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Barbara O'Brien

Buddhists v. Christians in Sri Lanka

By May 30, 2008

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Julia Duin, writing in the Washington Times's "Belief Blog," sites violence by Sri Lankan Buddhists against Christian churches. "Buddhism is treated as a state religion in Sri Lanka where Buddhist extremists attack Christian churches, according to the State Department's annual religious freedom report," Duin says. She also mentions an attempt to pass a law in Sri Lanka that would have banned conversions from Buddhism to another religion.

I understand there have been attacks by Buddhist nationalists against Christian churches in Sri Lanka. There is no excuse or justification in Buddhism for this. However, some Christian groups operating in Sri Lanka have not exactly helped Buddhist-Christian relations.

There is an ongoing problem with over-aggressive Christian proselytizing conducted in a dishonest and unethical manner by some conservative evangelical groups. Missionaries have targeted the poor with offers of money if they would renounce the Buddha, for example. They have distributed inflammatory literature, such as pamphlets condemning the Buddha as a reincarnation of Satan.

According to Christian Eckert, writing for The Lanka Academic, after the 2004 tsunami some Christian and Scientology groups presented themselves as humanitarian NGOs but primarily engaged in missionary work. They offered humanitarian aid, including food and new homes, in exchange for attending Christian worship services or Scientology readings.

I understand the Catholic and Anglican churches of Sri Lanka have spoken out against these "conversion" practices. Also, the anti-conversion bill Duin mentions would not have banned conversions entirely, but was intended to discourage coerced conversions. However, the bill was abandoned under pressure from the United States.

It doesn't help that Sri Lanka has been gripped by ongoing civil war since 1983. The main protagonists are the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority and a mostly Hindu Tamil minority. The conflict has hardened ethnic animosities and eroded Sri Lanka's traditional tolerance. Aggressively anti-Buddhist foreign missionaries are but fuel on an already hot fire.

All parties in Sri Lanka might do well to remember these words from the Dhammapada:

"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'' in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased.

"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'' in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased.

Hate is not overcome by hate; by Love (Metta) alone is hate appeased. This is an eternal law.

Comments
May 30, 2008 at 4:15 pm
(1) Lise says:

Interesting story, seems much like extremist Muslims who twist the teachings of the Koran into a hateful thing. What branch of Buddhism would the Sri Lankans belong to?
Lise

May 6, 2011 at 10:17 am
(2) Chamath says:

SRILANKAS FLAG IS SURRONDED WITH 4 BUDDHIST BO LEAVES
AND WE HOLD A SWORD TO KILL WHO TRY TO REPLACE THE BUDDHIST LEAVES WITH SOMETHING ELSE

May 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm
(3) Barbara O'Brien says:

AND WE HOLD A SWORD TO KILL WHO TRY TO REPLACE THE BUDDHIST LEAVES WITH SOMETHING ELSE

It appears you have already replaced them.

May 30, 2008 at 7:26 pm
(4) Barbara O'Brien says:

Theravada

May 31, 2008 at 5:29 am
(5) Deane says:

Wish more people in Sri Lanka understood buddhism. I mean, you’d think a Buddhist extremist kinda would be ultra good! but no, it’s been used as a powerful political tool by nationalists here to command obedience.

I don’t know whether pressure from U.S. was the primary cause for abandoning the anti-conversion bill. That had many aspects to it, like registering with the local police station before becoming a Christian. That was derogatory.

The catholics (of whos community I’m part of, although I’m mostly an agnostic) have been battling evangelicals more than the Buddhists. Since the evangelical NGOs start with people who are already Christian, I guess things are easier for them

But there are attacks on churches, less so now than say about 3-4 years ago, there’s also some liberal censorship, newspapers don’t report on this for the fear of arousing religious sentiments.

July 23, 2008 at 8:04 am
(6) Daniel from Sri Lanka says:

The proposed Anti Conversion Law stated that anybody responsible for the conversion of an individual from one religion to another (Except to Buddhism- that’s not an offence under the act)would face 5 years imprisonment. If the “convert” was in the military, a minor, a student, a woman or a hospital patient, the imprisonment would be 7 years. We Sri Lankans value our freedom of speech, expression, thought & concience. That is why most of us vehemently opposed this act. (We dont want to be another Myanmar or Zimbabwe)Most Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka(barring a few noble exeptions) are in the mould of the Dictatorial Vatican in the Dark ages, the Ku Klux Clan or the Taliban of Afghanistan. The current turmoil in the country is also a result of this nexus of religion and state. These frenzied monks are tarnishing the reputation of Buddhism, which preaches compassion, tolerance and peace. Just Last week, a gang led by a famous monk assaulted a Christian clergyman, breaking his nose, accusing him of “converting” members of the local temple.
An article appeared in a local nespaper, the link is below:

http://www.thesundayleader.lk/20080713/spotlight-1.htm

October 3, 2009 at 2:47 am
(7) Mihins says:

LOL. There are no Buddhist millitants in Sri Lanka. The history behind the protective nature of the Sinhala Buddhists is long. Many invasions from Tamils in South India throuout history, has tried to destroy and wipeout Buddhism in Sri Lanka. During the Chola (that was a Tamil Kingdom in South India) aggressions in India Tamils did manage to eradicate Buddhism in India. If the Sinhalese didn’t protect their religion and their way of life, today Buddhism would have been eradicated in Sri Lanka too. This is the only place Buddhism was preserved in the Indian sub-continent, and most other countries where Buddhism thriv whees today can thank the Sinhalese for bringing it to them, continually being a Buddhist centre where people from all countries (also Tamil Buddhists from India) exchanged and developed the traditions. Buddhism is almost non-esistent in the mainland India, the place where Budda was born. :( .

During the Colonial times, especially under the Portuguese, they destroyed many Buddhist temples and litterature. The British had a hard hand on the Buddhists, becasue they always felt threatened due to many uprisings. The Portuguese also destroyed many Hindu temples in the areas which then had gained more Tamil presence. Sinhala Kings were also patrons of Hinduism and and protected Hindu temples of the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

So the story is more complicated than just them agaist us, mentality. Because all these people are interconnected with each other in a very intricate manner. Buddhism in no way is millitant in Sri Lanka. That is just a joke and an exaggeration. Though we see that there is an extreme tendency to protect their way of life and some monks have started a political party in 2004. The opinion amoung the Sinhalese is that religious parties should not exist. There is going to be a parliamentary discussion about whether to ban such parties. Let’s hope they do.

January 1, 2010 at 12:13 am
(8) Ravi Vinod says:

To the extent that the Sinhala Buddhist community has become extreme it is because of the over aggressive proselytization efforts of Pentacostal, Evangelical and Seventh Day Adventist missionaries. I am Hindu and the same thing is occuring in India. These missionaries offer things such as televisions for conversions. So as not to be fooled by putative converts people must stomp and spit on pictures of the Buddha so as to insure that their conversion is genuine. I think this speaks of volumes about the confidence these missionaries have about their message. Why resort to cheap tawdry bribing for converts? For Buddhists and Hindus the idea of our sages resorting to such tactics is unimaginable and disgusting. Just look at the Tsunami. Whilst much of the aid coming from around the world is purely humanitarian and unconditional, many aid workers have been alarmed at how some of the American aid is being channelled through missionary organisations like Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board, WorldHelp, Samaritan’s Purse, and Gospel for Asia, which see the tsunami as a rare opportunity to make converts in hard-to-reach areas. InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S. based ngo organizations, reports that of its 55 member agencies providing tsunami aid, 22 are faith-based.
In Krabi, Thailand, a Southern Baptist church had been “praying for a way to make inroads” with a particular ethnic group of fishermen without much success, according to Southern Baptist relief coordinator Pat Julian. Then came the tsunami, “a phenomenal opportunity” to provide ministry and care, Julian told the Baptist Press news service, and added “We need to get past the death toll and get focused on the living — because that’s where our ministry is going to be.” Samaritan’s Purse, which is approved by the White House as a humanitarian organization for tsunami relief donations, are working with an American missionary Pastor Dayalan Sanders who has set up base in Sri Lanka, giving him “an opportunity to reach out to his neighbors, mostly Hindus”. Head of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham who considers Hindus as being “bound by Satan’s power” and Islam as “a very wicked and evil religion” explains “We’ve come to help in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” A 3 year old Sri Lankan tsunami survivor, Salomia, whose parents are not to be found, holds a broken doll sitting atop a broken wall of her destroyed tsunami-house in the town of Kalmunai on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Little does she know that she is the prime target of ravaging missionary gangs operating in the area. One missionary interviewed by the Telegraph newspaper, who didn’t want his surname revealed, was candid about why he was in Banda Aceh (Indonesia):
“I’m not here to do relief work,” said John. His calling was missionary work, he admitted. “They are looking for answers,” he said of the disaster victims, whom he described as particularly good candidates for conversion.
“Now we are befriending them, giving them food aid, clothes and stuff. We need to make friends with them first rather than telling them the concept of salvation. Long term that’s where we are heading towards, to save their souls.”
“This (disaster) is one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share his love with people,” said K.P. Yohannan, president of the Texas-based Gospel for Asia.
Their activity in the tsunami hit area of Tamil Nadu (India) have drawn sharp criticism from local officials. In Akkaraipettai, Gospel for Asia and Believers Church have set up an orphanage without the knowledge of the government, said Suriyakala, the district’s social welfare officer. 108 children, mainly Hindus have been taken to the orphanage and are told to recite Christian prayers six times a day. “As soon as we get up, we pray,” said a 13 year old Hindu child Rajavalli. The church officials claim “We did not take the children”, but recruited them from the relief camps. They also denied giving out Bibles in the relief camps and villages even though they were caught giving out Tamil-language Bibles to the refugees.
Gospel for Asia is seeking to train and send 100,000 native missionaries into the most unreached areas of Asia. Their website boasts of planting over 10 churches every day.
They have mug shots of missionaries you can sponsor from their web site
They run a “sponsor a missionary” scheme where $30 a month buys an indigenous missionary working covertly among non-Christian communities. The FAQ for sponsors states that a sponsored missionaries cannot receive letters from their sponsor as that might blow their cover:
“native missionaries must not be viewed as working for a foreign agency, as this could severely hinder their work among the non-Christian communities”.
Gospel for Asia has set up a special ministry to convert Muslims. They offer specific training for working among Muslims, and provide radio broadcasts in Bengali, Dari and Pashto – targeting the Muslims of India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
In my native Andhra Pradesh, India, a plan is developing to build “Christian communities” to replace destroyed seashore villages. In a dispatch that the evangelical group Focus on the Family posted on its Family.org Web site, James Rebbavarapu of India Christian Ministries said a team of U.S. engineers had agreed to help design villages of up to 400 homes each, “with a church building in the center of them.”
There has also been abduction of Muslim orphans.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, lost well over 170,000 people to the killer sea surges. The Indonesian government estimated that 35,000 children have been made homeless, orphaned or separated from their parents in Aceh, where Muslims make up 98 percent of the population.
Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordination, has highlighted that “There is a big and consistent rumor that children orphans are now systematically adopted, kidnapped, taken away to be Christianized in the West. It is happening but they are isolated cases but we need to stop it immediately.”
Subsequently it was exposed in the Washington Post that WorldHelp, an American missionary group, abducted 300 Muslim tsunami orphans from the province of Aceh and plans to raise them as Christians with the aim of one day returning them back to Aceh as Christians missionaries to convert the Muslim population.
These orphans survived the tsunami, but will they survive the scavenging missionaries bent on abducting Muslim children “for Christ”. The Rev. Vernon Brewer, president of WorldHelp, initially claimed that the Indonesian government has given him permission to take the children and that he had “explicitly” told them that the children would be raised as Christians – these claims were later proved to be lies. On their web site, WorldHelp present the tsunami disaster as a rare opportunity to make converts in hard-to- reach areas:
“Normally, Banda Aceh is closed to foreigners and closed to the gospel, but because of this catastrophe, our partners there are earning the right to be heard and providing entrance for the gospel,” WorldHelp said in an appeal for funds on its Web site.
The appeal said WorldHelp want to “plant Christian principles as early as possible” in the 300 Muslim children, all younger than 12, who lost their parents in the tsunami. “These children are homeless, destitute, traumatized, orphaned, with nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat,” it said. “If we can place them in a Christian children’s home, their faith in Christ could become the foothold to reach the Aceh people.”
Brewer said his organization had collected about $70,000 in donations and was seeking to raise an additional $350,000 to build the Christian orphanage.
After the publicity sparked a furor in Indonesia WorldHelp seems to have abandoned its plan for these 300 orphans. But the Washington Post Jan 15 edition notes that: “WorldHelp now is seeking other Indonesian orphans to be placed in a Christian home and will make every effort to ensure that the $70,000 it has raised is used for the purposes that donors intended, Brewer said in his e-mail to supporters.”
There are only 14 million Sinhalese Buddhists in this world and so this aggressive proselytization threatens their ancient culture and heritage with extinction. We can disingenuously speak of “extremist Buddhists” but unless one explains that they are up against foreign funded virulent fascistic creed on a whole other order of magnitude than one is not even telling an iota of the truth. The ways and message of the missionaries is pure evil. We don’t need their western morality, dating, drugs, drinking and depression in our countries. I know you folks think you have a monopoly on self-righteousness but from our point of view your civiliztion is inferior and barbaric. And that is why you resort to such cheap tactics to gain converts. First reduce your 50% divorce rates in the West before sending your paedophilic bishops here. You have converted much of Black Africa and look at the nightmarish results. A.I.D.S and genocidal militias are running rampant in the Christian African nations. Contrast this with the relative stability and far lower H.I.V rates in Muslim African states like Mali, Mauritania, Gambia, Chad, Senegal etc. We have seen your handy work in Black Africa. Thank you but no Thanks.

January 1, 2010 at 12:13 am
(9) Ravi Vinod says:

To the extent that the Sinhala Buddhist community has become extreme it is because of the over aggressive proselytization efforts of Pentacostal, Evangelical and Seventh Day Adventist missionaries. I am Hindu and the same thing is occuring in India. These missionaries offer things such as televisions for conversions. So as not to be fooled by putative converts people must stomp and spit on pictures of the Buddha so as to insure that their conversion is genuine. I think this speaks of volumes about the confidence these missionaries have about their message. Why resort to cheap tawdry bribing for converts? For Buddhists and Hindus the idea of our sages resorting to such tactics is unimaginable and disgusting. Just look at the Tsunami. Whilst much of the aid coming from around the world is purely humanitarian and unconditional, many aid workers have been alarmed at how some of the American aid is being channelled through missionary organisations like Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board, WorldHelp, Samaritan’s Purse, and Gospel for Asia, which see the tsunami as a rare opportunity to make converts in hard-to-reach areas. InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S. based ngo organizations, reports that of its 55 member agencies providing tsunami aid, 22 are faith-based.
In Krabi, Thailand, a Southern Baptist church had been “praying for a way to make inroads” with a particular ethnic group of fishermen without much success, according to Southern Baptist relief coordinator Pat Julian. Then came the tsunami, “a phenomenal opportunity” to provide ministry and care, Julian told the Baptist Press news service, and added “We need to get past the death toll and get focused on the living — because that’s where our ministry is going to be.” Samaritan’s Purse, which is approved by the White House as a humanitarian organization for tsunami relief donations, are working with an American missionary Pastor Dayalan Sanders who has set up base in Sri Lanka, giving him “an opportunity to reach out to his neighbors, mostly Hindus”. Head of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham who considers Hindus as being “bound by Satan’s power” and Islam as “a very wicked and evil religion” explains “We’ve come to help in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” A 3 year old Sri Lankan tsunami survivor, Salomia, whose parents are not to be found, holds a broken doll sitting atop a broken wall of her destroyed tsunami-house in the town of Kalmunai on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Little does she know that she is the prime target of ravaging missionary gangs operating in the area. One missionary interviewed by the Telegraph newspaper, who didn’t want his surname revealed, was candid about why he was in Banda Aceh (Indonesia):
“I’m not here to do relief work,” said John. His calling was missionary work, he admitted. “They are looking for answers,” he said of the disaster victims, whom he described as particularly good candidates for conversion.
“Now we are befriending them, giving them food aid, clothes and stuff. We need to make friends with them first rather than telling them the concept of salvation. Long term that’s where we are heading towards, to save their souls.”
“This (disaster) is one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share his love with people,” said K.P. Yohannan, president of the Texas-based Gospel for Asia.
Their activity in the tsunami hit area of Tamil Nadu (India) have drawn sharp criticism from local officials. In Akkaraipettai, Gospel for Asia and Believers Church have set up an orphanage without the knowledge of the government, said Suriyakala, the district’s social welfare officer. 108 children, mainly Hindus have been taken to the orphanage and are told to recite Christian prayers six times a day. “As soon as we get up, we pray,” said a 13 year old Hindu child Rajavalli. The church officials claim “We did not take the children”, but recruited them from the relief camps. They also denied giving out Bibles in the relief camps and villages even though they were caught giving out Tamil-language Bibles to the refugees.
Gospel for Asia is seeking to train and send 100,000 native missionaries into the most unreached areas of Asia. Their website boasts of planting over 10 churches every day.
They have mug shots of missionaries you can sponsor from their web site
They run a “sponsor a missionary” scheme where $30 a month buys an indigenous missionary working covertly among non-Christian communities. The FAQ for sponsors states that a sponsored missionaries cannot receive letters from their sponsor as that might blow their cover:
“native missionaries must not be viewed as working for a foreign agency, as this could severely hinder their work among the non-Christian communities”.
Gospel for Asia has set up a special ministry to convert Muslims. They offer specific training for working among Muslims, and provide radio broadcasts in Bengali, Dari and Pashto – targeting the Muslims of India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
In my native Andhra Pradesh, India, a plan is developing to build “Christian communities” to replace destroyed seashore villages. In a dispatch that the evangelical group Focus on the Family posted on its Family.org Web site, James Rebbavarapu of India Christian Ministries said a team of U.S. engineers had agreed to help design villages of up to 400 homes each, “with a church building in the center of them.”
There has also been abduction of Muslim orphans.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, lost well over 170,000 people to the killer sea surges. The Indonesian government estimated that 35,000 children have been made homeless, orphaned or separated from their parents in Aceh, where Muslims make up 98 percent of the population.
Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordination, has highlighted that “There is a big and consistent rumor that children orphans are now systematically adopted, kidnapped, taken away to be Christianized in the West. It is happening but they are isolated cases but we need to stop it immediately.”
Subsequently it was exposed in the Washington Post that WorldHelp, an American missionary group, abducted 300 Muslim tsunami orphans from the province of Aceh and plans to raise them as Christians with the aim of one day returning them back to Aceh as Christians missionaries to convert the Muslim population.
These orphans survived the tsunami, but will they survive the scavenging missionaries bent on abducting Muslim children “for Christ”. The Rev. Vernon Brewer, president of WorldHelp, initially claimed that the Indonesian government has given him permission to take the children and that he had “explicitly” told them that the children would be raised as Christians – these claims were later proved to be lies. On their web site, WorldHelp present the tsunami disaster as a rare opportunity to make converts in hard-to- reach areas:
“Normally, Banda Aceh is closed to foreigners and closed to the gospel, but because of this catastrophe, our partners there are earning the right to be heard and providing entrance for the gospel,” WorldHelp said in an appeal for funds on its Web site.
The appeal said WorldHelp want to “plant Christian principles as early as possible” in the 300 Muslim children, all younger than 12, who lost their parents in the tsunami. “These children are homeless, destitute, traumatized, orphaned, with nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat,” it said. “If we can place them in a Christian children’s home, their faith in Christ could become the foothold to reach the Aceh people.”
Brewer said his organization had collected about $70,000 in donations and was seeking to raise an additional $350,000 to build the Christian orphanage.
After the publicity sparked a furor in Indonesia WorldHelp seems to have abandoned its plan for these 300 orphans. But the Washington Post Jan 15 edition notes that: “WorldHelp now is seeking other Indonesian orphans to be placed in a Christian home and will make every effort to ensure that the $70,000 it has raised is used for the purposes that donors intended, Brewer said in his e-mail to supporters.”
There are only 14 million Sinhalese Buddhists in this world and so this aggressive proselytization threatens their ancient culture and heritage with extinction. We can disingenuously speak of “extremist Buddhists” but unless one explains that they are up against foreign funded virulent fascistic creed on a whole other order of magnitude than one is not even telling an iota of the truth. The ways and message of the missionaries is pure evil. We don’t need their western morality, dating, drugs, drinking and depression in our countries. I know you folks think you have a monopoly on self-righteousness but from our point of view your civiliztion is inferior and barbaric. And that is why you resort to such cheap tactics to gain converts. First reduce your 50% divorce rates in the West before sending your paedophilic bishops here. You have converted much of Black Africa and look at the nightmarish results. A.I.D.S and genocidal militias are running rampant in the Christian African nations. Contrast this with the relative stability and far lower H.I.V rates in Muslim African states like Mali, Mauritania, Gambia, Chad, Senegal etc. We have seen your handy work in Black Africa. Thank you but no Thanks

