Participation at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and Interfaith Dialogue Exchange Programme July 13-27, 2019

Ms. Yamini Ravidran – Director of Religious Liberty and Social Justice of NCEASL, Executive Director of the Religious Liberty Commission

Mr. Godfrey Yogarajah – Deputy CEO of WEA, General Secretary of NCEASL

Ms Yamini Ravindran and Mr. Godfrey Yogarajah attended the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom (July 16–18, 2019) organised by the US State Department.

The Ministerial brings together leaders, civil society actors and other stakeholders from around the world to discuss challenges facing religious freedom, identify means to address religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, and promote greater respect and preservation of religious liberty for all.

Ms Ravindran addressed the gathering on the opening day, speaking on behalf of the Evangelical Christian community in Sri Lanka in the wake of the Easter Sunday terror attacks. She relayed the story of 06-year-old Debby, a victim of the attack on the Zion Church in Batticaloa and detailed her slow and painful recovery. She further voiced concerns relating to incidents of violence following the attacks.

While at the Ministerial, Ms Ravindran met and liaised with Secretary Mike Pompeo and highlighted a number of pressing concerns facing the Sri Lankan Evangelical Christian community. She emphasised the need for the official recognition of Evangelicals and the introduction of a special desk within the Department of Christian Religious Affairs to probe the issues facing Evangelicals.  She further highlighted the need to revoke the circular issued by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in 2008, which regulations registration constructions of places of worship.

She also met with representatives of the State Department; the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback; and President Donald Trump.

Furthermore, Ms Ravindran and Mr Godfrey Yogarajah met with Christina James, the Foreign Affairs Officer at the Office of South and Central Asia of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, to discuss trends in religious persecution in Sri Lanka and Asia. They also met with Lucius Thompson, the Director for Security at the McLean Bible Church, to discuss physical security considerations for Sri Lankan churches. As a result of this meeting, Mr Thompson agreed to travel to Sri Lanka and conduct a training of trainers on physical security measures and important consideration which should be adopted by vulnerable churches.

Other Advocacy Activities by Religious Liberty Commission:

  1. Written submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR) on the 39th, 40th and 41st Regular Sessions of the UNHRC during the reporting period. 
  2. In partnership with WEA RLC, conducted national training to over 40 pastors, women, lawyers and youth in Vietnam on the importance of advocacy for religious freedom, biblical basis for human rights, and the use of social media for advocacy.  
  3. Met with the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed on August 16, 2019 during his official visit to assess the religious freedom landscape. The Executive Director raised issues of religious violence, discrimination, legal restrictions, the lack of recognition for Evangelical Christians.

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