Christianity came to Sri Lanka only after arrival of Portuguese in 1505
Posted on December 27th, 2012

Shenali Waduge

Reply to E. Weerapperuma’s “Christmas celebrated before the arrival of the Portuguese” appearing on Daily News 25 Dec 2012.

No one questions that there is no Christmas without Christ for all Christians just as we all know that Catholicism is a subset of Christianity after its split in 1054AD (Roman Catholic Church in Rome and Orthodox Church in Constantinople “”…” Eastern and Western Churches) and split again to create the Church of England. We also know that Eastern Christianity began in Palestine (in the Middle East “”…” including Syria and Egypt) and swept west into the Roman Empire to develop a firm base in Europe. In the fourth and fifth centuries, the Persian Empire stretched from Syria to what is now Pakistan and deep into central Asia and with them spread Nestorian Christianity. By the 8th century in China and South India members of the Nestorian Christian church used a distinctive symbol in which the cross is joined to the lotus, symbol of Buddhist enlightenment. Nestorians were excommunicated by the Catholic Church therefore there is little use referring to Nestorian Christianity to highlight presence of Christianity in parts of Asia.

Mr. Weerapperuma is also attempting to project the existence of Christianity in Sri Lanka and projecting that the Mahavansa has failed to give Christianity its due place. This is to possibly counter the allegations that Christianity is an imported imperialistic tool. It is also an attempt for present day Christians to disassociate from the atrocities of the Portuguese era by propagating the myth of St. Thomas. The myth of St. Thomas and the destruction of the Mylapore Shiva temple by the Portuguese was thoroughly exposed by Ishwar Sharan in his landmark book, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, first published in 1991. Then in 1953 by Father H. Heras, SJ, the then Director of the Historical Research Institute, St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, when he wrote to T.K. Joseph: “I am fully convinced that the tomb of St. Thomas has never been in Mylapore. In November 2006 Pope Benedict XVI had categorically stated that St. Thomas never visited South India. This statement is important for many reasons and refutes a host of false premises being promoted as heresay.

Which then raises the question of whether Catholic Indian missionaries are fabricating fables to mislead the Indian masses for the purpose of mass conversion (harvesting of souls) and certainly questions the film on St. Thomas being produced by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chennai.  If the arrival of St. Thomas to India is rejected by the head of the Roman Church and the fact that it was the Nestorians who arrived to parts of Asia from the 6thcentury though both Christians and Catholics reject Nestorian doctrine that Jesus exists as two persons “”…” man Jesus and divine Son of God rather than as a unified person there is little reason that modern day Christians/Catholics would desire to associate with Nestorian presence simply to prove a point. What can be simply said is that there is no evidence of Christianity in India or Ceylon prior to Nestorian Christianity.

Mr. Weerapperuma goes on to mention about Migara Senpati and infers to the blessings Christians received by Sinhalese kings. Migara Senpathi was King Datusena’s (410 to 432 A.D) army commander though there is no evidence to prove that Christianity existed for Migara to be referred to as a Christian and to accept this Mr. Weerapperuma may like for forward evidence.

As for Mr. Weerapperuma’s inference that Christians had the blessings of the Sinhalese kings the only evidence or the only King who betrayed the principles of leadership taken by all kings (to protect the nation, the Sinhalese and the Buddhists) was Don Juan Dharmapala. There is no King of Sri Lanka or any Sinhalese who would ever want to be associated with Don Juan Dharmapala for that great betrayal in handing over the kingdom to the Portuguese, changing his name, changing his religion, converting his wife, changing her name to Dona Catherina and watching the Portuguese subject his people to such atrocities does not deserve any mention by any of us.

The global village concept ironically appears to apply only to nations that are non-Catholic and non-Islamic because neither the Vatican nor Muslim nations would ever consent to having anything that is not Catholic nor Islamic in their self-declared “holy lands” “”…” how can they then claim “multi” tags when their actions are only to promote, protect and propagate their faiths only with little respect for the religious beliefs of others?  Would Mr. Weerapperuma care to respond to this point.

