1991-10-09 00:00:00

The American Ceylon Mission (ACM) celebrated 175 years of mission and social work Sept. 23 here, 410 kilometers north of Colombo.

"The ACM was a blessing in many ways for our people," said Bishop Bastiampillai Deogupillai of Jaffna diocese.

The first ACM delegation of five missionaries arrived in Jaffna Sept. 23, 1816. They were from the American Congregational Mission Society established in 1810 as part of missionary movements in new Churches in the U.S.

The ACM became part of the Church of South India (CSI) in 1947. The north and east of Sri Lanka and a center in Colombo form the CSI Diocese of Jaffna.

The CSI runs two high schools, technical, agricultural and theological colleges, seven industrial schools and three hospitals.

The Morning Star, published weekly in Tamil and English by the ACM since 1841, was Jaffna´s first newspaper.

History Professor K. Sivathamby of the University of Jaffna said, "They (ACM) raised the quality of life here through formal and informal education with their press, books, magazines and newspaper."

Sivathamby said the ACM improved family life by educating women. Uduvil Girls´ High School, built in 1824, was the first of its kind in Asia, he said.

"They created ´social mobility.´ A class of people considered low and suppressed till then moved up through classless education by the ACM, and all the avenues opened to them," Sivathamby said.

He added that ties with south Indian Churches led to the first step in the Tamil freedom movement.

Dr. Sivaraja of the community health department at the university said Western medicine was first introduced to Sri Lanka by the ACM. They translated medical books and instructed in the Tamil language.

CSI Bishop D.J. Ambalavanar told UCA News, "All missions point to the fact that the Christian message has a meaning for the whole world. The missioners who came here were moved by that belief."

The celebration was held in a Catholic church built by Portuguese Jesuits. The church was confiscated by the Dutch and later handed over to the ACM by British Governor Sir Robert Brownrig.


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