Forcible Religious Conversion
In expressing their concern over the Prohibition of Forcible Religious
Conversion Bill (Daily News 15/07/04) the Presbyterium of the Diocese
of Chilaw, presided over by Bishop of Chilaw, Rt.Rev Frank Marcus
Fernando, referred to 'the forcible take over of schools in 1960'.
This is not the whole truth, it is a half-truth. The popular belief,
reinforced by the Churches, is that Christian schools were forcibly
taken over by the Government. What actually happened was a little
Most of the church schools depended almost entirely on government
financing. In almost all of them the majority of children were Buddhist
although the schools were very careful to avoid recruitment of non-Christian
teachers, even though their salaries were provided by the government
of a Buddhist country.
It was this financing that ceased and at the same time the government
prevented the schools from levying fees. As a result they had a choice
of closing down, going it alone or becoming part of the state school
system. Most chose the latter but a few of the larger schools became
private institutions and kept their independence. As a matter of fact,
Buddhist and Hindu schools too were affected by the same laws and
became part of the state school system.
The above is very different from forcibly taking over schools. The
wonder is that it didn't happen earlier. Can you imagine the Christian
government of a Christian country financing Buddhist schools that
teach Christian children? It's unthinkable. The churches have always
seen education as a means of conversion. It took the courage of Sirimavo
Bandaranaike to take on the power of the churches and this later contributed
to the attempted coup of 1962.