There are many Christian/ Catholic churches throughout Sri Lanka some of which are built on top or adjacent to that of destroyed sites of ancient Buddhist temples (the time has come for the Dept of Archaeology to carry out a comprehensive archeological survey of places of worship of the Buddhist, Catholic and Protestant faiths particularly in the Western Province and put to rest the false denials of the Catholic and Christian Churches, which were both accomplices and beneficiaries of the colonial plunder, seizure and transfer of the titles of lands originally belonging to Buddhist and Hindu Temples, to the Catholic and Christian Churches) and a plethora of bogus faith healers and Jesuits all spreading their faiths throughout Sri Lanka unabated.

http://www.lankaholidayguide.com/Churches-in-Sri-Lanka.php

The wide freedom that both Christianity and Catholics enjoy in Sri Lanka rebuts effectively the false accusation that they are not given due recognition. It is for the Church which has still to respond to allegations that they have used the terrorist situation in Sri Lanka to carry out mass conversions and its links to the LTTE terrorist movement through various Christian/Catholic organizations with Church leaders openly canvassing for these terrorists. Some of these Church leaders have openly encouraged suicide terrorism as well as encouraged Tamil children to become child killers. These links will soon be unearthed if and when the GOSL opens an inquiry into the links NGOs/INGOs have had to LTTE throughout the decades of conflict in Sri Lanka and raises eyebrows as to the extent of influence being exerted to stop the Government from actually opening such an investigation.

It is in this context that anyone would be bewildered by a statement that Christians live as “aliens” in Sri Lanka. In fact in spite of Sri Lanka having Buddhism enshrined in its Constitution, with over 64% of the Sinhalese being Buddhist “”…” the mass media in Sri Lanka is effectively controlled by non-Buddhists, they will hardly entertain even right of replies when Buddhist culture, philosophy etc has been attacked through their newspapers, journalists mainly non “”…” Buddhist, working for these media agencies are handsomely rewarded to humiliate and denigrate Buddhism at every turn, very few newspapers even entertain Buddhist writings and thoughts except allocate a page on a routine basis every month for the full moon poya supplement, it is often non-Buddhists who end up speaking on behalf of the Buddhists “”…” such is the fate that has befallen Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Sadly, the oft branded pro-Government newspaper the Daily News has been carrying such anti-Buddhist sentiments primarily on account of its former editor being Catholic but the appearance of this present article again questions on what grounds these theories are sufficient to be made public and whilst doing so counter arguments by Buddhists writing to challenge these accusations are never ever entertained?

It is within these discrepancies that the calls to have a new national media commission established along the lines or similar to the Press Commission headed by  former Justice K D de Silva that was established in 1963 by the Government of Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike, is once again suggested. The K.D. de Silva Press Commission in its Report released in 1964 held among other things, that local newspapers were guilty of acting in a manner hostile towards the national interests of the country and Buddhism, the religion of the majority. That status quo exposed in 1964 by the Press Commission remains the same today not helped in the least because there are hardly any Buddhist leaders to speak on behalf of the Buddhists though there are enough of politicians to speak for all minority religions and ethnic groups. Moreover, when issues related to such misuse surface on account of all communications channels owned by non-Buddhists who end up securing things officially leaving Buddhists to follow the motto of “grin and bear” since there is little backing from their own leaders except to make bogus and false promises to win their votes at election time.

As for the local Buddhist associations who are ever ready to issue statements on behalf of other faiths and entertain others in local Buddhist Temples on days of religious significance to others, which is a meritorious gesture, would do well to issue similar sentiments regarding their own faith and it raises questions why such solidarity was not shown when groups totaling over 25,000 Bangladeshis attacked ancient Buddhist sites in Bangladesh recently and completely destroyed historical Buddhist Temples and valuable and irreplaceable historical data or why there is any reluctance to openly back the Buddhists of Burma or any other Buddhist country facing threats to their very national existence for that matter.

Ironically, in Sri Lanka it appears that it is the Buddhists who are “aliens” in their own country because it is always their space that is being compromised using a global dictum called “multiculturalism” “”…” none of the other minorities ever consents to even compromise and it is always the Buddhists that end up extending the hand to always be bitten.

As for the Mahawansa it is only a historical source and is not the source of the history of the Sinhala race. Almost everything mentioned in the Mahawansa can be corroborated with inscriptions both in Sri Lanka, in India as well as other contemporary writings and historical maps. Therefore, the Mahavansa can hardly be faulted for not including heresay or fables.

