3 March, 2024

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Identity In Choice: The Problem Of Caste In Christianity

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

The Centrality of Identity in Choice

People deny that their identity dictates their behavior. Except when we foolishly fall in love, nearly all of us in our marriage and political choices use identity. Advertising by people with customer-identity encourages brand recall and exposure strategies with targeted customers. In my course Ethics for Professionals, I used to teach how we make choices, using electoral decisions. North, Shaw, Grossmann and Lipsitz (2015), identify five factors influencing how voters choose, four of the five coming down to how important identity is. These are in order:

1. Social identity (class, religion, ethnicity and, often for us, caste).

2. Voters’party identification. This is akin to social identification;

3. The national economy. The state of the national economy is a reflection of incumbent performance, and voters respond accordingly—rewarding incumbents when the country prospers, and punishing when not. This is the only factor free of social identity except when policy assumes importance as in whether this is a Buddhist country. Wickremesinghe promises developing Tamil areas when Tamils’ countervailing experience is that such development usually brings in Sinhalese colonists and employees to Tamil areas;

4. Policy issues. These are not as important as the aforementioned three factors, but certain voters will also make electoral choices based on specific policy choices like whether a factory will be built for them;

5. Candidate Traits like looks: Usually a voter votes for a candidate whose looks he admires. This is why politicians who usually wear western clothes dress up in ethnic costumes perhaps to look like our grandparents. Similarly, the Sinhalese vote for actors and actresses. (Tamils here have no cinema industry).

Caste as Integral to Identity

Our caste is integral to our identity. The caste label is a red light on the road telling how people think and decide so that we would ignore it at our peril. Those in the caste system deny there is caste because it is such a backward institution setting us in bad light and has its roots in Hindu law. We project modernity by denying our guilt. We therefore look elsewhere, to America, for how caste is indeed a factor.

Silicon Valley is staffed by many software engineers from India. They have carried the caste system to the US. Taking from the US news outlet Slate, in June 2020, the US registered its first-ever caste-discrimination lawsuit when the state of California sued Cisco Systems under the 1964 Civil Rights Act after some of its employees discriminated against lower-caste Indian American employees based on caste. CISCO dominates the network market ahead of HP and Nokia, and leads the ethernet switch market with 44% share.

Thenmozhi Sounderarajan is the executive director of Equality Labs, a civil rights organization with focus on caste in tech. She was scheduled to give a talk at Google News for Dalit History Month. As reported in Washington Post, Google employees threatened Thenmozhi with violence. She and family moved to a safehouse.

Caste has now entered the American public discourse and consciousness. There are numerous allegations of caste discrimination fostered by South Asian workers and executives, and emerging scholarship on casteism’s worldwide presence. Anti-caste-discrimination policies have been adopted at great universities like  University of Michigan and Rutgers, while a Seattle City Council ordinance bans casteist discrimination.

A California Bill banning discrimination based on caste passed with huge majorities. Brahmins with the means to emigrate and travel make up the bulk of Indian Americans. They are so influential in the US that American media buy their nonsense without any fact-checking. Slate lists even the Wall Street Journal as letting the head of a Hindutva organization write an op-ed calling the legislation anti-Hindu.

With that kind of pressure, early in October, California Governor Gary Newsom, vetoed the bill saying it was unnecessary because it was already covered by existing laws. Coward!

Newsom, despite being a Democrat, ignored the red light of caste. Thinking he is on the side of Hindu rights earning him votes, he has transgressed the rights of the weak. He chose what he thinks is profitable over what is principled.

As the Republican primaries move on, the Ron DeSantis campaign singled out Vivek Ramaswamy’s high-caste background as a potential attack line! Ramaswamy himself is aligning himself with Christian rightists!!

Caste in the Selection of MPS

The Sri Lanka press will never touch the topic of caste because the press is bankrolled by rich high caste folk and sustained by an educated (i.e. high-caste) readership.

It is no secret that caste is a factor in awarding party nominations. A person familiar with the workings of the UNP says that when one asks for the nomination from the UNP, one of the questions from the interviewer is “What is your caste?” The justification is that when who wins between the UNP and the SLFP is a matter of a small fraction of the vote, say 5%, no risk can be taken with those who look into caste when voting. However small, they would make the difference between winning and losing.

The Telegraph (India), notes that when Gotabaya was swept in, many new faces came into Parliament but there was no change in the caste composition of Parliament – “the results of the 2020 elections confirm that Sri Lankan democracy is neither casteless nor caste-blind, but is demonstrably casteist. We may deny it, but we ooze caste from every pore.

In the North, all Federal Party MPs have been Vellalas. An exception was Cyrillus X. Martyn. Though he was of the fisher-caste, the party on principle gave him the nomination in 1970 and expelled him the next year for crossing over to Srimavo Bandaranaike. Remember that even the Communist Party chose the Vellala Ponnampalam Kandiah as its candidate who was ultimately successful. I believe if he had been non-Vellala in arch-conservative Point Pedro in that period, he would not have been elected despite his Oxbridge academic background.

Caste and Identity in the Anglican Church of Ceylon

As if attracted by the inexorable force of identity, we who are reborn are pulled back to our primitive roots. Christianity has been a bold experiment on principle, but identity as if a centrifugal force, pulls us back to our ways of the old man.