June 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm
(10) KhunKaew says:

I fully agree with what you said. Buddhists are gentle people and we respect other religions. Please do not disturb us or trying to spread your gospel to us. We are not fascinated with your gospel and your morale values, as the Buddha has already taught us all the things that are required to be an enlightened person. Last but not least, please kindly remove your cross from our country.

April 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm
(11) Suramya says:

Thank you Ravi Vinod. I am from Sri Lanka and you have analysed the problem correctly. The problem with Hindus and Buddhists is that they are emotional smashing up churches without realising that the victim is now regarded as the aggressor; without realising the subtle tactics that the evangelists employ to convert unsuspecting poor villagers by showering them with ‘goodies’. It is high time that India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos get together to tackle this menace.

December 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm
(12) chanu says:

missionary groups in sri lanka doesn’ try to get people converted by reasoning out .If you go to “Panadura” which is not far from colombo today (26/12/2012) you’ can find missionaries who would offer Rs.50,000 if you can find five people including your self who wants to be converted to Christianity and let your photos and names to be printed on leaflets.
Buddhism doesn’t has a central control panel to govern the buddhist institution.specially in theravada buddhism there is no central figure(like his holiness Dalai Lama).each monk and each temple are on their own.unlike in west there is no missionary concept in buddhism in sri lanka.you will see no monks or people who will hand you a leaflet explaining why you should convert to buddhism.monks and temples does not possess financial ability to stop people being bought off because of their poverty.thats why monks insists on passing state laws to stop missionaries.you can find buddha engraved biscuits being offered to students in poor schools. or places where trains young monks to teach contradictory buddhist concepts for huge chunks of money. these things are not hidden.just google bit more and you will find these horrible things done by certain missionary groups. this by no means implying that christianity is bad. its just that there are horrible missionaries who goes out there way to make people convert to chritianity by very cheap means.which gives christianity a very bad name.missionaries in asia are very rich.if passed , state laws will only stop missionaries.buddhist or christianity.state laws is the only option to stop this since buddhist teachings or temple structure does not have teachings or financial power to stop people being converted because of money

December 27, 2013 at 6:45 pm
(13) Heather says:

[Comment deleted. I will thank you not to attempt Christian proselytizing on a Buddhist website. It's disrespectful. -- Barbara]

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