Posted by: lrrp | July 1, 2010

Trying to cover nudity with a fig leaf?

Catholic Church’s allegations of distorting history text books

According to recent media reports, the Catholic clergy has raised a hue and cry over alleged distortions in school history text books.  What exactly they mean by these charges has not so far been made clear to the public. Are they drawing attention to alleged derogatory remarks about Jesus Christ or Virgin Mary or the Catholic religion in general? Or are they objecting to references to the Catholic Church’s dubious politics since colonial times?

As far as we are aware, other Christian denominations like the Anglicans, Protestants, Methodists, Baptists etc do not seem to have joined the protest – unless they are playing an inconspicuous role in it.  Therefore, it is possible that the Catholic Centre for Social Communication is referring to the Portuguese period in Sri Lanka when Catholic Missionaries were serving the political and cultural agenda of the aggressors.

Everyone with a fair knowledge of world history is aware of the dominant role the Catholic Church played in Asia, Africa and Latin America at the height of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism in these regions. If not for it, there would never have been an Asian aberration like the Philippines (a predominantly Catholic country in a sea of Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim nations). The same fate would have befallen Sri Lanka if not for one man, the so-called Traitor of Kandy – Don Juan Konappu Bandara (Wimaladharmasuriya I) – who seized power in the Kandyan Kingdom after kicking the Portuguese and their Sinhala puppets out of the hill country.

It is an established fact that the Portuguese were the worst of the three colonial rulers who governed the island. Says Emerson Tennant: “There is no page in the story of European colonization more gloomy and repulsive than that which recounts the proceedings of the Portuguese in Ceylon” (The Betrayal of Buddhism)
The hall marks of Portuguese rule in Sri Lanka were religious intolerance and administrative oppression. Although Sri Lanka is supposed to be a predominantly Buddhist country, any foreigner traveling from the Katunayake Airport to Colombo sees more Catholic Churches than Buddhist or Hindu Temples. But we wonder whether the Roman Catholic establishment can provide proof of true ownership of these lands on which the churches have been built. The fact is from 1574 onwards, the Catholic zealots began destroying Buddhist and Hindu temples all along the Western coast, according to Prof. M.U. de Silva. Bhikkus who were not killed in the process fled to the Kandyan kingdom or went underground.  Among the latter were militant monks who were called Ganinnanses. They wore a white robe to disguise themselves having discarded the traditional yellow robe. The Portuguese deliberately built churches over the ruins of Buddhist or Hindu temples. The present Kochchikade church in Colombo and the Madu church in Mannar, were Pattini Devales or temples for Kannagi.

Buddhist schools (pirivenas), which were also mini universities, were ransacked and burnt, and their monk-scholars killed. Among the schools thus destroyed were the Sunethra Devi Pirivena in Kotte, Vidagama Pirivena in Raigama, and the Tottagamuwe Pirivena in Hikkaduwa.
Today there is hardy a Buddhist Temple over 200 years old in areas which the Portuguese once ruled, particularly along the Western coastal belt.  Hindu Temples were also not spared from destruction. Felipe de Olivera, the conqueror of Jaffna was reputed for having destroyed 500 Temples (Repression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese)
We know that Pope John Paul II was compelled to ask forgiveness for the abuses of Europe’s colonial-era proselytizing around the world.  These are historical facts that cannot be erased no matter how disturbing they are to the Catholic Church.

So we wonder what the Catholic hierarchy is grumbling about unless the idea is to white wash its sordid past. (JP)

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