The Anglican Church with more Tamils than Sinhalese has had a string of fisher-caste Sinhalese Bishops, but only two Tamil bishops (both untouchable) and just two Agricultural Sinhalese. That caste should not be used in choices is a good principle. Quality should be used. A less studied phenomenon is how Colombo (including Moratuwa) dominates the Church. Using caste or ethnicity or Colombo-ness has allowed the church to be taken over.

The Sinhalese Bishops have advanced lower caste Christians but are accused of discriminating against Tamils, and of not intervening when the depressed caste do wrong. As one example of neglecting Tamil rights, Fr. N.J. Gnanankaruniyan has openly accused the church in Council of abandoning him when he was arrested under the PTA. Another is a Bishop’s support for standardization. As for advocacy for caste-rights, at St. John’s when an aspirant for principal was from Kopai Vadakku, a low-caste area, he was appointed over some objections. Ultimately, he lived in Colombo getting the Vice Principal to run things while he used St. John’s to advance his company (as the Vice Principal and 2 teachers separately alleged). These choices by the Bishops are consistent with identity theories.

In 2001 when Bishop Duleep de Chickera stood for election against two Tamil priests, I heard a group of Tamil priests, taking de Chickera to be a Tamil-Parava name, gloating thus: “Let anyone win. All three are our people” – nammadai aakkal. That is Identity politics even in the church.

A New Social Fabric

After the Vellalas abandoned Jaffna, Bishop Subramaniam Jebanesan says, “We are now a Dalit Church.” Among the Sinhalese too the church is now led by a Parava Bishop. Paravas (who go as Sinhalese here) are identified by Prof. Robert Frykenberg from University of Wisconsin (South Asia specialist who grew up in India), as a mixed bag of so-called lower caste (including fishing-caste) of Tamils converted by the Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier on the West Coast of India.

With these changes, does identity shape the church more now? It seems so. At the Urumpirai Anglican Church, the priest was Vellala (an increasingly rare phenomenon) but the parish has become largely depressed-caste. A low-caste Warden married into the Anglican leadership teamed up with a lower caste person and went to hit the priest (both abusing him in filth) at a Wardens’ Meeting. They accused him of stealing.

The Archdeacon (S.P. Selvan) and Bishop Rodrigo as reports say have asked the priest not to conduct services. The Wardens who used obscene language in church have not been punished. The inquiry will be by Selvan whose own St. James’ inventories are missing says the Warden who inventoried St. James,’ and says the Archdeacon untruthfully certified to the Bishop that his inventory is in order.

A fisher-caste man who bought a doctorate, has been given the task of writing the St. James’ history as the Bishop wanted to celebrate 2 centuries of the church. It is full of language and factual mistakes.

St. John’s celebrated a questionable 200 year-history with the Bishop thanking God in church for 200 years of God’s blessings. God must have wondered when he showered such blessings for 200 years. The quality of 200 years of Johnian heritage is brought out by the following school notice recently:

“~SHARAN. +94 76 543 3334 Tomorrow band at service time Pls don’t were slippers or bata only shoes.”

As the church searches for unqualified people for appointment who will be grateful and obediently coverup mismanagement, James Jeyaratnam (of Holy Trinity Wellawatte) says he retained a lawyer whom he thought great because several bishops have appointed her as their advisor; but he was invoiced for case-dates not reflected in court records.

With good people having mostly left, and only crooks in charge here who are unwilling to appoint the few good folk remaining, the Church seems to have little choice but to self-destruct.

When a large section of the St. James’ cemetery was taken over by a neighboring low-caste Palla in 2005, the priest and his Warden, both depressed caste, legalized the encroachment by doing a new survey. Lack of Education? Collusion? Laziness? The Archdeacon is unwilling to reopen the matter, although the original plan has been produced.

St. James’ in May spent Rs. 285,000 repairing its piano. The repairers gave five years’ warranty and two free services a year. By September the church got a new donation of Rs. 450,000 and chose to spend it on a new piano. The repaired piano is idling. The church is presently crying for funds for termite treatment when the new piano funds could have been used for that. Two quotations were received for termite treatment, approximately Rs. 490,000 and Rs. 365,000. The Archdeacon and his unqualified Wardens are now raising Rs. 490,000 without saying why the offer for Rs. 365,000 is unacceptable.

When I gave US$5000 for renovating the St. James’ Mission House where I had lived, it appeared in the books as Rs. 5000. It took two meeting to correct it. One Royce Arasaratnam also, I am told, gave a large sum. The Mission House is still unlivable. When the Dutch Government agreed to redo the same building (which had been the Governor’s Residence) when they rebuilt the Fort, it was turned down by the Vicar saying the vicarage is too big to maintain. Then he himself got a parishioner in Britain to support a separate and larger vicarage! Those in charge like to build buildings they pay for.

The Bishop accepts unaudited accounts from St. James’ violating the diocesan constitution. He does not reply when parishioners raise legitimate questions on these transactions.

An Anglican who saw the ignored mismanagement by the Bishop remarked, “How can Bishop Dushantha Rodrigo, being so deaf and blind to this thieving and mismanagement, run two schools for the deaf and blind?”

Even Christians Offered Holy Ash at the Anglicans’ Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind, Kaithady

Certification as Wardens by the Bishop must be patient and require some years of active church-life. Uneducated, unqualified appointments have dragged the church down, exactly as happened to Sri Lanka. Lack of quality in appointments may sound safe in hiding lawless administration and corruption, but is never safe for a corrupt church administration.

I have for over a year now shifted all my giving to the Roman Catholic Church since they have constitutional governance. The Jaffna Christian Union Carol Service (on 8 Dec.) had many more choristers and priests than others. At the Anglican Deaf and Blind School’s Science Exhibition the same day, all were offered Siva’s ash in front of the chapel. Subramaniam Yogadeva, presumably an old boy of St. John’s, citing the just released dismal O. Level Results, publicly asked for St. John’s to be taken over and renamed The Chundikuli National School.

The insidious poison of the theology of “All Religions are True” (as preached by the Archdeacon, Bishop Rodrigo’s Jaffna agent) is spreading. Under this theology the crimes of the gods are acceptable for us to emulate. These include pillage, lying, rape, incest, seduction, adultery, murder, homosexuality, polygamy, etc.

I was invited to an inter-religious service where all religions are equal. Despite that the Buddhist Monk had a special seat with a white cover and was the only one allowed to speak seated. The Hindu priest came from the high caste. A low-caste person cannot aspire to be a Hindu priest.

The church is forcing us to accept a theology of inequality while proclaiming all are born equal. Caste is an evil that needs open discussion for its solution through its extirpation and annihilation. Is the Bishop fiddling as the church is looted and its theology incinerated, and Protestant Christianity is dying?

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Latest comments

  • 16
    2

    “Those in the caste system deny there is caste because it is such a backward institution setting us in bad light and has its roots in Hindu law.”

    As far as I am aware, there is no such thing as “Hindu Law”. However, there are Hindu customs and traditions but these are not forced down anyone’s throat! Hinduism is a voluntary religion and one can have as much or as little of it as one desires. Hindus, even unbelievers, rarely renounce their religion because it is not a regimented religion and as such does not inconvenience those who belong to that faith by imposing rigid rules.

    Just two or three days ago I read about a young girl in the North born of a Christian father and a Hindu mother, who was beaten up by a priest because she failed to attend church on Sundays!

    • 7
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      Please look up the Laws of Manu and the basis in which C. Suntharalingam and his thugs beat up low-caste folk entering the Maviddapuram Temple

      • 5
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        “Suntharalingam and ‘HIS THUGS’ BEAT UP LOW-CASTE folk entering the Maviddapuram Temple”.
        Suntharalingam did ORGANISE PROTESTS during that time preventing entry by Lower caste denominations trying to enter the Maviddapuram Temple!!!??? He would have even ‘CLAIMED’ PUBLICLY THAT, “HE WOULD SHOOT ANYONE, attempting” to do so too!!!??? In reality NO SHOOTING as such occurred by Suntharalingam!!!??? Nothing beyond scaremongering claims!!!???
        Suntharalingam and ‘his thugs’ beat up low-caste folk – is surmounting FANTASY!!!??
        None else, other than, WILD RUMOURS AS USUAL OF THE “JAFFNA WILDERNESS” or remote “Bush” – if you get the drift!!!???

        • 4
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          Sort out the issue by asking and answering a very simple practical question. ………. Which one of you esteemed higher-caste gentlemen and ladies would let one of your children marry a low-caste suitor? …….. say an Untouchable/Dalit

          If you answer honestly …….. and honestly examine the reasons why …….. you’ll understand this entire shindig ……. a lot better.

    • 4
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      CM,
      Fully agree with you!!!???

  • 9
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    WHAT ABOUT LATE FORMER UDUPITTY (JAFFNA DISTRICT)MP RASALINGAM IS HE FROM LOW CAST.IF I AM WRONG ANY ONE CAN CORRECT IT.I HOPE MY MEMORY POWER IS NOT BAD.

    • 4
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      Please look up the Laws of Manu and the basis in which C. Suntharalingam and his thugs beat up low-caste folk entering the Maviddapuram Temple

      • 7
        4

        Suntharalingam’s thinking was most reactionary in several matters.
        He was a worshiper of the British Empire.
        He defended denial of temple entry based on caste. But I do not think that he invoked Manu.
        He even appeared in court to plead the case for the Temple authorities.
        Hearsay as history is not a healthy practice.
        But he was not involved directly or otherwise in any beating up as far as I am aware.
        The upper and even middle-rung caste bigots had their own thugs who resorted to worse violence in the villages

    • 7
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      Your memory is right but Rasalingam contested as a TNA candidate (not FP) and took over the safe seat from M. Sivasithambaram who previously held Udupiddy as a Tamil Congress MP moving to Nallur.

      • 13
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        JM,

        I don’t like discussing the castes of people.
        But I cannot avoid it here because I have to correct you.
        Udupiddy was represented by advocate K. Jayakody of the FP ( Yes, a Vellala) between 1972 and 1977, before the seat was granted to Mr. Rasalingam, as the party chose explicitly to give a seat to a member of the so-called “depressed castes,” after the TULF was formed.

