Spread of evangelical groups causes alarm in Sri Lanka
Posted on February 15th, 2021

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Cardinal Ranjith calls for the government to regulate extremist groups after a spate of high-profile conversions

Spread of evangelical groups causes alarm in Sri Lanka

Veteran singer Victor Ratnayake claimed he regained his lost voice with the blessings of God via a religious sect. (Photo: YouTube)

Anna Mary, 32, and her assistant display religious magazines in public places four days a week. They dress in white and display the magazines in a small cart in front of Maradana railway station and other public places in Colombo.

Some passers-by ask what Mary and her assistant are doing. They reply that they are serving God whenever they can. Scenes like this have become common, especially in major cities in Sri Lanka.

“It is a common scene that hundreds of people pray together in such prayer centers from morning until evening,” said Mary. “Special bus services are also available in Colombo, Negombo, Wennappuwa and Chilaw, especially for Sunday services.” 

Mary and her family were Catholics but joined an evangelical church and are devoted to its ministry. They talk about God and offer a free magazine and invite interested people to attend a prayer center.

Mary insists that they do not forcibly convert people, adding that her mission is to go from house to house to introduce God to those who do not know about him.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has called on the government to regulate all members of extremist groups posing as pastors and to check their sources of income.

He said the Catholic Church, led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, had nothing to do with these pastors and their activities.

Buddhists account for over 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, while the Christian minority accounts for only 7.4 percent.

Cardinal Ranjith issued a special statement on Feb. 11 explaining the Church’s position on conversion and said a group of so-called pastors were carrying out extremist activities targeting veteran artists, athletes and businessmen in the country.

In a video circulating on social media, Nelu Adhikari, a popular singer, said she gave up Buddhism and joined an evangelical group, claiming her faith had cured her of tiredness.

In another video circulating on social media, veteran singer Victor Ratnayake claimed he regained his lost voice with the blessings of God via a religious sect. Ratnayake’s wife can also be seen participating in the prayer.

Senior Buddhist monk Ampitiye Sumanarathana Thera accused evangelical pastor Nalaka Fonseka of forcible conversion and used profane language in his assault on the pastor in January 2020.

The Church has a clear administrative structure. But there is no system in the country to regulate these pastors, there is no discipline, no transparency. This directly affects the religious organizations in the country and this would affect religious harmony,” Cardinal Ranjith said.

“I declare to my Buddhist brothers and sisters that the Roman Catholic Church has no affiliation with such extremist religious organizations.” 

Mary said they have registered their church and have never converted anyone by force. “We have not given gifts to Buddhists, Hindus and Christians to convert them. People should have the freedom to choose their religion,” she said.

2 Responses to “Spread of evangelical groups causes alarm in Sri Lanka”

  1. Nimal Says:

    If Sri Lanka is to be a stable country where people would like to invest and make it their second home, then we must not get our nickers in a twist over religious groups spreading their message as long as their messages doesn’t contribute to extremism and terrorism.
    I see so many in London preaching or giving leaflets about ones religion and they are free to do so, where this tolerance make UK a stable country to live, invest etc.UK hardly have so many industries, like used to be decades ago but people have the confidence to invest and live here.I noticed that they aren’t worried about people from the third world coming here on business where they have a very strict visa restrictions, resulting in, they the business people from the third world going to Fat East, where those countries are very receptive.
    So freedom to spread or practice is part of the country’s freedom and democarcy,which is very attractive to outsiders. We should attain those levels by discarding some of the cultural practices attached to the primitive ambuda culture.Politicans and the government officials are very honest in UK which add to the confidence in the country which is very much lacking in SL,sadly.

  2. Nimal Says:

    Sorry I meant Far East

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