) and Upekkha (equanimity). Now why does the flag of the UK only have a cross on it? Why does the flag of Norway only have a cross on it? Why does the flag of Sweden only have a cross on it? Why does India only have the Dharma Chakra on its flag? Aren’t these democratic countries?

(4) Wonder whether the government spent an equal amount of money with Vesak when it spent who knows how many millions of rupees for three months of lighting up Colombo ostensibly for Christmas? Christians are around 7% of the population and Buddhists are around 70%. How do Christians and Buddhists “equally pay taxes” when Buddhists owing to their larger numbers contribute much more than Christians? Do you think there are more churches in the country, or more Buddhist temples in the country? Do you think there are more Christian Daham Pasalas in the country or more Buddhist Daham Pasalas?

I am not claiming that in Negombo “Christians are building a 4000 seat building.” I really don’t mind if they are constructing a 4000 seat buidling or whatever. You are missing the woods for the trees here Prasad. The point of the article was to point out how the Catholic Church itself has a problem with fundamentalist Christians in Sri Lanka. Did you read the whole article itself? If you haven’t please take the time to do so:

“According to the priest, there are more than 25 fundamentalist Christian groups in Negombo. They including Apostolic Church, Assemblies of God, Calvary Church, Gethsamane Prayer Centre, Jeewana Divia Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Spiritual Christian Fellowship and Swarna Church.

"It is a trying time for us, because new theologies on the gospel are being given to our people by the fundamentalists," continued Father Nonis. "They give money and materials to the people."

To Stanislaus Logaraja, 53, it almost seems that "every day there is a new church." They all proclaim their views in the name of Lord Jesus, and "their activities have created confusion among our youth." the Catholic man said.

http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=24004

You ask about Ven. Dhammika. Ven. Dhammika is an Australian (white) monk. Why shouldn’t he be in Australia when he is an Australian? I do no understand your line of reasoning. He converted from Christianity to Buddhism – and like he said, not because Buddhists harassed him, by knocking on his doors and condemning his Christian faith, but because he went searching for a religion that appealed to him of his own accord. I don’t think there is a problem if people to convert to Christianity. What people do not like is the aggressive, unethical methods of proselytism used by Christian evangelists to convert people to their religon. Would you like it if Buddhists asked those who converted from Christianity to Buddhism to smash up a statue of Jesus or Mary to seal their conversion?

Extremist Christians are certainly as violent as extremist Buddhists and extremist Hindus and extremist Muslims. Trying to paint the entire Christian community as snow white angels is not going to work I’m afraid. Christians behaved abysmally towards Buddhists and Hindus when they were in power. They did everything they could to try and impose Christianity on the people of island.

Just last month two Christian pastors were arrested for destroying Buddha statues in Kandy. I ask you, would you be happy if suddenly Sri Lanka did not recognise Christian marriages and you had to convert to Buddhism to get married? But that’s exactly what Christians expected of Buddhists when they were ruling the roost. Not a peep from the Catholic Church or other churches about the blatant discrimination and bias metered out to non-Christians. And why? Because they were the ones spearheading all this attacks on other religions. Now that they cannot oppress other religions so blatantly they are shamelessly resorting to more insidious means to try and convert all and sundry to Christianity.

You ask about Christian burials in a Buddhist temple. Since when do Buddhists bury their bodies in temples? I am surprised; are you that unaware of Buddhist traditions Prasad? This is a Christian tradition, with cemetaries part of church grounds. Budddhists usually cremate their dead but also bury them (for example if the children die before their parents). The ‘kanatta’ is separate from the temple and where bodies are either buried or ashes interred. Now don’t you think it is extreme for Christian priests to deny a mother and a father a burial place in church grounds simply because their son converted to another religion? Why do they excommunicate whole families because someone converted out of Christianity?

If I cannot build a Buddhist temple in London with its traditional style of a stupa, bo tree, and an image house is that really respecting other religions and cultures? Why should Buddhists or Hindus be forced to changed their traditional temples to “fit in” with the local architecture? How exactly do churches “fit in” with the local architecture? Since you do not have a proble with this blatantly discriminatory policy, I assume you will have no problem in Sri Lanka if the government forces all Christian churches to be built in the structure of Buddhist or Hindu temple? I guess the United Kingdom thinks the country belongs to Christians alone? Christians enjoy freedoms and priviledges in Sri Lanka that Buddhists do not enjoy in other countries, and this after harassing, oppressing and attacking Buddhists for nearly 500 years. Christianity has been given a place in the sun in Sri Lanka, while Christians refuse to do that to any other religion other than Christianity in countries where they are in the majority.