        M. Sivasithamparam had lost in Uduppiddy in 1972 but contested in Nallur in 1977 and won. The TULF MP for Point Pedro in 1977, Mr. K. Thurairatnam was from coastal VVT and wasn’t a Vellala. I am not sure about Mannar MP, Soosaithasan, but I know for sure that your assertion is incorrect based on the examples in Uduppidy and Point Pedro.

        • 3
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          Jayakody did not get along with the FP inner circle (of which SJVC in fairness was not part). He dropped out.
          There was electoral arithmetic involved in the nomination of the TULF candidate the newly delimited Udupiddy electorate.
          Can you imagine a Dalit contesting Chavakachcheri, KKS or Pt Pedro?

          • 6
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            SJ,

            I was too little then, so I might have missed some things.

            Still, K. Jayakoday was my great uncle and I was a politically precocious kid who listened to family conversations keenly, so my perspective is a little different.

            KJ didn’t want to drop out. Indeed, he had supported Dalits, including their entry into the Vallipuram temple, etc. So he felt he could effectively support Dailt interests as well.

            But based on their concentration of numbers, the TULF identified only Kopay or Uduppidy as the one seat to be allocated to the depressed castes. So the question was whether it was C. Kathiravetpillai of Kopay or KJ who should cede his electorate. As you imply, CK was more tuned into the FP/TULF inner circle and perhaps close to Amirthalingam; he was more militant than KJ in his outlook and probably had the support of the youth wing as well. KJ respected SJV but disdained AA, saying the latter had a big ego, was hot-headed, etc. So perhaps based on CK’s closeness to AA, it was decided that KJ should cede his seat.

            • 2
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              A
              Thanks.
              All I knew for sure was that Jayakody did not quite fit in with the inner circle of the FP dominated by AA.
              Sorry to learn that he was rather ‘pushed out’ by the inner circle. He was with the FP and was its candidate since March 1960. I know that it was support from the Dalits that helped him to defeat Sivasithaparam in 1970, despite the LSSP & CP contesting the seat.
              Thanks for the revelations re the caste politics of FP (alias TULF).

        • 4
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          Sorry. You are right about Mannar. Both Alahakone and Soosaithasan were from the Coastal Caste. I overlooked Mannar in my research. But Soosaithasan was a TULF candidate like Rasalingam and not an FP candidate. But the FP did have a non-Vellala MP in Alahakoon. I stand corrected.

          Sivasithambaram moved to Nallur because EMV Naganthan had died and had been defeated by C. Arulamplam of the TC in 1970. There was a need for a strong candidate. It also opened up Udupiddy to Rasalingam because it was by now a safe seat. Credit must go to Sivasithambaram for giving up Udupiddy where he would have beern a shh-in and take up the challenge of Nallur to advance the caste-credentials of the TULF.

          • 3
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            Sadly, your research still shows superficiality.
            Being Jaffna Man, your interest outside the peninsula may have been minimal.
            Xavier Mark Sellathambu was Vavunia MP in 1970, and Vavuniya had a poorer Christian presence than Mannar. (He was then moved to Mullaitheevu in 1977).
            *
            As for Soosaithasan who succeeded the late VA Alahakone:
            The TULF was strictly not a party, but an alliance. It was called one later, but was not quite on in reality.
            Nominations to seats in 1977 were based on the seat held by the two parties (FP & ACTC) So the FP had the say in Mannar, like ACTC having it in Vaddukkoddai.
            (Besides, please check if the TULF was not de facto FP. )
            Among TULF MPs, Soosaithasan represented the FP as much as Thirnavukkarasu represented the ACTC.
            *
            Anandasangaree seized the name TULF and the sad lot renamed themselves as TNA (and drew in a few others). The TNA was not (and is still not) a registered political party. The FP symbol was used the election (2002?) and how that resurrected the FP is another story.

          • 2
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            JM,
            K. Thurairatnam represented Pt. Pedro on the FP ticket for many years before 1977. It is just that I came of age in the late 1970s and focus more on the post 1977 period. But it wasn’t just Alahakone in Mannar.

      • 3
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        Why it took so long for the FP to field a Dalit candidate is food for thought
        *
        What enabled Rasalingam to contest was the delimitation of the constituency that left it with a sizeable ‘Dalit’ population.
        That was also what made Sivasithambaram to move to Nallur.
        Notably Sivasithambaram and Amirhangalingam lost their seats rather badly in 1970.
        Anyone wants to know why? Check what their stand on caste-related struggles in 1967-70.
        *
        Rasalingam was one of the ‘nice guy’ Dalits, who knew his place and would not make a fuss or embarrass the Jaffna Vellala elite with demands the way ones with left leanings do.

      • 1
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        “Rasalingam contested as a TNA candidate (not FP) “
        Really?
        Must have been after 2002 when the TA was formed hastily.

        • 0
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          when the TNA was formed hastily.

    • 4
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      Paragon,
      Agree with your Assertion!! Right on the Money!!!??

    • 6
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      PARAGON,
      In addition, UDUPPIDDY electorate and the Point Pedro electorate, which was the precursor electoral division of UDUPPIDDY electorate from the 1960’s, is the only electorate to return Members to Parliament from other than the TC, FP, TULF!!!
      If memory serves me right, Ponnambalam Kandiah contested and won on Communist Party ticket, which probably prompted the FP or TC to select Rajalingham as candidate for subsequent election, ensure VICTORY!!!???

