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Religious Liberty Organizations Call Attention to Sri Lankan Crisis

April 8, 2009
April 8, 2009 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

(TORONTO, April 2009)  Key organizations that work on religious liberty issues around the world on Tuesday made strong statements on the civil war in Sri Lanka and launched a global campaign calling for prayer for that nation.  In what is being called “The Toronto Statement,” the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) is calling the worldwide Christian community to pray for the crisis in Sri Lanka.  RLP member organizations include include Open Doors International (Holland), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (United Kingdom), The Voice of the Martyrs (Canada), HMK (Switzerland) and the Religious Liberty Commission of World Evangelical Alliance (representing 128 countries). 

The Toronto Statement acknowledges some positive elements within Sri Lanka, including the role that the church is playing, but expresses deep concern about the ways in which humanitarian efforts are currently being handled.  In addition, the Statement calls on the worldwide church to pray for work being done to ensure the religious rights of all Sri Lankans, and to support efforts to end hostilities and seek an enduring peace.   

“This is yet another example of the Christian family worldwide standing together and calling its members to pray into a complex, but very serious political situation,” said Mervyn Thomas, CEO of Christian Solidarity World, UK and Chairman of the Religious Liberty Partnership.  “The Toronto Statement is in full accord with the RLP’s reputation for taking a balanced approach in these issues and we trust that this call to prayer will be heeded by Christians globally.” 

“I believe this Statement captures the heart of what the RLP is about,” said Floyd Brobbel of The Voice of the Martyrs (Canada) and member of the RLP Leadership Team.  “Not only are we able to work together as individual organizations, but speak with a united voice to the issues that affect religious liberty.  We pray that this collective global voice will be able to give clear direction to the government officials we petition and influence positive change in the countries like Sri Lanka where religious liberty is threatened.” 

"The World Evangelical Alliance fully supports this statement and stands in prayerful solidarity with the Christian community in Sri Lanka at this time of crisis," said Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, the organization's International Director. He attended the Toronto meeting, noting that the statement is "extremely important" and deserves the highest attention of leaders around the world.

The Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) is a collaborative effort of Christian organizations in over a dozen countries focused on religious liberty.  The RLP seeks to more intentionally work together in addressing advocacy and in raising the awareness of religious liberty issues globally.  The current membership of the RLP is listed on the Toronto Statement.  

For more information about the Religious Liberty Partnership or the Toronto Statement, please contact Brian O'Connell:
E-mail:  Brian@REACTServices.com
Phone: +1-425-218-4718
 

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Toronto Statement on the Crisis in Sri Lanka Issued by the Religious Liberty Partnership April 2009 

As members of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) meeting in Toronto, Canada, we stand with our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka who seek the restoration of peace and reconciliation within their nation and who uphold fundamental human dignity, justice and rights, including religious freedom.  We specifically call on all Christian denominations and organizations worldwide to take this appeal for prayer to their members in recognition that we are One Body united in Christ. 

The RLP acknowledges: 

  • That the humanitarian crisis resulting from long-term ethnic conflict, heightened by senseless acts of violence, directed against civilian populations and the religious persecution now existing in Sri Lanka have curtailed the full functioning of civil society throughout the country.
  • That although extreme elements within religious sectors have called for anti-conversion laws, the Sri Lankan government has taken care to protect the constitutional right to freedom of religious choice by not enacting proposed laws subjecting religious conversion to criminal scrutiny.
  • That there are efforts being made by the Sri Lankan government to restore law and order to populations that have been threatened for years.  We hope and pray for the protection of the innocent civilian populations recognizing this as a crucial goal to achieve.  Our Sri Lankan brothers and sisters support efforts to resolve the complex divisions within society.
  • That despite intimidations and irregularities, there is a functioning Parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka with regular elections being held.
  • That the Christian Church in Sri Lanka, representing all ethnic communities, is making every effort to care for and meet the humanitarian needs of all religious and ethnic groups.
We call on the worldwide church: 

  • To pray that no law will be enacted which would inhibit the free exercise of religious conscience and choice.  Religious freedom is never advanced by coercion or compulsion, but by civil society development and the economic prosperity that results from the protection of this fundamental freedom.
  • To agree with the church in Sri Lanka that the existing law is sufficient to address any suspicions of forced or of induced conversions.
  • To support the Sri Lankan church as it fulfills its mandate to affirm human dignity and to care for and assist the marginalized and hurting people.
  • To urge and support our governments to encourage the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to return to the negotiating table and resolve differences through a negotiated settlement.
  • To pray that the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka will cease hostilities, respect international humanitarian norms, safeguard passage for the evacuation of civilians, and take every effort to minimize civilian casualties by making safety zones and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps truly safe and widely known.
  • To support humanitarian efforts to ensure that there is food and medical care available to the civilian populations, as well as to support the full provision of comprehensive services wherever civilians are located.
  • To pray that internationally accepted standards of protection and care are carried out within IDP camps, including the freedom of movement to civilians and access of outside aid agencies to the civilians in the camps and among other displaced communities. 
  • To pray for and support the freedom of worship and access to priests and religious leaders, including allowing them to visit IDP camps, since there are no compelling security or other bases for constraining these fundamental rights.
  • To pray for the many churches located within the conflict zones.  These peace loving citizens from all ethnic backgrounds are uniquely placed to assist in restoring peace and rebuilding and reconciling the community.
The Religious Liberty Partnership commits: 

  • To support work towards the religious rights of all Sri Lankans, including the rights to freely change one’s beliefs and freely propagate those beliefs without governmental interference or permission.
  • To support international, regional, and local efforts to end hostilities, resolve the conflict and seek an enduring peace in Sri Lanka. 
  • To encourage other likeminded organizations to also promote and support this statement.  We stand in solidarity with the church in Sri Lanka which endeavors to extend prayer, humanitarian assistance, and as loyal citizens of the country, urging their government to abide by international standards for humanitarian assistance and religious freedom for all.
  • To call on the worldwide church to partner with the Sri Lankan church in extending its aid in the reconstruction and rebuilding of communities, as well in extending assistance to victims of religiously motivated violence and injustice.
  • To call on the international community to renew its efforts to strengthen the governmental ability to affirm human dignity values.
  • To call for all our constituencies and the church worldwide to pray for the Sri Lankan church as it seeks to respond in a Christ-like fashion to any religious liberty violations, and to pray until this crisis has been resolved and the freedom of all citizens are fully restored under the rule of law.
Members of the Religious Liberty Partnership (websites are listed for prayer resources and additional information): 

  • Advocates International, USA:  www.advocatesinternational.org
  • All India Christian Council, INDIA:  www.indianchristians.in/news
  • China Aid, USA:  www.chinaaid.org
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UNITED KINGDOM:  www.csw.org.uk
  • Danish European Mission, DENMARK:  www.daneu.dk
  • Friends of the Martyred Church, FINLAND:  www.martyredchurch.net
  • HMK, SWITZERLAND:  www.hmk-aem.ch
  • Hilfsaktion Märtyrer Kirche, GERMANY:  www.h-m-k.org
  • International Christian Concern, USA:  www.persecution.org
  • International Institute for Religious Freedom, GERMANY, SOUTH AFRICA, SRI LANKA:  www.iirf.eu
  • Jubilee Campaign, USA:  www.jubileecampaign.org
  • Norwegian Mission to the East, NORWAY:  www.nmio.no
  • Middle East Concern, MIDDLE EAST:  www.meconcern.org
  • Open Doors International, THE NETHERLANDS:  www.opendoorsuk.org
  •  Release International, UNITED KINGDOM:  www.releaseinternational.org
  • The Voice of the Martyrs, CANADA:  www.persecution.net
  • World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, GLOBAL:  www.worldevangelicals.org/commissions/rlc
  

The Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) is a collaborative effort of Christian organizations from around the world focused on religious liberty.  The RLP seeks to more intentionally work together in addressing advocacy and in raising the awareness of religious persecution globally.  Members of the RLP are primarily involved (that is the majority of their time, personnel, and resources) with ministry to persecuted Christians and/or on religious liberty issues in whatever context and strategy. 

For more information on the Toronto Statement or on the Religious Liberty Partnership, contact Brian O’Connell, RLP Facilitator at: Brian@REACTServices.com; +1 425-218-4718.