by Jordan Hilger, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka is calling for the establishment of an "anti-conversion" law he claims will "save this country" from the phenomenon of people converting from Buddhism to other religions, Christians say as a pretext for persecution.
Barnabus Fund reports that Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke on March 2 to a network of 324 councils that oversee Buddhist schools and claimed that among "threats facing the Sinhala Buddhist nation" was the conversion of "traditional Buddhist families to other religions."
“They are using extremism to be popular,” a Sri Lankan pastor said. “They have already started to collect information regarding churches through local government authorities. I believe they are strategically working out something against the house church movement.”
Neighboring India has passed a number of "freedom of religion" laws in recent years that forbid conversions by coercion, but the laws are frequently used to target Christians evangelizing out of goodwill.
A 2009 draft bill for the proposed Sri Lankan law carries a possible jail sentence of seven years and a $2,000 dollar fine for anyone whose evangelistic efforts are interpreted as coercive, as they almost always are in India.
Sri Lanka is 30th on Open Doors USA's World Watch List for the persecution of Christians and was the site of a massive terrorist attack by jihadists last year that killed hundreds of Christians worshipping at three different churches.