      • 1
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        M
        There was a time gap between the two elections.
        By 1965-70 the left was electorally weakened in the North, although still strong among oppressed castes.
        See elsewhere on this page for the reason for the choice.

        • 0
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          Thanks SJ

    • 10
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      In case some might infer that caste affects only Tamils, it exists among Sinhala Catholics too. The practice of having separate churches for different castes was more blatant in the past, but is still present. In the Chilaw area there are two Catholic churches almost opposite each other. I suppose the Church has to operate in the real world.

      • 3
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        oc
        There is a key difference.
        The rise of the Karawe followed by Durawe and Salagama in the late 19th Century weakened the hierarchy in the South. The pecking order held strong for longer in the Central region and 1956 made a difference to some of the groups at lower levels.
        *
        In the North Tamil Hindu-Christian Vellala alliance holds strong to this day.
        In Batticaloa (+Ampara), the Mukkuva rue OK. The Vellala has loimited clout politically.

        • 4
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          SJ,
          Strangely enough, in Sinhala Catholic circles, both parties are from the same Karawe/Durawe caste. The Catholic fishermen are deemed inferior by the other Catholics. I have heard that it is the same in coastal parts of India.

          • 2
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            oc
            But the Karawe leaders in the 19th Century will take none of it.
            Have you not heard of “Malu bedanne bath uda ne?”

  • 7
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    Professor Hoole’s article describes discrimination against cast, religion , ethnicity as major factors and policy , economic management and appearance as other factors in politics and selection bias.
    Appearance is fixed and somewhat influenced by ethnicity is a variable you can’t change.
    Policies and economic management should be best variable in selection of people to give more responsibility. They are not considered high because of the low level of education of the populace at large and by bias created by religion and caste.
    All Indian based religions (Hinduism, Buddhism , Jainism etc) preaches cast system and support it indirectly if not directly. In Buddhism, Buddha denounced caste system but when you read the scripture you read about kings with different kinds of servants(Slaves) are well endorsed by Budhha himself. All Hindu scripture praises Kings , yogis and so on without any mention about low caste person attending to become higher status. All western Abrhamic monotheistic religions are based on all powerful imaginary single God.
    Caste system is by product of religion and Elitism both of which are scientifically challenged.
    Better way to identify religion as follows

    • 5
      7

      Really Buddha endorsed the caste system?. I thought the religion was based on the repudiation of the Hindu caste system. I suppose anyone can write any rubbish on the internet.

      I did not know that the Buddha went around endorsing castes. I see a ot of garbage written on this site but this really takes the cake,

      • 2
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        a14455
        You are dead right on the Buddha and caste.
        He rejected the entire paradigm of Brahminic values.

      • 4
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        a14455, I understood Siddhartha Gautama to be a hindu, whose funeral was according to hindu rites and ashes put into the river like all other hindus. He never claimed to be a buddhist nor start a buddhist religion. He is accepted as having state of nirvana, not to be born again on this earth and the next buddha is a different person. He has in common with christianity that he will not come back to earth as a human. Why would he endorse a caste system.

        • 3
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          David,
          “He never claimed to be a buddhist”
          True, but did Jesus Christ claim to be a Christian?

        • 3
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          Do not assume that creation is entirely Hindu.
          No Indian religion believes in one’s waiting underground for God to turn up some day.
          Buddhism rejects the notions of God and soul, and Jainism God. Hindus do not have a common theory of God or soul but rebirth is believed in by many. Caste is accepted by most groups, but rejected by some like Veera Saiva of Karnataka.
          Approach to god varies within individual systems of faith under Hindu canopy. The Bakti movement was a liberating experience free of middlemen between man and God.
          Learn a little about other religions before passing judgment.

          • 2
            2

            Do not assume that cremation is entirely Hindu.

    • 4
      1

      Better way to identify religion as follows
      Between 2000- 5000 year back human mind and brain was developing exponentially with regard to past knowledge certain learned people describe the world philosophically to make society better by creating harmoniousness living. They create and imaginary gods and also described imaginary rebirth of the person depending on there acts performed in the present life. It created a way to live harmoniously in a society and done enormous good for the humankind.
      Modern scientific understanding can effectively challenge the existence of god and other beliefs that helped in the past for people to live in peace.
      So people should discard these false belief created by religions but continue to live in piece and harmony based on the truth identified by the science and not because they are being punished by non existing imaginary all powerful entity. Professor Hoole is rightly critical about the bias created by above mentioned factor while he himself embedded in in a strong cult faction of a religion.

      • 7
        1

        J
        A rather oversimplified picture.
        Patterns of evolution of religion and social hierarchy vary vastly within Asia itself.
        Things were vastly different in the other continents.
        If not for colonial expansion Christianity may have stagnated in Europe and small parts of West Asia and North West Africa

        • 0
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          Caste in North West Africa?

          • 0
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            I think I misread the comment.

            • 4
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              Great!
              So, hearing of precolonial Ethiopian, Thomian and Arabian churches grants one a license to pontificate.
              *
              BTW
              What is oversimplified about “If not for colonial expansion Christianity may have stagnated in Europe and small parts of West Asia and North West Africa”
              Can you compare the global impact of these churches with that of the colonial effort?
              Try having a sense of proportion. It may help.

