NCC against using tragedy to further religious beliefs

Humanitarian relief and rehabilitation work should not be used to further religious, political or sectarian advantage, says the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka in a statement signed by Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe (Bishop of Kurunegala, Church of Ceylon & Chairperson, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka), Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera (Bishop of Colombo, Church of Ceylon), Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan (Bishop in Jaffna, Church of South India), Rev. Noel Fernando (President, Methodist Church Sri Lanka), Rev. W. Warshamanage (President, Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya), Colonel Roy Frans (Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army), Rev. C. N. Jansz (President, Dutch Reformed Church), Rev. George Stephen (Moderator, Presbytery of Lanka), Rev. Dr. Jayasiri T. Peiris (General Secretary, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka).

The statement says: "The Churches of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka are deeply concerned and perturbed by recent reports that certain groups working among those displaced and traumatised by the tsunami are trying to exploit this great tragedy to further their own religious beliefs and ideologies. It was further reported that some groups professing Christianity and involved in relief work among affected persons were also acting so as to secure conversion to Christianity.

"The Christian Church is called to proclaim abundant life in Jesus Christ to all persons at all times in word and deed. However, as we have consistently maintained, material provisions should not be used for religious or ideological gains. We endorse the International norm that whilst all persons have the freedom to disseminate their systems of belief among others, humanitarian relief and rehabilitation work should never be used to further religious, political or sectarian advantage.

"Consequently, we deplore and condemn any attempt to lure people to change their personal ideologies or religious beliefs in exchange for material assistance. We hope that no Christian church or group would ever indulge in any such conduct.

We appeal to all persons and groups who have come to Sri Lanka in order to help with relief work to respect our religious and ethnic diversity and the on-going need for greater mutual trust, and to act sensibly and sensitively to provide relief and assistance where needed, without violating personal dignity or freedom of choice.

"Finally, we wish to state that as Christian churches in Sri Lanka, we remain committed to the goal of rebuilding our nation together with all other Sri Lankans and look forward to working hand-in-hand in this formidable task."