Tilling the Mission Fields
in Sri Lanka
By Ven Kollupitiye Samadhindriya
Concern has been voiced that Catholics planned to convert all of
Sri Lanka by the year 2000. The goal was later changed to 2005 to
celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese invasion. Rev.Sister
M Immaculate in the Catholic Weekly Messenger of 18th October 1990,
speaks of " spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ and the
message of salvation. He brought to the world.... We [Christians]
are called upon to be sacraments of salvation..... it is for us to
help them to recognize Him." Although there has always been a
potential conversion threats to Buddhists Hindus and Muslims from
the Catholic community since 1970s a deeper threat has emerged.
The word " fundamentalism " associated with the word "
evangelical " describes numerous American Protestant groups founded
in the 1920s that " do battle royal for the fundamentals of the
faith " [Ammerman 1994:13-14] According to Frykenberg, all fundamentalist
movements regardless of religion, operates on five principles: The
Truth, The Messenger, The Community,The Destiny and The Evil [ Frykenberg
1994-593] For the Christian fundamental evangelists, we find The Truth
represented as the " literally inerrant " definitive final
authority of The Holy Bible.The Messenger is The Preacher - often
a charismatic personality who can excite and convey a sense of urgency.
The Community is the selected group of The Chosen Ones with the belief
in the duality of True and False, Believers and Unbelievers, Children
of God and Heathens etc. The Destiny is the belief in a future Utopia
which will attaind by The Chosen Ones with certain obligation to expand
that community through conversion as a protection from The Evil and
the Evil Ones.
Most Christian fundamentalists do not believe in Darwinian evolution
are moralistic and anti-intellectual. They maintain a personal "
born again " relationship between themselves and Jesus. They
see the Asian respect for sacred texts, sacred sites,deities and respect
for parents as idol worship and ancestor worship. They believe in
the condemnation and dismantling of these aspects of " traditional
society " Some Pentecostal sub- groups practice the belief in
prophecy from The Messenger [living or dead] talking in tongues,faith
healing and miraculous experiences of The Believers. All groups seem
to emphasize sharing the conversion experince through "witnessing
" and " testimony " [Perera 1995]
Since colonial times,the entire region of Asia has been seen as a
"mission field", there to be tilled,tended and harvested,
thus "civilizing" the Asian heathens. Most of the Asian
evangelical churches have an affiliation with worldwide churches and
evangelizing agencies. It is estimated by Cathoilc Church sources
that over 300 seperate evangelical churches and para-church groups
in exist in Sri Lanka : World Vision, Assembly of God, Worldwide Mission
Fellowship, Jehovahs Witness, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Church
of Four Square Gospel, Sri Lanka Centre for Pastoral Studies, Campus
Crusade for Christ, Rural Pastors Training Center, Ceylon Every Home
Crusade, Gideon International, Sri Lanka Audio-Visual Evangelism and
Care, to name a few.There are currently an estimated 38,000 U.S. personnel
in Protestant missions overseas. They have a combined Asian yearly
operating budget of over 500 million dollars - primarily from American
To their credit, Christian Evangelism uses the most modern socio-psychological
techniques and strategies available for the purpose of conversion.
Regular pastoral training exists in Asian countries as well as in
the countries of church of origin. Training in sophisticated communication
and preaching skills, marketing strategies, modes of self-presentation,
"perfprmance" techniques,media evangelism and the efficient
propagation of literary translations and publications are all offered.
These strategies are perfected and used to bring the " message
of Jesus" to the people. The port of entry into conversions is
carefully examined and determined by local need. In Napal for instance
where literacy and medical attention is low,schools and hospitals
are established. In Sri Lanka where litercy and poverty are both high,
Bible translations,published literature and financial aid are provided.
In Sri Lanka, the evangelical movement correctly grasped the peoples
respect for the written word. Literature is published and distributed
in Sinhala,Tamil and English through Ceylon Every Home Crusade, Youth
of Christ,Grace Evangelical Church, Worldwide Church of God etc -
organizations that operates in hopspitals,universities,schools and
door-to-door. They have publications on drugs,marriage,single parenting,mental
In 1995 the International Chamber of Commerce organized a conference
and trade exhibition in Colombo to give local Christian business people
an oppertunity to meet with Christian business people from around
the world - to share knowledge,expertise,funding information and general
networking. Other conferences have focused on vocational training,computer
literacy,business administration,office procedures,English language
proficiency and public speaking. These are all needed and useful services
but the underlying motive here is questionable.
The motive of Christian fundamentalist programs like AD2000 and Beyond,Joshua
Project 1, and Joshua Project 11 was to "harvest" the unreached
people groups" primarily in the countries located between 10
degees and 40 degrees North Latitude [Shashikamar 2004]. One strategy
of operation is "church planting" or establishing churches
in areas that have no Christians and then converting the community
to fill the churches. There is a web site of "unreached areas"
of the world listing locations for future conquest [see website Joshua
Project 2000 - Unreached People Profile - www.ad2000.org.]
