27 October, 2021

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Religious Conversions, The Law & The Religion Of The Tamil People

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole

Maravanpulavu Sachchithananthan

A controversy has arisen in Jaffna after Maravanpulavu Sachithananthan who claims to be a member of the Federal Party’s Central Committee (while the party general secretary Xavier Kulanayagam says he is not even a member). He wrote a long letter of complaint alleging forced conversion of Tamils to Christianity. He holds that religious conversions are wrong, especially of Tamil Hindus. In particular, he has accused the Bishop of Mannar of over 30 anarchic activities. He also refers to forced conversions in Tellippalai (Kalaikathir, Eela Nadu, TamilWin) on and around 23 Sept. 2021).

I have not heard of forced conversions to Christianity here when Christians have little power to force conversions in present times. On closer examination, Sachithananthan is referring to the parents of a Tellippalai girl refusing permission for her to marry a boy unless he takes baptism. There is no force in this, and the groom was being given a choice.

Maravanpulavu Sachithananthan

One daily reported Sachithanathan’s allegations as fact although the Mannar Bishop has been in office just for a short time. Inquiries are in order to determine if the allegations are supported by evidence, but not by Sachithananthan or the Sri Lanka government which is the biggest perpetrator of unethical conversions through lavish support for Buddhists.

To be sure, Sachithananthan is the leader of Sri Lanka’s Siva Senai that plastered Jaffna with posters in 2018 asking us to vote for candidates who will support the Saivite religion and the Tamil Language. Shiv Sena founder Uddhav Thakeray has insulted South Indians for our dress (Uthao Lungi, Bajao Pungi – i.e., “Remove those who wear the sarong [that is, South Indians], and celebrate the event”). In Bombay, Shiv Sena cadres became involved in various attacks against South Indian workers. They vandalized South Indian restaurants asking them not to serve the large number of Tamil migrant workers there, and pressured employers to hire Marathis. Lakmal Harischandra has detailed some of Siva Senai’s activities. They reflected the “Masala Vadai, Appita Eppa” (We do not want Masala Vadai) ethos of the Bandaranaike era.

Based on these complaints, Vidura Wickremanayake, the current State Minister of National Heritage, and Rural Arts has initiated action. This news comes at a time when K. Rajkumar the Secretary of the “Association of those Disappeared in the Tamil Motherland” has just announced that many of the disappeared persons from the LTTE and other Tamil organizations are now converted to be Sinhalese and Buddhists. Many Hindu temples are being taken over as Buddhist temples as at Chemmalai. There are reports from border areas where old government buildings like a hospital have become Buddhist temples. To go to a government that does these things is for Sachithananthan to empower forced conversions to Buddhism.

Is religious conversion wrong? Are all religions the same? Is there a religion for the Tamils?

Sachithananthan assumes yes to all three of the above, whereas I hold the right answer to all three is no. We take these up now.

Tamil Religious History

It is good to look at the religious history of the Tamils first. Religion should really make us better people and where our religion fails to do that there is a good reason to jettison our religious attachment. Historically we Tamils have always done that.

In ancient times we Tamils worshipped rivers, trees and mountains, besides blood and war drums. Then Buddhist missionaries from Emperor Asoka’s time came to us and we had the high period of Buddhism and Jainism, the time of the Epics – Silappadikaram and Manimekalai – with vegetarianism, animal hospitals and rest houses and tree-planting. This period of religious freedom also saw the entry of Christianity with St. Thomas.

The sharing of the Good News is inherent to the Christian faith. As Jesus taught, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” This sentiment has been expressed by a Hindu savant too – yaan petra inpam … –the joy I received is to be shared. If one has something that one believes is of value, to share it is natural. As Christ was taken up to heaven, he commanded Christians to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” to spread the Good News and the values of the Christian faith. To say that Christians must not share the Good News is to prohibit Christianity and a violation of religious rights.

In South India, the Buddhist-Jaina period was followed by the Thevaram period as Saivite missionaries expanded. Although initially a peaceful expansion, we see the first coerced conversions as Saivites’ strength of numbers grew. Conversions to Saivism began to be coerced; for example we see Saint Sivagnasampanthar ordering the death by impalement of 8000 Jain teachers who refused to convert. The event is still celebrated to this day at the great Madurai Temple (Nambi Andar Nambi, Aludaiya Pillaiyar Tiru-ula-malai, Stanzas 59 and 74) towards the close of the last millennium – Jesudason (1961; p.79); Kingsbury and Phillips (1921, pp. 11, 29); Sastri (1958, p. 413) and Majumdar (1960, p. 430).

Nilkanta Sastri says that many Buddhist temples were made Hindu temples in this period, i.e., the end of the last millennium during the ascendancy of the Cholas.

Growth and Demise of Christianity

Tracing the ups and downs of Christianity among Tamils, one can discern these changes in religion. There are two Christian cycles.

In the first century itself St. Thomas is said to have established the Church among the Tamils (mainly in Kerala, which was Tamil then, but also in Madras). Although Christianity is now firmly rooted in Kerala there, among Tamils the Church has almost collapsed. Marco Polo (1293) first reports the story of the martyrdom of St. Thomas on the Mount, but the shrine on the Greater Mount was visited by Hindus and Muslims, as well as by the Christians themselves. Thirty years after Marco Polo heard the story of St. Thomas, Friar Odoric found some fifteen houses of Nestorian Christians beside the church, but the church itself was filled with idols. A century later Conti reckoned a thousand Nestorians in the city; yet early in the sixteenth century Barbosa found the church in ruins, with a Muslim fakir charged with keeping a lamp burning.

In keeping with the adage that the religion of the king is the religion of the people (quoting from King Chankili II), throughout history we Tamils have switched religions for various reasons. For example during the Dutch period, Tamils converted to the Dutch Reformed faith to position themselves to get government jobs. The political symbiosis between the Dutch Reformed Church and Dutch colonization is akin to the symbiosis between Buddhism and Asoka’s expanding rule, or Saivism and the ascendency of the Chola kingdom. Parents had to be married for children to inherit property – which meant marriage in the Dutch Reformed Church. For that, and to get government employment, people had to be members of the Reformed Church.

Colonial Secretary Emerson Tennent writing in 1850 (pp. 73-74) says that, unlike the Sinhalese, we Tamils readily accepted in succession the conflicting claims of Roman and then Dutch doctrines. As public practice of Hinduism was prohibited under the Dutch, even the majority of Brahmins, unable to bear the loss of income and social status, readily professed the Christian faith with their wives and families, whereas there was no record of even one Muslim being induced to covert. All important personages in Jaffna, and the three Mudaliars, were baptized (Rev. