Converting locals into Christianity by prominent
international NGO

By Iromi Dhamawardhane
They call it, “Transformational Development” or “TD” for short, through “restored relationships through faith in Jesus Christ.” Although we understand that good intentions may be behind such pursuits (as the individuals concerned may believe that they are doing good), we call it, an insolent continuation of the coercive and abominable practices of proselytism carried on by missionaries during the colonial era of Sri Lanka - and other colonies of western powers - and insulting our (spiritual) intelligence.

The INGO concerned identifies itself as “a Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation” and defines its role in its Transformational Development Policy Framework as follows: “Work[ing] alongside the poor and oppressed as they pursue their transformational development, in partnership with sponsors/donors, governments, churches and other NGOs.”

Five ‘Domains of Change’ or ‘Areas of Desired Change’ comprise the Transformational Development Framework: 1. Well-being of children, and their families and communities; 2. Empowered children to be agents of transformation; 3. Transformed relationships; 4. Interdependent and empowered communities; and 5.Transformed systems and structures. It is stated that, ‘Transformational Development’ is a “required core competency” area of this NGO, while it is to be “fulfilled in an integrated and holistic way in relation to the other ministries in the mission statement.”

It is unambiguously stated that the ‘Scope of Change’ of “Transformed Relationships” (an ‘Area of Desired Change’) includes the “restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.” It is clear then that this NGO seeks proselytes where ‘Transformational Development’ Programmes are in place.
To achieve ‘TD’, the NGO implements long-term (10-15 years) programmes called Area Development Programmes (ADPs) which are said to be: “holistic programmes in clusters of villages driven by the needs of that specific community.”

In Sri Lanka, this NGO has (or has had in the recent past) ‘Transformational Development’ Programmes in the following localities: Ambagamuwa, Galenbindunwewa, Giribawa, Kebithigollewa, Kotawerera, Lungamvehera, Mahakumbukkadawala, Negombo, Padiyatalawa, Sevanagala, Thanamalwila, Wilgamua, and Willuwa – which are incidentally almost per cent Buddhist in religious affiliation with the exception of Negombo which is mostly Catholic (not Christian Protestant).
This NGO has ‘Transformational Development’ programmes in 100 countries in the world, with ADPs in 55 countries.
It is also stated by the NGO that “Transformational Development employs processes and actions that integrate intentional Christian witness without proselytism.” However, it is not clear how to differentiate “intentional Christian witness” from proselytism, when it is plainly declared that “transformed relationships”, an ‘Area of Desired Change’, involves “restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.”

If our common goal is world peace, it is vital to understand that truth can be attained through any religion, depending on the sincerity of commitment of the individual (not depending on the religion). It is a redundant effort to convert a pious Buddhist into a pious Christian because s/he was already following the same path. What is gained by an external agent can only be expansion of institutional (and global) political power or gratification of some other self-interest (such as the fulfillment of a personal emotional need stemming from prejudice and an imperfect understanding of the religion concerned). Salvation is earned by an individual, it cannot be gifted.
Any religion can be the path to fulfillment including the occult parts of religions which are tools for spiritual development.

The NGO’s focus on children and the fact that “empowered children [are] to be agents of transformation” in its ‘Transformational Development’ Framework becomes particularly troubling in this context of religious proselytism, as children are significantly more impressionable and emotionally vulnerable than adults. It is extremely unethical to try to change children!
‘TD’ Programmes also encourage ‘Sponsorship’ of children, where a particular child’s basic needs such as education and health needs are met with an individual sponsor’s funds through the NGO - a great act of generosity if not for the organisation’s and its sponsors’ personal motives which tarnish such generosity. A Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) listed on the NGO’s website reads: “How does [NGO concerned] witness about Jesus Christ, and how does my sponsored child learn about Jesus?”

Needless to say, the ‘Transformational Development’ Framework is an extremely unethical conceptual framework of ‘development’, all the more because it does not respect the rights of children. Targeting children in this way can cause them to feel isolated in their own community and emotionally distance them from their families – support systems a child can greatly benefit from. Children have the right to grow-up in an environment that is cohesive to their emotional, mental, and physical well-being, and this does not happen when there is a tug-of-war with their traditions and a new philosophy at so young an age. Exploring new religions is a prerogative of the child (and the individual), not an NGO’s; s/he will undoubtedly embark on this process/spiritual journey when s/he is emotionally and intellectually ready (this usually comes about in one’s teenage years or after for most individuals).

Although this NGO has done a lot of good in terms of advancing economic and social development in Sri Lanka and other developing countries in areas of poverty alleviation such as water, nutrition, education, and immunisation and other issues such as HIV/AIDS prevention, its “Christian” agenda/ advocacy is unacceptable on ethical grounds - especially since an NGO is meant to be an ethics-based, non-partisan institution which works to advance a cause which benefits the public interest at large, giving special attention to the specific needs of the individuals concerned.

Four of the world’s major religions exist in harmony in Sri Lanka: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Religious freedom has been a deep-rooted value cherished from the earliest times in Sri Lanka. Individuals have always been free to change her or his religion, and this practice is fully accepted by society (inter-religious marriages may be more common in Sri Lanka than inter-ethnic marriages). There are also long-established institutional frameworks in the country for all four religions. And, unlike in the United Kingdom for example, where the Head of State is also the head of the Anglican Church, the Head of State in Sri Lanka can belong to any religion. Therefore, there is truly no need, under any measure, for an NGO to “advocate” a particular religion to the local population. It can only be condemned that defenceless children and the very poor, who are not only economically vulnerable, but therefore also emotionally vulnerable, are targeted to this end.

The Government recently passed the Anti-conversion Bill (Prevention of Forcible Conversion Bill) due to the reality of such reprehensible practices. There have also been aggressive campaigns/ strategies by (new) evangelical churches to convert rural Buddhists. ‘Church planting’ is a common practice in remote villages, where an evangelist will befriend a household which has some kind of difficulty like poverty, illness, or alcohol/drug addiction, then hold prayer meetings and give financial assistance, convert them, and subsequently establish a church in that house.

A ‘Core Value’ of the NGO is that “[It] Values People”, and that it “regard[s] all people as created and loved by God” and that it “celebrate[s] the richness of diversity in human personality, culture and contribution.”
It is ironic and baffling then as to why the NGO does not respect the adherence of other religions of the world, and seeks to endorse the tiresome and offensive notion (of the colonial age) that ‘development’ involves conversion into Christianity.

It can no longer be entertained that Jesus Christ would commend practices such as proselytism or conversion - to use people’s suffering to advance the interests of one’s own belief system. Such practices are no doubt an affront to Christianity itself. It is inhuman to advance an agenda where humanitarian aid, education and healthcare are given in exchange for changing one’s religion – this surely infringes on the individual’s fundamental right to practice the religion of her/his choice in freedom. Christianity is a religion of generosity, love, peace, and tolerance, as are other religions of the world. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged…”; “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…” (Luke 6:37; Ephesians 4:2-6).

Religion is the most profound and meaningful thing this world has to offer. The world, comprising of different civilisations, have brought about diversity in religion, just as it has brought about diversity in culture and language. Such diversity only works to enrich our world and add value to the ‘knowledge of the world’. Let us protect religion and knowledge in all its forms, recognise it as one, and continue to learn from each other as we have done in the past.

“Transformational Development Core Documents”, www.transformational-development.org, accessed November 23, 2010.


Visakha triumphs at ‘Eve of A Capella’

Visakha Vidyalaya emerged overall winners at the recent “Eve of A Capella’ organised by the United Students’ Circle of Royal College.
The senior members of the Visakha Vidyalaya Choir who took part were Thewni Amaradasa, Agana Goonerwardena, Shehara Molligoda, Gimhani Herath, Malweena Jayawardena, Upekha Dassanayake, Damya Senavirathna, Ekodi Wickramaarachchi, Ranitri Samarawickrema, Nadisha Gamage, Yasara De Mel and Ruwanthi Jayasooriya.

As per the requirements, each performing choir comprised only 12 members. Mrs. Vajira Nanayakkara is the Teacher in Charge of the Senior Choir which is trained by Sanjeev Jayaratnam.
The other participating schools were Methodist College, Ave Maria Convent, Holy Family Convent, D.S. Senanayake College, Asian International School and Wesley College. Royal College gave a guest performance.
The judges at this event were well known singers Mariazelle Goonetilleke and Ronnie Lietch.

Commenting on the performance of the winners, Mariazelle Goonetilleke had this to say, “As one of two judges at the recently concluded “Eve of A Capella” organised by the United Students Circle of Royal College, I was extremely impressed by the high standards the students had set for themselves. To begin with - the A Capella style of vocal music is definitely not easy to produce. In A Capella music, vocals only produce the sounds of instruments, words, melodies and harmonies. Pitch perfection is absolutely essential”.

“Of the seven choirs which participated, picking the winning choir was tough. We judges looked for pitching, dynamics, harmonies and their successful blend, presentation, stage performance (which also included behaviour and reaction to audience), song selection and the suitability to adapt them to an A Capella arrangement. What I saw in the winning choir was very controlled singing, a excellent blending of their harmonies, good presentation (their costumes were neat and smart), their dignified behaviour on stage and their pleasure in their performance which was clearly seen on the faces of all the members. This was all in all - a very entertaining evening and I thank the students of Royal College for taking the initiative in organising this event. I wish them all well and hope there will be more such events”, Mariazelle added.


The essence of herbal health care

Earth Essence, a complete array of herbal cosmetics from Link Natural

Link Natural Products, one of Sri Lanka’s leading manufacturers and exporters of herbal health care products, is now poised to enter the herbal cosmetics market, with its innovative and exclusive earth essence cosmetic range. The new range of products will be launched shortly.

“In an age where ‘going natural’ has become buzz words, a complete herbal cosmetic range that seeks to keep one’s hair, skin and body healthy and well nourished, will be welcomed by all beauty conscious women”, stated Manager, Personal Care Products Nalika Jayasuriya expressing her thoughts on this latest venture.
The global beauty scenario has undergone significant changes over the past few years with a growing concern over the quality and implications of the hair and beauty products they use on a daily basis. Many health conscious women are today opting for herbal products and remedies for skin, body and hair care, over conventional cosmetics.

“Herbal products are manufactured using herbs and plants employed by ancient medicinal practitioners. Their proven ability to nourish and protect skin, body and soul is well established. Through the earth essence hair, body and soul rejuvenating product range, Link Natural intends to not only introduce new products, but while doing so, improve the total well-being of an individual,” explained Nalika.
The premium range of herbal cosmetics introduced by Link Natural covers hair care, bath and body products and hands and feet products. Special skin care preparations effective against ageing, stretch marks and sunburn are the most recently formulated products. An exclusive herbal spa range that includes body massage oils, essential oils, oil blends and carrier oils is also offered.
Nalika asserts that Link Natural is equipped with unmatched facilities and expertise which enables the company to produce high-quality herbal products. The products are a result of extensive research and unique formulations, combining the age-old traditional knowledge of Ayurveda with modern sciences and using state-of-the-art equipment.

Extracts of raw materials, all from established original sources are used in the formulations. Among them are herbs and ingredients such as, Gotukola, Turmeric, Sandalwood and Wenivel, which have been used for thousands of years in indigenous medicine. Regular research and surveys are conducted on the changing trends and new ingredients available to optimise benefit to consumers.
The products will be sold at Link Natural’s well patronised outlet, Soul Centre located on the ground level at Crescat Boulevard.

Established in 1982, Link Natural Products is committed to providing innovative, safe and effective herbal healthcare products, Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals and herbal personal care and wellness products. Its products, Superbrand, Link Samahan and Link Sudantha, have become successful household names.
Link Natural has a global presence in 32 countries in the European, Asian and Middle Eastern region as well as in Canada and US.


National Tree Planting Programme at D.S. Senanayake College

The National Tree planting programme inaugurated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on November 15 was successfully implemented at D.S. Senanayake College Colombo 7 by planting 100 trees in the school promises.
The trees were planted in the presence of parents, old boys, members of the School Development Society and teachers. A variety of trees of medical plants, fruit trees and other shady trees such as jak were planted as per guidance given by the ministry of education.

“The school which maintains a “Go Green Spirit” from the primary sector of the school will continue to grow in the children’s hearts as the trees grow,” stated the Principal DMD Dissanayake.
Speaking on the occasion, the principal said that tree is a priceless wealth as it
1. Provides food, medicine, fuel, timber and also manure
2. Provides fresh air
3. Cools the environment and provides shade to the children
4. Adds beauty to the environment
5. Maintains moister of the soil
6. Gives shelter to the birds and animals
7. Provides physical and mental relaxation and promotes
healthy living in a school environment.
8. Regulates life cycle.

“With the launching of this tree planting programme we want to encourage children to make most of their grounds by planting trees. This helps create woodland habitat, increases biodiversity and most importantly, provides an excellent learning source. Planting the trees, watching them grow, seeing how wildlife in encouraged, watching the changing nature of trees bearing fruits in seasons and weather,” he said adding that firstly ‘we need to be confident that the location for our trees is “permanent”. The trees appeal should focus on habitat creation, biodiversity targets and social benefits. So we need to be sure that our trees will be planted where they have the best chance of reaching their full potential.’

Environment education at D.S. Senanayake College is encouraged as it plays an important role in protecting the required temperature of the ozone and as a preventive step in global warming.
The principal further stated that plants beautify the school premises and is a visible part of the landscape. Care must be taken to ensure proper growth conditions as it increases the real estate value of the premises. Fruit trees eliminates pollutants in the school environment by generating oxygen into the air.
He said that the tree planting project in schools inaugurated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa is certainly going to greatly benefit the students and the society at large. He requested all the children to plant trees in their gardens today to make this a successful event island-wide.


Sothys launches latest professional treatment that guarantees
new skin in just 90 minutes!

The Sothys Skin Resurfacing and Peeling treatment was launched at the Cinnamon Lake Side recently.
The year’s most prestigious event, the 2011 FORMULA ONE SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX heads to the Home of British Motor Racing for another year of dramatic racing. The Sothys French Trainer Miss Fanny Deveze arrived in Sri Lanka to conduct an extensive training workshop for the Sothys Partner salons. The treatment which boasts a number of skin benefits such as Radiance, Skin lightening, pore minimising and anti ageing properties gently lifts off layers of dead skin to and stimulates the formulation of new skin cells and collagen. The treatment uses a unique combination of Glycolic acids and microdermabrasion to resurface the skin. Next powerful antioxidants are gently massaged into the skin to improve the functions of the cells giving your skin a new lease of life.