"Mission activity included meeting human needs of education,health
care,emergency relief etc. but often this was to demonstrate concern
for the people and gain their confidence to share the gospel which
was the main objective.[Samuel 1998:6] One Christian writer observed,"Sri
Lanka Christian are being viewed as vultures nurtured on foreign funds
and driven to hunt for the poor mortal souls of the gullible and poverty
striken non-Christen.... the church is not totally without blame."
[Morgan 1997:4] "With emphasis on saving the soul rather than
the body,development work and social services are only the means to
an end,a means to win heathen souls for Christ now or if that is not
feasible immediately to prepare the ground for future conversions"
[Shah 1993:39] A Nepali Christian leader stated," I have listened
to the outside critiques of the church.Mainly they have said: 1 Christians
are bought with money 2 It is a western culture and religion 3 The
Church has no concern for our society or our country 4 Christians
are foreigners in our own country. Now I find myself siding with the
critics" [Stanley 1994:16]
Unethical or illegal conversions are those defined as conversions
where something of value has been given in exchange for converting
to The Faith. It has long been known that money has been given for
conversions particularly "to buy land, fertilizer,seed and food
or free education for children has been given conversion." [Perera
1995] And appearing in a Sri Lankan newspaper,"we are aware that
certain Christian sects receive massive sums of money from America
and other foreign countries to be spent lavishly in remote villages
comprised of only poor Buddhists in a bid to convert them to their
faith by exploiting their meager economic conditions, assisting in
their marriages,and helping them to secure employment." [The
Island. 20th May 1993]
In February of 2002, President Bush unveiled a "faith-based"
social service initiative,i.e., a new White House office to promote
government aid to churches and Christian faith-based organizations
to put Federal Government funds behind religious social work. This
means the use of tax payers money for religious conversions. The office
of Faith -Based and community Initiative was headed by director Jim
Towey.This initiative to fund "salvation and religious conversion"
was stalled in Congress,but has been pushed towards implementation
through numerous executive orders. [Shasshikamar 2004]
TMOs [Trasnational Missionary Organizations] in conjunction with the
Joshua Project,International Mission Board,Southern Baptist Convention
and Christian Aid have for decades been gathering information in data
banks for the purpose of coordinated conversion campaigns.These spying
missions have successfully analyzed,mapped and installed U.S. government
and U.S based evangelical mission agencies,shaped by the World Evangelical
Fellowship into areas where the Christian population was formerly
negligible.Ralp Winter,founder of the U.S Center of World Missions
states that it is"the largest,most pervasive global evangelical
network ever to exist". The Global Consultaion on World Evangelical
[GCOWE] convention in Seoul claimed to be "the most strategic
Christian gathering in history". Their purpose is to "make
a priority of establishing as a minimum, a pioneer church-planting
movement within every ethno-linguistic people of over 10,000 individuals
by December 31,2000 [Shashikamar 2004]
In India and else where,the spying operations are postal PIN code
[ZIP code] based classified as to language,ethnicity,religion ststistics,conversion
data,wealth,education,health needs etc The Joshua Projects objective
is to (1) gather strategic population and ministry activity information
(2) to be a least-reached peoples networking resource (3) to enhance
the flow of information between organzations by using standardized
data coding (IMA zone surveys) This data field has then been shared
with U.S intelligence agencies (CIA) giving virtually real-time access
to this global information.This technology has made evangelical activities
potentially dangerous because this enormous data field together with
Christian Right and CIA has all worked to influence foreign policy.
The CIA has publicly admitted to using this information for covert
intelligence operations abroad. International Director of AD2000 and
Beyond,Luis Bush said,"God is allowing us to spy out the land
that we might go in and claim both it and its inhabitants for Him."
The Southern Baptist William Carlsen admitted giving an eight hour
briefing to the CIA on Thailands tribal area(Colby and Dennett). John
Deutch, CIA director, April 1996 admitted that the CIA uses clergymen
and newspapermen as intelligence agents.Because the CIA has been courting
religious missionries,they now have unparalleled reach to the remotest
corners of any country. The "Far Right" Christian evangelists
have always backed militarism in Afghanistan,Iraq and elsewhere in
the world; so the connection between conversion and militarism and
the Christian agenda must be noted [Shashikamar 2004]. It was not
then surprising that the U.S. adminiistration increased foreign aid
/ conversion money in the Sudan from 11 to 18 Billion dollars,once
rich oil deposits were discovered.This money is used not by the Sudanese
but by the Christian evangelists for religious / political purposes.