Therefore, whilst there is no argument as to the importance of Christmas it is suggested that Mr. Weerapperuma responds first by forwarding archeological evidence to prove because as Thomas Paine (1737-1808) said “It has often been said that anything may be proved from the Bible; but before anything can be admitted as proved by the Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be true; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it doubtful, it ceases to have authority and cannot be admitted as proof of anything”

Shenali Waduge

Christmas celebrated before the arrival of the Portuguese

by E.Weerapperuma

<http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/12/25/fea14.asp>http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/12/25/fea14.asp

We are celebrating Christmas today. At every Christmas we are reminded of His birth and also of His Mission for which He took the human form. Christ completed His Mission winning back to us the lost relationship with the Divine.

Christmas is also a reminder of the glorious Second Coming, the Eschatological coming of Jesus Christ at the End of Time. Jesus Christ intended to be with us until the End of Time and at the Last Supper established the Sacrament of Holy Communion. He comes to us Catholics as our food daily at the Holy Mass the banquet in the form of a host to be with us every moment of our lives. Emmanuel …: God is with us at every turn of our lives.
Mary, the young lass of Judea was the choice of the Divine from all eternity and her genuine and humble submission to the Will of God “I am the Hand maid of the Lord “paved the way for the Salvation Course to play its historical role among His Creation, as willed by the Triune God and fulfilled the Divine Promise made to our first parent Adam and Eve before they were thrown out of the paradise.

If the mission for which Christ came turned a failure, then there would not be celebration of Christmas for this long two centuries and none will care to talk about Christianity. But the fact is that Jesus Christ; the Anointed One came and by His Death and Resurrection He restored our lives. So there is Life, Death and the culmination point of our faith Resurrection and hence there is profound meaning in celebrating Christmas.

Focal point
We are therefore not celebrating the commercialized Christmas but Christmas with Christ as the focal point or the cynosure. Without Christ no Christmas and that has to be imprinted in every heart and mind of men and women of good will who look for Christ in every action of those profess Christ and try their best to live up to His teaching that revolutionized every strata of social life.

Having said that my intention through this essay is to draw the attention of readers of good will to the fact that Catholics in this country are not an alien species as some try to portray but they are genuine sons and daughters of this Land of the Small Wonder; the Pearl of Indian Ocean and the Tear Drop of Asian Region, as Sri Lanka is referred to by the rest of the world.

Catholics and for that matter all groups, genuinely adhering to the teaching of Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth and The Life and those who profess Christ as their Lord and Master, they are sons and daughters of this soil, their Motherland. They are not foreign and strangers, but are part and parcel of this land with every right enjoyed by everyone else, claiming to be of this soil.

Preaching the word of God and relating the Salvation story at every part of the globe is a Divine Command. And yet God did not force man, his creation to adore him by force and hence it is of paramount importance to underscore the fact that there is no proselytizing which means that there is no need to make an attempt to bring legislation to prevent conversions. Such naive attempts will only create mistrust and unwanted divisions among the people who live in peace, harmony and unity.

The Kings of this nation country respected the human rights about which we make a loud noise from the house-tops today.

They allowed the people to convert to any religion of their choice without outside force and that freedom was loud and clear. The Kings also supported every religion to grow and there were no any sort of hindrance to the growth and wellbeing, directly coming from the royal arm whoever lived abiding to the dictates of their conscience.

The Maha Wansa, the chronicle has failed to give Christianity of this land her rightful place. We claim to live in a global village, and carefully studying the pages of history of our neighbours we find that they have not failed to keep a record of what had happened in and around them. There is reference to this beautiful land in those historical notes.

Such Historical evidence gathered from excavations, continued research and scholarly work of the experts both here and overseas strengthen the fact that Christianity was known to the islanders and that Christians were living in pockets in several parts of the country long before the arrival of the Portuguese.

Records

If one carefully and analytically read the Christian Encyclopedia would come to accept without any hesitation the presence of Christians here and that the origin of Christianity in Sri Lanka goes back to the times of the Apostles, the first century of human history after the Birth of Jesus Christ. That is why the existential historian refers to St Thomas Christians, Christians of St Francis Xavier and the like.

The history also records that even in the rank and file of Court officials of Sinhalese dynasty there were Christians and Migara Senevi is a classic example. Suffice it to say that Christianity was well rooted here and where ever Christians live in the island nation, Christmas was celebrated in its true sense.