          • 2
            2

            Wow!

            • 3
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              Is misreading unusual?

        • 2
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          Over simplified indeed. SJ has not heard of the precolonial Ethiopian, Thomian and Arabian churches.
          It is good to read before pontificating.

  • 5
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    I can see why Professor Hoole gets beaten up by all quarters includung by his own. The fate of anyone who is critical of the status quo, including that of his own kind; injustices dished out by it.
    .
    I grew up not knowing how strongly caste minded the society is. I thought it is one of those obsolete things they consider when someone gets married, like matching horoscopes. Only to realize how wrong and naive I have been. I have come across people of younger generations that would ask questions like ‘what is his background?’. It took a while for me to realise they are probably referring to someone’s caste! What an euphemism.
    .
    But then comes the question: how does one deal with it? It would have been great if Professor Hoole elaborated a little bit on how he think the issue should be dealt with? We all know its there but what can we do about it?
    .
    I personally would suggest that we try to loose such arbitrary denominators of identity, like caste and creed, or even ethnicity, in the long run, but I don’t think that would be acceptable to many, especially here on CT, including to Professor Hoole (having seen his opinion on other issues).
    .
    So Professor Hoole what do you suggest we do about caste in identity?

    • 5
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      “I can see why Professor Hoole gets beaten up by all quarters”
      It is more than what meets the eye,

      • 4
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        SJ,
        .
        Is it? I wouldn’t know. Want to elaborate a little?

        • 8
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          For one, an anti-Hindu virus distorts his thinking.
          I think that is enough for now.

          • 4
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            Hmmm…. he has some strong attachments when it comes to identity I have noticed. This piece is an example. He appears to be uncomfortable with the conflicts and discriminatiins that identities cause but seem to be protective of and driven by his own.

    • 3
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      A difficult question. I thoughht we could take on the identity of Sudras to weaken caste but it does not work because casteists like Sivasegaram will use it to put us down as here.
      Thank you for that question.
      It needs a new religious movement from within Chritianity. I thought that new Christians might do the needful but many of the leaders come for the money and women as I see in the Trincomalee area. Even when confronted with direct evidence of womanising and theft by Pastors, congregations continue to support their pastors.
      Guardian International explains in its issue of 10 June 2023,

      They have contributed their money to the church, only to read explosive reports of it sometimes being spent on excessive gifts and expensive flights for pastors. Devastating allegations of serious sexual and financial misconduct have emerged throughout the Pentecostal world.

    • 1
      3

      A difficult question. I thoughht we could take on the identity of Sudras to weaken caste but it does not work because casteists like Sivasegaram will use it to put us down as he does here.
      Thank you for that question, however.
      It needs a new religious movement from within Chritianity. I thought that new Christians might do the needful but many of the leaders come for the money and women as I see in the Trincomalee area. Even when confronted with direct evidence of womanising and theft by Pastors, congregations continue to support their pastors.
      Guardian International explains in its issue of 10 June 2023,

      They have contributed their money to the church, only to read explosive reports of it sometimes being spent on excessive gifts and expensive flights for pastors. Devastating allegations of serious sexual and financial misconduct have emerged throughout the Pentecostal world.

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    Caste is one of the most disgusting divisions practiced by man. It is disgusting that this is practiced by the Church.Hoole seems to be glorifying this rubbish.

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      2

      There are others that are worse: colour and gender.
      Like Indians taking caste with them to the US, Protestant Christians too took caste and even astrology with them when they moved into Christianity.
      *
      I remember someone who pontificates in these matter who once claimed ‘low caste’ origins in articles that he wrote while he was abroad, perhaps to score a point or two. But he got tamed on return home.

      • 4
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        …on these matters….

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        Whoever this pontificating person is, I admire him as almost all of us in Jaffna are low-caste Sudras. The next lower grade Sudra if from outside the peninsula, but Sudra nonetheless
        Does SJ (aka Sivasegaram) even for a moment imagine he is not a low caste Sudra?
        I recall his once claiming Maviddapuram connections which I doubt. Even if so, he would still be a low caste Sudra like me.

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          I too would have admired had he not go silent on the identity on return.

          • 3
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            BTW
            I trust that you know that the Sudras have ranks, and that the most oppressed by caste do not even qualify to be Sudra.

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              What is SJ’s rank in the hierarchy of Sudras if he admits that he is a Sudra like me?

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                Sorry,
                Whatever is my caste, I am NOT one like you at all!

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          You are wrong. actually, the caste system and hierarchy in the northern and southern parts of India are different. In the north there are the four varnas, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra and then the untouchables and tribals, who are outside the caste system. This system is based on so called racial grading, of so-called Aryan blood, which has now been proved to be nonsense. The Brahmins the purest Aryans etc. However, in the South of India and this includes Sri Lanka, the caste system is different. It is Brahmins, who originally arrived from northern India but now in reality a mixture of North Indian Brahmins and local Dravidian priestly castes who got incorporated into them and non-Brahmins and untouchables.

