Jehovah’s witnesses breaching immigration rules

by Dushy Ranetunge in London

There is an increase in the use of "western" tourists to make house visits in Sri Lanka, to spread the teachings of Jehovah’s witnesses, a Christian sect.

 Their door-to-door evangelizing work have been around since the late 1800s mostly poaching from the turfs of Catholic and Protestant Europe and North America.

 The defeat of the Sinhala Buddhist hard line Mahinda Rajapaksa regime and the empowerment of the moderate pro-Western Sirisena – UNP administration seems to have given a green light to step up evangelical activity in Sri Lanka.

 Increasingly "western" tourists are being used for this purpose in breach of local immigration rules.

 Tourist visa’s are issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration to bona-fide tourists who want to enter Sri Lanka for sightseeing, excursions, relaxation, visit relatives or yoga training for a short period of time.

 Engaging in Door-to-door evangelizing work is a breach of these visa conditions.

 During our stay in Colombo in July and August this year we were visited on two occasions by young British tourists handing out their evangelical literature and inviting us to attend meetings. This has not happened before. Others have also commented on a rise of such activity.

 On the second occasion, we inquired from the young British couple about their work and they confirmed that they were on a tourist visa.

 They seem quite naïve. When we inquired from them if they were aware that they were breaching immigration rules by engaging in evangelical work, while on a tourist visa, they seem shocked and quite frightened.

 We also explained to them that remand prisons in Sri Lanka are not as comfortable as the ones in the UK and that "god" may not come to their rescue if they end up getting locked up.

 These tourists are not engaging in evangelical work on their own. They are directed and organised by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation and their officials.

 One would expect the local organisation to be aware that by using "western" tourists for such activity, they are in breach of immigration rules and are placing the young naïve tourists in danger of being arrested and prosecuted.

 One could not help but wonder if this is a deliberate strategy by the local Jehovah’s witnesses organisation to "exploit" western tourists, as "white" visitors may be more successful in evangelical work in convincing the "locals" of their need for a "saviour".

When contacted for comment, an official based at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Wattala, who identified himself as David, promised to revert via email after consulting the organization’s president. However, no response was received and neither did he call back to clarify the position.


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