The finding of Nestorian Cross in Anuradhapura and Cross St Thomas within portals of Greater Colombo, go back to five centuries before the arrival of the Portuguese. Historians with no bias and impartial, note the arrival of Portuguese at a particular time of history a blessing in disguise and Sri Lanka remains predominantly a country with Buddhist majority today thanks to their arrival, though sudden and unexpected.

Had Christianity received the blessings of the Sinhalese Kings in the sense that the entire members of Royalty embraced Christianity like in the countries of the West; much weight would have been in favour of spreading the story of Salvation, the Presence of God among His people to a greater degree.
But perusing the pages of history we realize although there were kings who favoured Christianity but purely on mundane purposes they refrained from embracing the religion but allowed the people to do what they genuinely felt right, and there was freedom to the citizens to embrace the religion of their choice. Thus there was no ruling against spreading of the Teaching of Christ, Light of the World. It is from those converted Catholics, who shun all perks and positions, suffered persecution and faced bravely martyrdom adhering genuinely the faith they embraced, remained true to it and there was no going back and thanks to them, Catholic faith is alive to this day, down many generations.

It is good for any one genuinely interested to see their faith grow, to adopt Asokan principles inscribed in the rocks. “Honour other religions” admonished the Buddhist Emperor Asoka in his rock Edict Xll and had said that “honouring the other religions, one helps to the growth of his own religion.”
Though some extreme elements try to corner the Christian living here as aliens, the Sinhalese who profess Catholic faith and those others belonging to various denominations or sects of the same faith could claim without any hesitation that Catholics and Christians are truly part and parcel of this land and they are true sons and daughters of Mother Sri Lanka though differ by religion and ethnicity.

Sri Lanka’s modern history makes reference to the force-landing of Lorenco de Almeida in Galle harhour and from there moving on to Colombo harbor on November 15 of 1505 as the official date of introducing Christianity. But that positioning does not hold water any longer and that one could safely come to the conclusion that Christianity was taking roots firmly in the Sri Lanka soil long before the arrival of the foreign nationals beginning from the Portuguese. This preamble is set here to say that holding fast to the historical facts now being unearthed and the First Christmas Night goes back to the far beyond period of Portuguese arrival and their stay counting more than 150 years.

We read that there were Christians of St Thomas, Christians of St Francis Xavier and like, counting their faith-origin to the Saints who visited this land and preached the Good News responding to faithfully to the Command of Jesus Christ to go forth to the four corners of the world and preach the dhamma, the message of Salvation and that the Kingdom of God is already here inviting all men of good will to follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth and Life.
This Christmas takes us to roots of our faith-origin and invites us to ponder upon this fact and examine how we have grown with the tenets of our faith without losing our ethnic and cultural identity as Sri Lankans. The arrival of the Dutch and persecution faced by the Catholics under the hands of the Dutch and local, provincial kings did not dissuade but persuade to live in faith they newly found.

While the arrival of Portuguese was seen as the time Christianity got off the ground in an official manner the persecution escalated in the hands of the local / provincial kings and the Dutch strengthened the faith through the ‘Blood of Martyrs’.

The times of Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka Christianity faced persecution and also had the blessing and protection of the Kandyan Kings. It is after the arrival of Fr. Joseph Vaz, the first recorded Christmas Night celebrations take place in the Northern Province and the miraculous escape of Fr.Vaz.

It does not mean that Christian lived within the first five centuries did not celebrate Christmas, Easter or other feasts of Saints known to them.

Today Christmas means having a gala time shopping, eating and drinking. There is nothing wrong in feasting but what is wrong is to lose the sight of the true message of Christmas.

The Vatican Information Service quoting His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said: “The ‘presence’ of God has the wonderful and awe-inspiring meaning. God Himself has crossed over from Heaven and inclined towards man; He has made a covenant with man, entering into the history of His people. He taking on human flesh and becoming one of us. His presence reminds us that God has not left this world, He is not absent and has not abandoned us to our own devices.” (VIS December 12.2012).

The commercialized Christmas has buried the true meaning of the Christmas, our ancestors celebrated since the arrival of Saints who blessed this land with their presence and celebrating Christmas true to its message. It is time for us to dive into the past as a community and unearth what is hidden and beneath to ascertain the truth that Sri Lanka celebrated Christmas long before the arrival of the foreign powers.

