The Department of Christian Affairs in Sri Lanka is one of the four departments at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs representing all religious communities in Sri Lanka. Though it is expected that the Department of Christian Affairs, should represent all those who profess Christianity as their faith, it only represents those who belong to the Roman Catholic Church and the members of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL). This practice thereby excludes a large number of Evangelical Protestant Christians from being represented at a national and more importantly official level.
The Department of Christian Religious Affairs called for “suggestions about what should be the duties carried out by the Department of Christian Religious Affairs”, as carried in the newspaper advertisement of the Daily Mirror on the 26th of June 2013. In response, the NCEASL made the following recommendations on the 11th of July 2013.
- The Department of Christian Affairs should serve and address the concerns of the entire Christian community of Sri Lanka (not be limited to a few Denominations).
This would be in keeping with the Article 12 of our Constitution (equality) as well as Sri Lanka’s obligation to implement Recommendation 127.56 accepted by the Government at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) “Promote national reconciliation taking into account and protecting Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious pluralism, ensuring that all religious denomination are granted equal treatment and enjoy their fundamental rights”- recommended by the Holy See. (Document a/HRC/22/16)
- Formation of a Consultative body, representing Christians from all groups, to be consulted by the Department on matters of importance. The representatives should be nominated by the churches on a representative basis.
- Ensure that rights of Christians are not violated or discriminated against and that all Christians are free to enjoy all rights enjoyed by other religious groups.
- Ensure that worship and other Christian practices – both individual and corporate – are allowed to continue unhindered, which is a Constitutional obligation of the state (Article 14 (1) (e)).
- Ensure the right of Christians to practice, profess and propagate their religion in the same manner as all other religions.
- The department should take up instances of violence and attacks on Christians and Christian places of worship, provide for their safety and redress any wrongs done to them.
- All and any conflicts to be resolved through dialogue with those concerned.
This would support the Government’s acceptance to implement Recommendation 127.57 of the Universal Period Review (UPR) ‘Step up efforts to protect freedom of religion and promote inter-religious dialogue as a tool to foster tolerance and peaceful-coexistence’ – recommended by Italy. (Document a/HRC/22/16)