On 15 January 2004,Bush again touted his faith-based initiative to
the Union Bethel AME Church in New Orleans. These initiatives are
designed to break the constitutional sanctity of the seperation of
church and state(Americans United for Seperation of Church and State)
Bush has linked domestic social policies and U.S. foreign policy with
the disbursal of Aid to U.S. based TMOs,thus increasing the already
$500 million donation budget to unknown heights. Bushs government
has given federal grants to Christian charities that are involved
in conversion activities around the world. On 3 October 2002,U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services announced that Pat Robertsons
charity, Operation Blessing, would be given grants through the Compassion
Capital Fund without restrictions as to the use of funds.Operation
Blessings already was a $66 million a year organization. In 1994 Robertson
said in Congress that cargo planes were recruiting Rwandan refugees
but in fact the plans were used to haul mining equipment in and out
of Zaire for his African Development Corporation to mine diamonds.
Note: Robertson and the Christian Coalition worked tirelessly to elect
In Indianapolis 22 July 1999, Bush said, "In every instance,when
my administration sees a responsibility to help people,we will look
first to faith-based institutions to charities and community groups
that have shown thir ability to Save (religious conversion) and change
lives" On 21 September 2000,in USA Today, Bush said Congress
would allocate $80 Billion over the next 10 years in tax incentives
to help churches provide "social services". On 14 June 2001,
Methodist Church Rev. Eliezer Valentin Castanon said, "No one
can honestly believe that program funded with tax dollars which requirs
as a major component of treatment the acceptance of Jesus Christ as
Lord and Savior,will not advance religion." Regarding World Vision,
procelytisation is an integral part of World Visions provision of
development services under its much-touted programs [Shashikamar 2004]
Many Sri Lankans are well aware of the poverty-striken inhabitants
of Sinhalese Buddhist villages. They are impressed with the tremendous
humanitarian efforts made by Christian community to improve the conditions
in rural areas. They are also aware of the situation in South Korea
where an eighty percent Buddhist population was reduced to less than
forty percent in just two decades due to Christian evangelism and
conversions [Perera 1995]. An education program showing villagers
the true intentions of evangelism is gradually beginning to surface
in rural areas. World Visions "Mustard Seed Project" in
the Ratnapura District was halted when their surreptitious intentions
were brought to light. Their comments was,"we cannot feed individuals
and then let them go to hell." There are currently several lawsuits
in Sri lanka for "Illegal Conversion" activities. But it
must be noted that the Southern Baptist leader Richard Land oversees
the U.S. governments commitment to international religious freedoms
whose specific purpose is to reverse the anti-conversion laws protecting
against illegal conversions in foreign countries. One can assume that
ample funds and expertise will be used to fight the illegal conversion
lawsuits to reverse the existing laws and to fund corruptible politicians.
"Christian fundamentalism, not Islam,may have the potential to
create more conflict internationally, for it can avail itself of all
the advantages and power generated by a western-dominated economic
system." [Brouwer 1996;9]
When foreign policy is guided by a belief that non-Christians are
heathen sinners needing to be saved by the Word of God, it follows
that respect for culture and the reverence for human life of these
sinners is not a high priority. Considering the foreign policy of
the Religious Rights, there appears to be a lack of tolerence and
a lack of sympathy towards ideas of multiculturalism and pluralism
in religion. It can be argued that many societies,exhibiting multiculturalism
and pluralism in religion existed in relative peace before political
instability and or foreign influence incited ethnic conflict. And
now in places where the sanctity of religious holy spaces have been
violated, the idea prevails that all "non-Christian cultures
are considered pagan and therefore perverted....... "[Yu 1998:4]
"Due to its insistence on an absolute truth evangelists are convinced
that their version of truth is complete .....[Caplan 1995:93] The
evangelical movement tends to see "American military and economic
might as guarantors of their ability to evangelize the world [Caplan
1995:97] It is interesting to note that the foreign policies of the
industrial so-called Christian countries seem to reflect the arrogance
of their religion. Therefore,when the ideology,money and power are
all moving in the same direction,biased foereign policy is a foregone
conclusion. The Final Crusade has begun.
It has often been said that there are only two real threats to the
United States: China and India.If Sri Lanka destabilizes and break
up into a Tamil state and possibly a Muslim state, not only will it
weaken Sri Lanka but it is also expected that India will follow suit.
India will loose stability and will break up into separate states.
i.e Kashmir,Jammu,Punjab,Andhra Pradesh,Kerala and Tamil Nadu. This
would futher weaken the whole subcontinent.
The indians in Sri lanka are primarily from Tamil Nadu and are comprised
of Hindus,Muslims and Christians.Most live in harmony with the Buddhists
and very few are affiliated with the LTTE.The top leadership of the
LTTE is strongly influenced by Christian ideologues. Towards their
goal of seperation and independence,violence and destruction has been
employed. They are the original suicide bombers. Young monks have
been slaughtered.Wholsale genocide has occured in villages. Buddhists
holy sites have been bombed and vandalized.The United States has publicly
branded them as terrorists.
It has come to light that the LTTE are funded from Tamils living abroad.
What is not widely known is that all the major indirect funding in
the LTTE dominted areas is from the U.S backed NGOs like World Vision.
Now there is only one question to be asked. How can the United States
be fighting terrorism and at the same time funding it ?
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