The historical sketches buried under the sand of times would be surfaced with new research and vouch to the fact the early Christian celebrated Christmas. Of course they did not commercialize the feasts but lived the spirit.
Courtesy: Daily News ( December 25, 2012)

12 Responses to “Christianity came to Sri Lanka only after arrival of Portuguese in 1505”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Actually there is some truth in what Weerapperuma says about the presence of Christians in the island.

    Cosmas Indicopleustes who visited Sri Lanka (known as Sielediba – island of the Sinhalas) around 550 AD noted the following.

    [Quoted] Cosmas Indicopleustes: Christianike Topographia, Book XI

    This is a large oceanic island lying in the Indian sea. By, the Indians it is called Sielediba, but by the Greeks Taprobanê, and therein is found the hyacinth stone. The island has also a church of Persian Christians who have settled there, and a Presbyter who is appointed from Persia, and a Deacon and a complete ecclesiastical ritual. But the natives and their kings are heathens. [Unquote]

    They were not natives but Persian traders who were in the island. They practiced Nestorian Christianity. The Nestorian Cross found in Anuradhapura in 1912 probably related to them.

    Abdulla el Idris (1099-1166) in his book Scriptorum Arabum de Rebus Indicis Loci records an event when the Sinhala king, likely to be King Kasyapa IV (858-891) advocating religious tolerance established a council of 16 officials to advise him. [Quote] “Four were Buddhists, four Arabs, four Christians and four Jews.” (Source: Scriptorum Arabum de Rebus Indicis Loci 1838 translated by Johannes Gildemesister; Weerakkody DPM, 1981, Ancient Sri Lanka as described by Cosmos, in Sri Lankan Journal of Humanities Vol-7, pp 107-127). [Unquote]

    However, there is no evidence of St Thomas ever coming to the island or natives embracing Christianity at that time. Blaming the Mahawamsa for not mentioning this minute minority who probably integrated into the majority and disappeared soon thereafter is absurd.

    It shows the tolerance practiced by Sinhala Buddhist kings and the people which was unfortunately not reciprocated by invasive communities – Europeans, Tamils and Muslims.

  2. Voice123 Says:

    Shenali is trying to rewrite history. Which of these historically proven facts do you dispute and where is your proof?

    1. Historical records of pre-colonial Christianity in Sri Lanka (including what Dilrook states above);
    2. A pre-colonial (dating back over 1,500 years) community of indigenous Christians in neighbouring Kerala state of India;
    3. At the nearest point, the distance between Kerala and Sri Lanka is less than 100 kilometres away was the border between Kerala and Sri Lanka for ideas permanently closed for thousands of years?;
    4. As an island, Tabrobane/Sri Lanka/Ilankai/Ceylon whatever has had seaferers coming and going for millennia. In fact ancient Anuradhapura kingdom was an entropot forming part of the maritime silk route with people from Persia and the Middle East regularly travelling to the Far East and vice versa;
    5. Nestorian Christianity (which Shenali admits was in Sri Lanka) whether the Catholic church agrees or not and whether Shenali agrees or not IS Christianity!
    6. Sri Lankan kings embraced Buddhism early on and the majority became Buddhists. The kings and monks of that era took Buddhism seriously (not as a political/racial or nationalistic gimmick like some do today) and welcomed followers of any religion in the spirit of a search for truth, which is what the Buddha clearly spoke of.

    And another fact for Shenali – ALL the major organised religions in Sri Lanka today have foreign roots. Buddhism came from India/Nepal. The ONLY indigenous religion is the spiritual beliefs of the Veddah community and the original Yakka religion, vestiges of which remain among the islanders – eg Kattadiyas, Bali, Thoyil ceremonies, spirits, local gods and goddesses, etc. ONLY the latter can lay claim to be Sri Lankan national religion. In fact the free Yakka community should organise and retrieve our original religious beliefs and give it pride of place in Sri Lanka. Free Yakkas can embrace their original religion or ANY of the imported religions equally without fear or favour. The ordinary masses of Sri Lanka are still caught up in trying to survive on subsistence agriculture or wages. When the country develops and they become more aware of their TRUE origins and TRUE religious heritage dating 10,000 to 16,000 odd years ago, religious bigotry and bias in Sri Lanka will fall away.

    Some of her previous articles have been truly Islamophobic. Others have sought to relegate Tamil Sri Lankans to second class citizens. This time, is Shenali pushing a pro-Indian and anti-Christian agenda here?

  3. mario_perera Says:

    Thank you Dilrook.

    Thank you Voice123.

    Thank you for setting the record straight.

    Edmand Weerapperuma is a serious writer, which means he is not averse to being corrected. This naturally would be Shenali’s attitude as well.

    ‘No man is an Island’ goes the saying. This is metaphorically true of Island nations as well, and the Island of Lanka never was an exception to that rule. This was indeed one of the biggest positives of our country, that it was,even in the remotest periods of history, a hub, a boiling cauldron of the inputs of all civilizations. To negate this would be to detract from our pristine glory.

    Mario Perera
    Kadawata

  4. Ashoka Perera Says:

    Historical facts aside the responses to Shenali’s missive have missed the focal point. How did the invader’s religion, Christianity establish its existence in the island?’ Is it by peaceful means of advocating the content of the All Mighty’s creation theory to the masses or with the piercing power of the butt end of bayonet? Portuguese conquistadores followed by Dutch and English colonialists resorted to atrocities that perpetrated untold misery to the innocent Buddhist natives that converted part of them to their faith which none of these messiahs would prefer to challenge. Those who are challenging the Buddhist today are the decedents who surrendered to the colonial masters for windfalls and positions. To dispute this holy gospel is only to circumvent a horrible history and their ancestors who faced the mayhem under the proliferation manoeuvres of barbaric Christianisation massacres must be turning in their graves.

  5. lingamAndy Says:

    Shenali Waduge
    Not only you say Christianity came to Sri Lanka only after arrival of Portuguese in 1505 but also you say We have Bhuddisum in Sri Lanka before Lord Bhuddha born in this world !!!

    You indians have not got any own religin ( from Nepal) or own language (All letters from Malayalam) but talking about others relirin & language !!!

  6. shenali Says:

    Are we to presume that everyone that anyone claiming that Christianity existed prior to the arrival of the colonials are Nestorian Christians (Eastern Church) because there are no Nestorian Christians in Sri Lanka and certainly none of the present day Christians nor Catholics wish to associate with Nestorians and I doubt many even know about the existence of Nestorians.

    There is no Orthodox Nestorian Christian church of following in Sri Lanka – unless anyone can prove otherwise. Nestorians celebrate Christmas on 7 January.

    If the argument is to prove by using a faith that has no correlation to the faith practiced or associated to with the present simply to showcase that Christianity prevailed then we all may as well accept that there was no religion when human kind evolved until the ritual practice for the dead turned into ceremonies, which changed when man began to travel from one place to another and differences of opinions, thinking, leadership struggles, practices, rituals etc emerged …. It was with the invention of writing that we can say religion was written down. There’s too much of debates over which was the first religion so I would not want to commit to anything that no one can really prove.

    Does the Bible say to celebrate birth of Jesus? Was Jesus born on 25 December (25 Dec was the birthday of Nimrod? If Christmas means Mass of Christ is this not Roman Catholic and 25 December is then a Heathen celebration. Does that mean Christmas is a Pagan event? Does the New Testament, or the Bible say to observe Christmas. Christmas became a Roman Catholic custom by the 4th century AD and it was ordered to be celebrated as an official Christian festival in the 5th century. If Christmas was a Roman Catholic custom then there is certainly no question of Christmas being celebrated before the arrival of the Portuguese.

    There are many other questions revolving round Christmas – the tree, Santa, mistletoe etc.. and hope someone would like to shed some light over the inconsistencies that prevail.

  7. mario_perera Says:

    Shenali wrote: “Was Jesus born on 25 December (25 Dec was the birthday of Nimrod? If Christmas means Mass of Christ is this not Roman Catholic and 25 December is then a Heathen celebration. Does that mean Christmas is a Pagan event? Does the New Testament, or the Bible say to observe Christmas. Christmas became a Roman Catholic custom by the 4th century AD and it was ordered to be celebrated as an official Christian festival in the 5th century. If Christmas was a Roman Catholic custom then there is certainly no question of Christmas being celebrated before the arrival of the Portuguese”.