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            There is no Kshatriya or Vaishya or Sudra grading. As other than the Brahmins, who were considered to be of Indo-Aryan heritage the rest were all considered to be non-Aryans, again proven to be wrong was many Brahmins were mixed and many so called non-Aryan castes had an Aryan origin. The powerful so called non-Aryan ruling castes like the Vellalar, Nairs, Reddy, Naicker, Kamma etc., down south never accepted the so called northern Indian caste classification/grading based on race and power down south or being called lowly Sudra’s and this also included the rich trading castes like the Chetty. These people created huge empires like the Chera, Cholas, Pandian, Vijayanagar, Naicker and the Chettiar traders were very powerful and rich, and the so-called Aryan Brahmins down south lived under their largess.

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        SJ says “There are others that are worse: colour and gender.”

        I just returned from a funeral for a brilliant low-csste girl in her 20s who died of dengue.

        Except for my wife and me, I did not see anyone outside her caste. (There might have been one or two but were not noticeable) On the other hand, I have attended funerals of women where I saw men; funerals of dark-skinned people where I saw light-skinned folk.

        I ask SJ how gender and colour discrimination are worse than caste-discrimination as he claims. The young girl who lived in our house topped her batch at Jaffna and was well-employed. But no batchmates, no bank colleagues to mourn her.

        In covering up the evils of caste, I suggest that he, SJ, has a pro-Hindu virus that makes him sympathetic to caste discrimination, even making him belittyle the evild of caste and claim connections to Maviddapuram temple!

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          There is only pertinent issue:
          Caste hierarchy has been successfully overcome with modernism and urbanisation. (I can list many movements up and down the rung in Tamilnadu alone).
          Also caste is now far less hierarchical among the Sinhalese.
          BTW, have t=you heard of the Movement against untouchability (1967-71) in the North and what it achieved?
          Colour and gender issues proved far more difficult to erase even in capitalist Europe and the Americas.

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        well, color and gender are more obvious. Caste is a method of discriminating against your own. not that either is justified

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    Whoever this pontificating person is, I admire him as almost all of us in Jaffna are low-caste Sudras. The next lower grade Sudra if from outside the peninsula, but Sudra nonetheless
    Does SJ (aka Sivasegaram) even for a moment imagine he is not a low caste Sudra?
    I recall his once claiming Maviddapuram connections which I doubt. Even if so, he would still be a low caste Sudra like me.

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      The point I raised was about someone else.
      I wonder why it bothers you so much?
      BTW
      Think what you like about me.
      It makes no difference as I shun personal publicity.

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        Does he really shun publicity making all these comments? Even claiming Maviddapuram connections despite being from Trinco?

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          I do not indulge in personal claims or personal comments.

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            Really?

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              Compare with yourself for a start.

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                Give some thought to the kind person who goes to a funeral to conduct a survey of the caste of the people who attended the funeral.

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      Pity that the pontificating person beat a retreat on return to this island.
      I had some respect for this aspect of the person until then.

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    another excellent article by Prof. hoole.The caste of one reflects in his behaviour character at any given time. Today i hear that the alegations against the urumbirai priest by the low caste wardens have been proved wrong. Its is very sad to see the standard of university of jaffna & vavuniya. After all the high caste velallas have left jaffna, these universities are in the hands of these low caste people, who are holding the seats through political appointments

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      TT
      Do you think that the author agrees with this caste-base bigotry?

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    Yes, Caste is one of the discrimination problem among many other discrimination problems such as colour, gender, disability, religion, race etc. In Sri Lanka there was no Christianity until this country was come under the rule of European Countries. Sri Lanka had a very close relationship with India which is the origin of Hinduism and Buddhism. We all know how black people including Asians treated by Whites in UK. Still women around the world are discriminated against and in each family women are not treated equally.
    Most of the Christians in Sri Lanka are converts from Hinduism and Buddhism for many reasons but there are many castes and each caste people think they are superior to other.For example, Goviya caste people blame the Vellala caste but Goviya caste people treat others same way. But LTTE leader Pirabhaharan who is not a Vellala caste is considered as the one and only leader of the Tamil nation.
    This highlights that we need a good talented leadership committed to this country to minimise the discrimination.

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      I think these thigs are true in your generation but not necessarily the same now

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        The funeral of a brilliant low caste girl I referred to above concerns a girl 50 years my junior. That is 2 generations after me. Yet only her co-caste people attended.
        So long as people pretend that caste is gone, people will try to profit from it, even priests and bishops, and professors claiming Maviddapuram connections from Trincomalee; trying thereby to show that gender discrimination is worse than caste discrimination so that we will not fight caste and preserve their privileges from caste oppression.

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          Although it was written in the mid 1920s, Katherine Mayo’s Mother India is a very relevant exposition of gender discrimination in India and the terrible medical conditions that these young women/children suffered. I am not aware if there are any similar books about the condition of young girls/women at the same time in Ceylon/Sri Lanka. I know that child marriage is still a problem in India. I have not come across such problems here in Central Province, but I am sure SJ and others will educate me.
          Best Regards

    • 1
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      “Goviya caste people blame the Vellala caste but Goviya caste people treat others same way.”
      Let us be clear about one thing here. There is no practice of untouchability among the Sinhalese. Caste identity is a strong factor in South Asian communities, but caste-based oppression is something else.

