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Probe against Sri Lankan pastor for hurtful remarks

Pastor Jerome Fernando, accused of insulting Lord Buddha, has a huge following including film stars, cricketers and businessmen
Pastor Jerome Fernando

Pastor Jerome Fernando (Photo: Facebook)

Published: May 16, 2023 11:07 AM GMT
Updated: May 16, 2023 11:34 AM GMT

The Sri Lankan president has ordered a probe against a Protestant pastor for allegedly making controversial comments about Buddhists and followers of other religions.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe while announcing the probe on May 15 said the irresponsible statement by Pastor Jerome Fernando, whose followers include famous cricketers, film stars and businessmen, can cause religious strife that may affect the harmony in the country.

The pastor is accused of making derogatory statements about Lord Buddha while addressing a gathering of members of his Born Again Christian church that was broadcast live on social media.

In his sermon, Fernando claimed that every Buddhist needs Jesus while saying that Buddha was looking for light and hence was looking for Jesus.

He also said that Muslims can't call Allah their Father while also going on to question why Hindus venerate animals.

"Why do they have a God that looks like an elephant? Why do they venerate cows?” the pastor questioned during the sermon.

Fernando's critics alleged that he had insulted Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism.

The New Bhikshu Peramuna, a group of Buddhist monks, and several other organizations complained to the Criminal Investigation Department to investigate the pastor's statements.

The Buddhist monks also demanded a public apology from the pastor to all the Buddhists in the country along with an assurance that he will not make such statements again.

Meanwhile, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, an opposition party, also complained to the CID, demanding strict enforcement of the law against the pastor.

Buddhists comprise about 70 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people.

However, R. Nanayakkara, a businessman who did not want to reveal his location, said the pastor has not abused any religious leader.

"He has only expressed his opinion. We have heard monks criticize other religious leaders but the president or ministers never seek action against any of them," he said.

Nanayakkara said he participates regularly in activities organized by Fernando’s Born Again Christian Church.

"At a time when there are hundreds of economic and social problems in the country, we have doubts whether such issues are brought about for political gains," he added.

The Catholic Church has disassociated itself from the pastor and his comments.

"Jerome Fernando is not a Catholic priest and not associated with the Catholic Church," said Father Cyril Gamini, media spokesman of the Archdiocese of Colombo.

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