    The paragraph is rather rambling and confusing because of imprecise and anachronistic use of words, isolated or in phrases. Examples are the words ‘Roman Catholic’ Another would be: If Christmas means Mass of Christ is this not Roman Catholic…? Another is the confusion between ‘Bible’ and ‘New Testament’. So are several others highlighted below.
    Does the Bible say to celebrate birth of Jesus? The word Bible is a generic term for two sets of narratives called the Old Testament and the New Testament. Those parts of the New Testament that specifically refers to the birth of Jesus Christ are called the Gospels. The Gospels are not books containing recommendations or even advice. They narrate the life of Jesus Christ. Hence the question: Does the Bible say to celebrate birth of Jesus? is irrelevant.
    The word Christmas appeared in old English as early as 1038 AD (far before the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church) as Christes Maesse. It means the ‘Mass of Christ’. The name was established by the Christian Church to disconnect the holy day and its customs from its pagan origins. As one fourth century theologian penned: we hold this day holy not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but of him who made it.

    It is not exactly true that the first Christians did not observe the birth of Christ. Actually there is evidence of the feast being celebrated in Egypt prior to 200 A.D. Certain theologians of that period worked not only at determining the year, but also the day of the birth of Christ. This we know on the authority of Church Father Clement of Alexandria. Clement also tells us the Christians were in the custom of celebrating the Baptism of Christ, some on the 6thh and others on the 10th of January. This is significant because it became customary in many places for Christians (especially in Asia Minor) to celebrate both Christ’s epiphany and birth together at the same time. This practice is continued by the Armenian Church to this day. Furthermore, the earliest Christian ritual was that of the Eucharist. At this ceremony were commemorated the BIRTH, death and resurrection of Jesus.

    As regards the 25th of December, although the Romans celebrated the ‘sol invictus’ (invincible sun) on that day, and Christ was assimilated to the Sun, yet the actual date derived more from Judaism and from Rabbinic traditions, having reference to the ‘passover’ rather than to paganism.

    As for the words ‘Roman Catholic’, they only came into existence after the 16th century Reformation.

    The sentence: If Christmas was a Roman Catholic custom then there is certainly no question of Christmas being celebrated before the arrival of the Portuguese” is not only inaccurate but also illogical.
    Mario Perera
    Kadawata

  8. Nanda Says:

    Lingam,
    Why are you insulting great religions races other than yours by purposely mis-spelling ?
    If you want to feel like an idiot, I might say that Buddhism existed billions and billions of years ago only to be re-discoverd by present Buddha.

  9. Dilrook Says:

    Shenali:

    The above evidence is sufficient to prove Nestorian Christian faith was there in the island around 6 century AD. Practitioners were Persians traders. As Cosmos states, locals and the king didn’t follow it. This small minority integrated into the mainstream.

    Absence of it today does not prove it never existed. The island nation’s own religious practices almost disappeared due to Hindu invasions and the introduction of Buddhism. However, given the majority support and the intricate intertwining of indigenous beliefs with Buddhism, some of them have survived to this date.

    For example the four Devalas representing four indigenous gods of the island before the advent of Buddhism are found in most ancient Buddhist shrines. Shrines of these indigenous gods are far more popular than any Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim shrine.

    Anther case in point is the building of the Great Ruwanweli Maha Seya. It was the site of an indigenous goddess by the name Swarnamali. King Dutugemunu negotiated with her for the Buddhist shrine in place of the preexisted shrine on condition it will be given her name.

    These cases prove it was the practices that received state and/or majority patronage that ultimately survived in the past. Thousands of indigenous practices that received none of these withered away into unknown history. It is a meritorious act to revive these true Lankan religious practices once again.

    Obviously the Nestorian faith practiced by Persian traders and their close associates had no place in the ancient Lankan society for a long period of time.

    Today there are other factors that determine the continuation of religious practices. Financial resources and relative population growth rates are most important. These factors will determine the future religious make-up of the island. It is not unlikely certain practices of today will disappear by then. But that does not deny their existence at a certain point in time.

