X
UCA News

India

Archbishop Asks Catechists To Teach True History Of Local Church

Updated: June 27, 2008 11:59 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :
Catechists should include local Church history in their lessons so Catholic children will understand correctly their place in Sri Lankan society, says Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo. sr_colombo_1.gifLocal people "ridicule" Sri Lankan Christians as "children" of Portuguese colonialists, and "this creates an inferiority complex among them," the prelate told about 2,000 catechists, Sunday-school teachers, clergy and Religious on June 18. Hence catechists need to provide their students with a "correct version" of the history of Christianity in Sri Lanka, he said in his address at St. Joseph´s College in Colombo for the archdiocese´s Catechist Day celebration. Christianity existed in Sri Lanka long before the arrival of colonizers in the 16th century, Archbishop Gomis pointed out. "Teach children catechism and also the history of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka bravely and truthfully," he told the group. According to the archbishop, some history books written during the colonial period claim the Portuguese introduced Christianity, omitting deliberately or through ignorance that Christian Arab and Persian traders brought the faith here a thousand years earlier. "Christianity was in existence in our country before the Portuguese arrived. Tell this history bravely," he said. Children hear different stories from others, he noted, stories such as Buddhism came to Sri Lanka 2,500 years ago but Christianity was introduced only 500 years ago, after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505. "Children listen to such distorted stories," he lamented. Archbishop Gomis reminded the catechists and Sunday-school teachers of the importance of their vocation, especially since most Catholics study in state-run education institutions since the government nationalized schools in the 1960s. A correct understanding of Christianity is essential today more than ever, he told them, because Buddhist extremists, with the backing of influential monks, are attacking the Church. Buddhists form close to 70 percent of Sri Lanka´s population and Catholics less than 7 percent. Jacintha Jacob, 28, a catechist, told UCA News the "distorted history" written during the colonial period has been taken as true for many years. "Many Christians in the country are unaware of their own history and believe that missionaries who came with the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialists introduced Christianity to Sri Lanka," she said. "Their missionary policy of putting up a church and school was successful. Many Buddhists and Hindus joined Christians in these schools. Many embraced Christianity and believe it was introduced by the missionaries," Jacob continued. As a result, catechists and Sunday-school teachers "have a greater responsibility today than ever before." According to Mahavamsa (the great chronicle), the son of Emperor Asoka of India introduced Buddhism to the island 2,552 years ago during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. Local Church scholars say Nestorians from Persia and St. Thomas Christians from India introduced Christianity here in the fifth century. The carving of a Nestorian cross on a boulder in Anuradhapura has been cited by archeologists as evidence of Persian Christian traders in the city. The ancient capital of Anuradhapura is nearly 3,000 years old. Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, after nearly 500 years of colonial rule under the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. END

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Contribute and get the Mission in Asia PDF Book/e-Book Free!
Contribute and get the Mission in Asia PDF Book/e-Book Free!
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia