Reconciliation must rectify the historical injustices meted out to Sinhala Buddhists during 450 years of colonial rule under three global Christian Powers
Posted on February 17th, 2016

Shenali D. Waduge

 The time has come to raise the bar on accountability. Reconciliation cannot occur to knee-jerks nor can it close the eyes to over 450 years of persecution and discrimination meted out mostly to the Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka. Crimes against humanity and destruction of deep seated Buddhist civilizations cannot be subject to a Statute of Limitations nor can it release the Christian Churches e.g. Catholic Church, Dutch Reformed Church and Church of England, from acknowledging, apologizing, compensating and returning to its rightful owners all that was unlawfully taken from the Sinhala Buddhists with the help of the oppressive colonial Governments.  

The entire western colonial project in Sri Lanka from 1505 – 1948 was anti – Buddhist.  It was targeted mainly against Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhists. This is a historical fact. It is substantiated not only by what is found in our folk lore and local historical chronicles but also by the writings of foreign historians drawn from western Christian backgrounds. They have expressed shame and remorse over the crimes committed in Sinhale (original name of Ceylon) by their co – religionists

While every ethnic group has a global voice to speak on behalf of them, it is unfortunate that apart from a handful of local voices not a single well established global entity is coming forward to even give an ear to the grievances of the Sinhala Buddhists. The silence of the International Buddhist Organisations e.g. World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), on the discrimination and intolerance faced by Buddhist minorities in Asian Countries e.g. Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Korea and the prospect of survival of Buddhists as majority groups in traditional Buddhist countries Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand etc. is deafening.   

All that the Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka had built over millennia is being taken away, demolished or in its place other religions are erecting their structures openly and with contempt towards Buddhists. Opposition to these are immediately responded by name calling because the mainstream media in Sri Lanka and rest of Buddhist Asia now lies more or less in the hands of Christian extremists with agendas and heavily funded by governments that support their expansionism. Journalism based on sinister agendas against Eastern Dharmic religious traditions e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism is basically untrustworthy journalism. Unfortunately this is the media reality in both South Asia and South East Asia.

Sinhala Buddhists have watched in silence and horror their ancient temples razed to the ground, proclamations issued denying them their lands, and even Buddhist monks have been decimated during western colonial rule. Policies to exterminate Sinhala Buddhists have meant men, women, children and even babies been butchered. Always the forked-tongue of Christian West decides who is victim and who is not. If leaders of Western nations can openly declare that they are proud of their Christian heritage why cannot the same be applied to Sri Lanka. When the West tells immigrants that they have to conform to the western values and cultures why is it wrong to declare that the Buddhist identity of Sri Lanka cannot be diluted and Buddhist heritage sites, lands and historical artifacts must be preserved?

Vatican rejects pluralism and secularism  

Vatican does not cede its place of worship to declare it belongs to all religions neither does Mecca. They all reject religious pluralism in toto in their lands. The Vatican is dead against Catholic countries e.g. Portugal, Spain, becoming secular or plural. The idea of secularism is non – sequitur in Islamic countries. So why Sri Lanka?

Only two nations in Europe Russia and Austria have given official recognition to Buddhism. The rest of the Christian West refuses to grant official recognition to Buddhism, despite Buddhism being declared a global religion by the UN, largely at the behest of local European Christian Churches and the Vatican.  Islamic countries in the Middle East do not accept Buddhism as a religion because Buddhism does not accept the existence of a creator God. Therefore Buddhists do not have freedom of worship in these countries including our neighbouring country Maldives.

In contrast Muslims enjoy full freedom to practice their religion in Sri Lanka.

When it comes to religion people of Abrahamic faiths generally speaking do not believe or subscribe to the principle of reciprocity.     

But in Sri Lanka the traditional Buddhist sites e.g. Sri Pada, Kataragama, Dambulla are now being regarded as common places of worship and multi – religious. Denial of the Buddhist heritage is costing the entire nation its defense because no sooner the social-political influence shifts from a dharmic tone to a Church-capitalist one as in South Korea people would lose all sense of moral and ethical values, and respect for Buddhist history and heritage.