  10. Voice123 Says:

    Ashok Perrakar Christianity is no more an “invaders religion” in Ceylon than Buddhism is. Buddhism is an imported religion from India/Nepal. The fact that the majority was practising it when Europeans arrived in Ceylon doesnt change this. Buddhism is an imported religion period. As for brutalities, my Yakka ancestors would testify that the brutality, mass rapes, burning of their settlements and erasure of their culture of the Vijayan Indian-Sinhala “conquistadores”2,500 years ago was far worse than anything the Portuguese did. The Portuguese are dead and gone from Ceylon. The only reason you keep bringing them up is to perpetuate the hegemony of the Indian-Sinhal ruling castes and the radala system. The masses of Sri Lanka want nothing of your fair and lovely distortion of history. We still worship some things our Yakka and Naga ancestors left us, the nature gods and goddesses, shrines and indigenous ceremonies. That is NOT Buddhism and certainly NOT Hinduism either. It is common with all the indigenous peoples around the Indian Ocean as well as our own Veddah people. If our people want to embrace Christianity or Islam or our original religion or anything else, without the trappings of Buddhism and your Indian caste system, Prakrit language – then that is our peoples business alone. Dont force your Indianised identity or religion or language on us. After 2,500 years ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

    Shenali, both the native Keralite Christians and the Nestorian Christians are Christians because they identify as Christians. Likewise modern day gnostic Christians are opposed by dominant western churches but they ARE Christian because they identify as Christian. It doesnt matter what other churches think. Most foreigners think that Sinhalese-Buddhists are Hindus (with a veneer of politicised Buddhism). Does that make you HINDU??? Think about that Shenali Wadugar the Hindu. I see no evidence of anyone being forced to become Christian or Muslim in Ceylon today. There are genuine Buddhists, gently practising their religion without insultin other faiths just as the Buddha taught. Most of them are outside of Sri Lanka.

    Free Lankans are not intimidated.

  11. Voice123 Says:

    Shenali, it is an asset for Sri Lanka/Ceylon or any country to have been an ancient entrepot with many faiths existing side by side. Surely it is a testament to the resiliance of Buddhism on the island to have survived and become the dominant religion despite so many different faiths also spreading their ideas from antiquity? Please stop using the dead Portuguese to insult and intimidate free Lankan and Yakka/Naga adherents of other religions in the island today. Portuguese are irrelevant today whereas the crimes of your Vijayan Sinhal Prakrit speaking ancestors are still being perpetuated by their descendants that most likely form the ruling classes and castes in the island. Forget what happened 500 years ago, look into what happened 2,500 years ago. If you want to go to a country like what Sri Lanka would be without its very recent colonial history – try Pakistan. Another country where the original culture and religion has been totally erased. Learn to wear a Burqa, learn Arabic and the Persian script and forget about writing articles online because women are forbidden to do that by the Wahabis and Taliban. Or how about Gujarat? You seem to be actually boasting about your Indian cultural and religious heritage arent you? Yet you would object to a Burgher or Eurasian or Christian Sri Lankan acknowledging their complex heritage as present day Sri Lankans? You assume everyone was “forcibly” converted into Christianity or Islam in the island. I think you will find the reverse is true but you dint care. You unquestioningly perpetuate distirtions for ethnic favouratist purposes. You criticise Malaysia, yet even Malaysia is less socially repressive. Go to Gujarat and dont be surprised to witness yet another day of Muslims butchering Hindus or Hindus butchering Muslims! Go to Bengal. Its divided into 2. Bangladesh retained their script but lost most else. Now their militants are busy destroying Buddhist relics. But you dont care because their spirit is strangely familiar to you isnt it? You are peas from the same original pod. Don’t go to the “colonised” Phillipines. They still incorporate many of their native indigenous beliefs and customs into their culture side by side with colonial influences and indigenous culture is thriving in the highlands. But you are too blinkered to see that. You will be shouting “parangiya” around every corner! By the way, many Pakistanis are illegally in the Phillipines and not vice versa. Shall we blame the dead Portuguese for that too? Hindu Shenali, learn about true Buddhism. True Buddhists follow the teaching of Gautama Buddha and dont repress or harass adherents of other faiths or attempt to distort history for narrow geopolitical/ethno chauvanist purposes. True Buddhists are few and far between in Sri Lanka and they themselves are repressed by political Hindus in Buddhists clothing such as yourself. The Buddha may have said you are putting unnecessary labels on people and groups and acting out of unwholesome emotions and desires – you are grossly ignorant. The dharma is for anybody and everybody.

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    SL has all 5 major religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism) and SL IS proud of this achievement. Today it does NOT matter how these religions came.

    To call a spade a spade, Buddhism was INVITED to SL WITH THE HIGHEST DIPLOMATIC ORDER whereas Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity were NOT.

    I celebrate Wesak, Xmas, Yom Kippur, Ramalan, Sivarathri, etc. All these are excuses to have a good time with friends and family so why not!!!

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