An Englishman calls the Sinhalese ‘ a very highly civilized race ‘
Posted on January 22nd, 2021

Senaka Weeraratna

Sinhala Buddhists are the most demonized ethnic group in South Asia, despite their tolerance of other races and religions.

The following is an account written by an Englishman named Campbell in 1932, on his trip to Australia from Ceylon, accompanying a group of about 500 (largely Sinhalese), on the ship SS Devonshire, in 1882:

” The Cingalese were a very highly civilised race…They have  deep pride of the Island’s  historical and spiritual continuity.   They burn with enthusiasm in their religious devotion and live up to it.. they are a race of  primitive simplicity, know no malice,  are hospitable, peaceful and cheerful  minded.  The rich  Cingalese  in Ceylon can say as Job said I was eyes to the blind and feet was I to the lame; I was father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out “

Every traveller to Ceylon cannot help but notice the friendliness of the natives; everything looks clean and bright  as if to  show off before strangers that they felt it was good to be alive…They have  left their footsteps in sands of time over a century as loyal British  subjects.

Over 50 years ago,  the  hymn from Greenland’s icy mountains was composed by Bishop Heber, the suffragan bishop of Madras, India, after paying a short visit to Colombo.  The hymn contains the two following lines: ”Where every prospect pleaseth, but only man is vile”  As a matter of fact, the native of Ceylon was never vile” to any one, in any way.  It is a subject on which extreme exaggerations have prevailed.  It is an obvious criticism that if they were as bad as some writers imagined they never could have subsisted if this view of their human nature had been a just one.  Ceylon would have been like a cage full of wild beasts, and the inhabitants would have soon perished in constant internecine war.  

Vile” was in the spirit of poetry” in rhythm with Isle” but lacked the spirit of truth and piety”.  Evangelists use the hymn in their so-called missionary services and Sunday Schools composed of white people in the fervent hope it will give nourishment to the spiritual life of those who sing it and enlarge the collection of the Almighty Dollar”.  

According to the most recent statistics there are no fewer than 187 sects of Christians, and they all more or less, bear very strange names.  Some must flout the Bible in their numerous complex faiths. Some make a religious taboo of the Lord’s Supper, some of infant baptism, some of mixed marriages, and they are all  antagonistic  to each other theologically and overlap each other with churches, therefore the heathen in his blindness” is not safe getting into theological holts with their would-be saviours.”


Memoirs of a Pioneer – 50 years ago

Senaka Weeraratna

2 Responses to “An Englishman calls the Sinhalese ‘ a very highly civilized race ‘”

  1. dingiri bandara Says:

    Yes the Englishman was correct. But sadly now corruption and excess greed has taken over.

  2. Nimal Says:

    Well said Dingiri.We had a truly a civilized Buddhist nation while the colonial were with us but now, just look at the way our parliament is functioning, very unruly so many times,politians now could have a second home in jail. Then look at the way we drive in our roads, tell much about our civilized culture. Just now a chief minister in UK resigned for having a drink at work.I saw to myself how people behaved during the colonial times and wish they come back.

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