  • 0
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    Yes the identity is important. Identity is where you draw your values from…

    Knowledge is in the past, hope is for the future…..

    It’s up to us as a society to discuss the pros and cons of the knowledge of the past and build hope for the future….

    As long as we don’t let our emotions rule us and use the knowledge of moral values carve out the hopeful future as a collective society, we can beat these demons of the past….

    A group can’t be strong than their weakest link….

    If you believe your cast, race or your religion is stronger than the others, then help others to understand their weakness to get them stronger with empathy, so together we will get stronger as a nation….

    Eventually the actions will speak louder than words…

    Monkeys love to praise their own tail…

    If you don’t love your neighbours then you are drawing your values from the wrong place…

    As Ghandi said, eye for an eye will make the whole world blind

    • 3
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      S
      “Yes the identity is important.”
      Yes, over emphasis of it can lead to the situation in your last line where you quote of Gandhi.

  • 4
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    GRATEFUL TO TT</b/
    TT has drawn attention to one of the main points of the article, namely the following?

    Why is Bishop Rodrigo sitting back and seemingly supporting, appointing and reappointingnmembers of his caste who do wrong.

    Would the bishop make a statement on whether it is correct to distribute Hindu holy ask in church? What does the constiution say about it?

    Why is he not having an inquiry into the large scale looting of the church?

    Why are Anglicans still giving to the church knowing that the church is being looted by the Bishop’s appointees? Why are Anglicans still coming to this church?
    Why was Fr. Janahan humiliated on false charges when those who abused him in filth in church were left alone?

    Why is the Urumpirai Treasurer still continuing after accusing Fr. Janhan of stealing money when it was still reflected in the treasurer’s books that parishioners say he was unable to read?

    Is anyone in Colombo taking a cut from these thefts? Is the Archdeacon clean?

    Is an inquiry into the Bishop’s do-nothing position lawful?

  • 4
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    I have an email from Bishop Dushantha Rodrigo in response to my article. Since it is not marked confidential, I feel free to post it here:

    Dear Mr Hoole,

    I acknowledge your email dated 26th November 2023.

    I have inquired into matters raised by you and I am convinced that there has not been anything sinister in the circumstances, as made out by you in your email.

    I urge you to be fair and reasonable in the conclusions you draw and refrain from casting aspirations which are derogatory in nature.

    It is unfortunate that we have members of our congregations who still make their caste an issue in the life of the Church.

    I hope that influential individuals such as yourself, can undertake a campaign to educate our congregations on the values of humanity in God’s creation. Perhaps, you could lead by example.

    With prayers and blessings

    +Dushantha

    The Right Reverend Dushantha Rodrigo
    Bishop of Colombo
    Church of Ceylon – Diocese of Colombo
    368/3A, Baudhaloka Mawatha,
    Colombo 07.
    Tel: (+94)112692985/112696208/112684810
    Fax: (+94)112684811

    • 4
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      “I have an email from Bishop Dushantha Rodrigo in response to my article. Since it is not marked confidential, I feel free to post it here”
      Funny why the person making the claim has to write under a pseudonym!

  • 5
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    Dear Bishop,

    Thank you. It is not only members of the congregation who make caste an issue It seems that even the church discriminates as when Fr. Janahan was punished while you let those who accused him using obscenities get away and will remain Wardens. How can Fr Janahan even work with such oeople?

    Yes you did conduct an inquiry as you say and restored Fr. Janahan. But after humiliating him, a priest, by stopping him from celebrating mass last Sunday, why not announce that he did no wrong? It is the minimum you owe him.

    I am assured that you did not speak to any of those making the many accusations there are that remain uninvestigated. How did you finish your inquiry so fast without speaking to the relevant persons?

    Your reply, I respectfully state, shows that many things are wrong with the church. Sorry to be so unconvinced

    Sincerely,

    Jeevan Hoole

  • 3
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    the effect of illiterate people holding office reflected at st.james church nallur was ,when the neighbours of st.james cemetary encroached the land that belonged to the church, these illiterate wardens endorsed the encroachment by doing a drawing with the encroachment. Did they get any share from the encroachers? when the church funds that was collected for the bicentinary celebration was wasted on soveniors & the soveniors were found thrown on the floor, it was again the same set of illiterate wardens who come to power , by bringing in numbers of the their community at the AGM. Why the accusors ( who brought in false complaint against fr.janahaan)of urumbirai church the low caste illeterate wardens & treasurer weren’t punished? are they backed by the archdeacon?

  • 0
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    The Money Grabbing Anglican Church
    I have already noted how a Warden at St. James’ Nallur certified by the Bishop charged Rs. 15,000 from a person who was asked to give lunch to the parish and after she agreed more than doubled the agreed-to bill by charging for using his cauldron and coconut scraper for cooking.
    Today a Johnian complained how there is a separate overseas charge at St John the Baptist, Chundikuli..
    His family already owns a grave. They simply wanted to inter his mother’s ashes. She had been cremated abroad The Church is asking US$150. The comparable rate for locals
    Church is like the zoo and Pinnawelawhere there is a foreigner rate.

  • 0
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    Sorry. Got accidentally sent
    The burial rate for locals is Rs. 15,000 at St. James’

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