The crimes committed in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese were based on the Royal Edicts issued by the Roman Catholic King of Portugal, His Viceroy in Goa, Portuguese Captain – General in Ceylon, & the Roman Catholic Church. Together these are the chief crimes they committed:

Portuguese Inquisition in Portuguese held territory in Ceylon (1505 – 1658)

  • Conversion of Buddhists / Hindus / Muslims to Catholicism but prohibiting Catholics from converting to Buddhism/Hinduism/Islam
  • Imposing Catholicism violently upon Buddhists and Hindus
  • Dividing and separating the local Sri Lankan community on strict religious lines and favouring the Christians and openly discriminating against the non – Christians
  • Elevating Christianity to the status of State religion and suppressing all non – christian religions
  • Examples of churches built over temples – Kochchikade Church in Colombo, Madhu Church was a Pattini devale. Fellippe de Oliveria, conqueror of Jaffna had destroyed 500 Buddhist and Hindu temples. Filipe De Oliveriya punished all those who practiced anything non -Christian. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) – the Roman Catholic missionary group, constructed nearly 30 Catholic churches by vandalizing and demolishing Hindu temples. Oliveria introduced compulsory proselytizing. Franciscan Friars converted more 6000 Tamils to Christianity (Prof. Endagama)
  • Papal Bulls of 1452, 1455, 1456 sanctioned Portugal to acquire territory and convert heathens (Lorna Devaraja). Coastal communities (Jaffna, Mannar, Negombo, Chilaw) underwent mass conversions (That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka) Prof Abeysinghe of University of Colombo, notes that in the period 1624-1626, the Franciscans alone converted 52,000 Jaffna Tamils.According to detailed statistics furnished in Friar Paulo da Trinidade’s work, there were in Jaffna in 1634, over 70,000 adult Christians and children being instructed in the faith under 25 parishes of the Franciscans alone.” Taking that figure as a rough basis for the calculation of the total number of Christians in Jaffna under the care of the 42 parishes, one gets the figure 115,000,” he concludes. Antonio Bocarro’s report of 1634 states that in Jaffna, nearly all natives are Christians”. Fernao de Queyroz, the renowned Portuguese chronicler of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) had described Jaffna as being wholly Christian”

    Demolishing all heathen i.e. Buddhist, Hindu, places of worship

  • Portuguese historian Father de Queyroz gives a list of all Buddhist temples razed to the ground on top of which Catholic Churches were erected.
  • Examples of temples destroyed are 1000 pillared temples in Devundara, Trincomalee, Kailasanathar Temple (Nallur), in 1575 Muneswaram Temple, Chilapam (Chillaw), Saman Devale in Ratnapura, Kelaniya temple (Dr. Susantha Goonetilleke) in 1575 Muneswaram Temple, Chilapam (Chillaw), in 1588 Vishnu Temple in Devinuwera, Tirukethieswaram Temple, Mathoddam (Matota) and in 1622 Tiru Konesar Temple, Thirukonamalai (Trincomalee), Nallur Kandasamy Kovil razed to the down and replaced with a Christian church at Nallur and a fort in Jaffna There are hardly any Buddhist temples over 150 years old in areas once ruled by the Portuguese.

    Killing non-Catholic clergy

  • Scores of Buddhist monks / Hindu priests were slain
  • According to MU de Silva from 1574 onwards Buddhist and Hindu temples were all destroyed along the West coast and Buddhist monks and Hindu swamis had to either flee to Sitawaka or Kandy or risk being killed.

    Crimes against Muslims

  • Captain – General Constantino De Sa de Noronha under orders by King Philip of Portugal expelled the Muslims. Muslims appealed to King Senerath (Ruler of the Kandyan Kingdom) in 1626. He very humanely and with great Buddhist compassion gave protection to Muslims  and re- settled the Muslims in Batticaloa – the Portuguese wrath against Muslims was because of the historical enmity of Christians towards Muslims in Europe, their refusal to convert and because Muslims posed a threat to the expanding Portuguese trade in spices in Asia.

    Looting, ransacking and destruction of Buddhist schools (pirivenas) and Buddhist mini universities

  • Sunethra Devi Pirivena in Kotte, Vidagama Pirivena in Raigama, Wijebahu Pirivena in Thotagamuwe, Hikkaduwa. Dr. Goonetilleke points out that the level of scholarship was so high in some of these schools that mathematicians could count up to 10 to the power of 54 when the Greeks knew to count only up to 10,000 while their knowledge of medicine was far higher than Europe.
  • Setting up of Catholic schools to teach Portuguese language (Had the Portuguese rule prevailed and spread throughout Sri Lanka, it would have completely lost its Buddhist heritage and become a slavish Westernized Catholic country like Goa.   

