By Kristov Esocia, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife)– Major fighting continued Tuesday, January 20, between Sri Lanka’s navy and independence seeking Tamil rebels, adding to concerns among minority Christians who fear renewed persecution by authorities, officials and rights investigators said.
The Sri Lankan military said it destroyed four rebel boats in a fierce sea battle off the northeast coast, while the Tamil Tigers said they sank one naval craft in the fight and killed 35 soldiers in other violence.
The fighting came as government forces pressed ahead with their offensive against the beleaguered rebel group of the Tamils, who are mostly Hindus but also have sizable Christian and Muslim populations.
Minority Christians, meanwhile, have been in the cross fire, both in clashes and in legislature chambers of this Indian Ocean islandic nation, rights groups suggested.
Besides expressing concerns over fighting between rebels and government forces, Christians fear the influential Jathika Hela Urumaya or ‘National Heritage Party’, led by Buddhist monks, will succeed in controversial anti-conversion legislation.
The “Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill” proposed to parliament on January 6, would criminalize any form of humanitarian assistance from religious groups, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), a major rights group monitoring the case.
Christian and other religious groups have however played a crucial role in providing humanitarian aid to the country, where over 70,000 people have been killed since 1983 in the violence between government forces and Tamil rebels.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting to establish an independent state for minority Tamils, saying they have suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.
ICC said it had urged its supporters to contact the Sri Lankan embassy in your country and express opposition to the bill.