Buddhists have not created a missionary business Prasad, unlike the Christians, where the sole purpose is to convert everyone, if necessary through underhanded tactics. Christians are free to build churches in Sri Lanka, and they have been doing that ever since Christianity arrived in the island. Some churches were built on the destroyed remains of Buddhist temples, others on ancient Hindu structures like Madu Church which is built on the remains of an ancient Pattini Devale. Can you give me a website like the Joshua Project made by Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims? You simply refuse to believe that Christian extremists exist when it is plain to see that they are carrying out an ideological war against all non-Christians and non-Christian faiths. In a country like Sri Lanka where there a Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims it’s not going to do anyhing for religious harmony when people run about trying to convert the others by demeaning their religion, attacking the local culture and using unethical means of proselytism to gain converts. But this is exactly what the Christian extremists are doing.

And yes Buddhists do not go knocking on doors, harassing people to convert and using money to buy converts. They don’t set up organizations with the sole intent of converting all the “heathens” to Buddhism. They don't pay people to convert Christians to Buddhism. They don't publish phamplets claiming that all non-Buddhists will burn in hell if they don't convert. None of the Sri Lankan Buddhist temples that I have been to in the west engage in ANY form of evangelism. Infact, they are often located outside centres of population and cater to the Sri Lankan expatriates. Why don’t you go to one and find out for yourself whether they are trying to convert people?

Thank you for that quote from the Buddhist suttas, but I do not understand what your point it is.
Buddhists are not doing anything to Christians, it is the Christian extremists who are intent on waging an ideological war against not only Buddhists, but the Hindus and Muslims as well. And this is not only in Sri Lanka but around the world as well. Perhaps you need to read about Catholic Action in Sri Lanka? As long as Christians engage in these aggressive acts against non-Christians, I’m afraid there will be religious tension. It’s up to the Christian extremists to give up their campaign of hate and learn to live and let live, to appreciate and accept other belief systems, to look at others as friends and not as potential converts, or souls to be “harvested” for their God.

As for hatred/violence/cruelty/jealousy/injustice/ Christians are as guilty of those as the followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and every other single faith that exists on planet earth.

Here is another website you might find interesting:

It always amazes me how many times this God orders the killing of innocent people even after the Ten Commandments said “Thou shall not kill.” For example, God kills 70,000 innocent people because David ordered a census of the people (1 Chronicles 21). God also orders the destruction of 60 cities so that the Israelites can live there. He orders the killing of all the men, women, and children of each city, and the looting of all of value (Deuteronomy 3). He orders another attack and the killing of “all the living creatures of the city: men and women, young, and old, as well as oxen sheep, and asses” (Joshua 6). In Judges 21, He orders the murder of all the people of Jabesh-gilead, except for the virgin girls who were taken to be forcibly raped and married. When they wanted more virgins, God told them to hide alongside the road and when they saw a girl they liked, kidnap her and forcibly rape her and make her your wife! Just about every other page in the Old Testament has God killing somebody! In 2 Kings 10:18-27, God orders the murder of all the worshipers of a different god in their very own church! In total God kills 371,186 people directly and orders another 1,862,265 people murdered. | http://www.evilbible.com/

And you are accusing Buddhists of hatred/violence/cruelty/jealousy/injustice when the God of the Bible whom Christians worship does such abominable things??

And finally, as Jon Rabbit says

”The spread of viral philosophies is a threat to more peaceful ones. The trend that more aggressive philosophies win and gain ground creates a selective evolutionary advantage that perpetuates war and hostility. The role that Fundamentalism has played in human history for motivating war and destruction is well documented, and has repeatedly worked against human life and vitality on tribal, national, and even global levels. The solution is obvious; the followers of more peaceful philosophies must make an active stand against the spread of their aggressive competition. It is not sufficient to believe passively; Fundamentalists believe in active recruitment, and will seed the notions of war and destruction into others. Our duty must be to warn others of the truth of what they represent. We must innoculate them beforehand with the wisdom of objectivity and education. People aware of human history and of the opportunities to believe in other possibilities will be less likely to adopt the notion that there is a God who mandates participation in "spiritual warfare." The uneducated by comparison readily adopt Fundamentalism, which plays to the emotions through its fear tactics. There is little we can do at this point to protect children from Fundemantalism, even as they choose to extract children from my religion and the principle of "harm none." But through awareness and education, more people become aware of the problem and less vulnerable towards buying into Fundamentalist rhetoric. With knowledge and education, people have a better chance of seeing the hypocratic ironies shared between the radical terrorists who corrupt Islam and the fanatics in the United States who pervert similarly Christianity. Awareness of the problem is paramount towards ending the problem.

Resisting Fundamentalism is worthwhile, because doing so brings us closer to ending future wars, persecution, violations of fundamental human rights, and loss of irreplacable history.”

Kind regards,

Sumith




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