    Seizure of non-Christian texts

  • All sacred religious text books seized and destroyed

    Denial to practice religion

  • All Buddhists and Hindus prohibited from visiting their respective temples
  • Prohibiting non-Christian events
  • Buddhist/Hindu wedding ceremonies, religious processions prohibited

    Taking over non-Christian orphans

  • Non-Christian orphans given to Christians foster parents and baptized

    Prohibiting lodgings with non-Christians

  • Christians were prohibited from living or lodging with non-Christians

    Divide & Rule

  • Dividing the amity between the Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils (Prof. Endagama) for purpose of conversion

    Breaking the existing Eastern family system of respect for elders

  • the Asian family obligation structure broken to place God above all else and Catholic converts were told to view God as supreme (Prof. Endagama)

    Changing Sinhala Buddhist / Hindu Tamil names

  • changing rituals and ceremonies to adapt to western, and forcing Christian names on Sinhala Buddhists

    Destroying the traditional economy and social structure of the Sinhalas

  • downgrading agriculture and making the country reliant only on trade (Prof Endagama gives examples of how Sri Lanka sent engineers even to India to construct canals and storage tanks and the ancient Kashmiri chronicle Rajatarangini’ mentions this)
  • Introducing liquor to get Sinhala & Hindus intoxicated leading to numerous problems that would divide families and country

    Nurturing Sinhala/Tamil Christian mercenaries to denationalise school children through education and de- legitimise Buddhism

  • to promote self – hate against the Buddhist religion and Buddhist heritage and local cultural traditions and act against the State like a fifth column which continues unabated.

    Applying Roman law Cujus Regio, Illius Religio”

  • (he who rules the land determines the religion) famous Battle of Danture in 1594 when the heroic Kandyan peasants battled with the Portuguese Conquistadors to stop the kidnapped 12 year old Dona Catherina being married off to the Portuguese which would have given legal authority to the Portuguese to fully conquer and rule Sri Lanka. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_of_Danture

The Buddhist Commission Report (1956) covers atrocities committed by the three Christian powers. The aim is simple enough to denationalize natives, remove their local heroes and replace them with foreign ones, to slowly uproot the historical links people have by subtly moving the people away from their dharmic faiths or projecting that the Church offers something more superior.

The persecution faced by the Sinhala Buddhists at the hands of three Christian global powers over a period of 450 years in Sri Lanka is by no means small in number and no true accountability or reconciliation can take place without rectification of these historical injustices to the majority populace of Sri Lanka. Any genuine Truth and Reconciliation Commission must start its inquiry beginning from year 1505 and not 1948.

Shenali D. Waduge

5 Responses to “Reconciliation must rectify the historical injustices meted out to Sinhala Buddhists during 450 years of colonial rule under three global Christian Powers”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Excuse me for the diversion. This is remotely related. Western imperialists plunder and kill. A new poster campaign in Russia.

    Smoking kills more people than Obama’ poster appears in Moscow

    “http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/17/moscow-anti-smoking-campaign-uses-obamas-image”

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thank you, Shenali. Very sad but true facts here.

    ———

    We suggest :

    *. 5 minutes Silence to be observed in Parliament once a week, in remembrance for the suffering of Sinhala/Buddhists under Colonisation.

    *. Buddhist places of worship and the Buddhist religion be protected by the New Constitution or if the earlier Constitution is kept on, knowledgeable people advice MPs what further Laws ought to be added on to PROTECT BUDDHISM. Recovery of at least some of the lost land could be considered too, with alternative land given to those religious bodies.

    There ought not to be a quarrel over this matter – we have suffered enough.

  3. Christie Says:

    Freedom from Indian Imperialism and Colonialism.

    Say no to Bharat Samraj and demand freedom.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sinhala Buddhists are sliding from near 500 yrs of Colonisation to Tamilisation of Lanka ?

    With the National Anthem being sung in Tamil, plus the downing of the Sinhala Buddhist culture, there is the “divisive sickness” in the Nation. With language comes culture, and the Tamil Nadu CASTE structure will also come to Lanka.

    Modernisation is one thing, but downing of certain established and sacred items, is SICK. It reflects the sickness of emotions coming from CBK/RW, with a Pres who is a an ineffective -ms.

    Have the readers noticed the paid/hired pro-Eelam writers who are swamping the comments sections of e-news sites with anti-MR comments ?

  5. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    http://ltte-christian-ties.blogspot.com/

    The above link should give us some idea about their handy work. Is it any wonder, UNHCR wants to
    skin MR alive for scupperting their grand plan of carving out a catholic country in the north and the east by
    catholic hitler pira(mala)paharan. All the staunchly catholic countries (norway, us, uk, brasil, argentina, macedonia
    etc. etc.) voted to skin MR and the armed forces alive. Even archbishop two three of south africa thousands miles away clamouring for MR to be skinned alive. Brotherhood of course.Still a lot of traitor Sinhalese donkeys believe this pathalogical liars of the UNPatriotic party and voted for them.

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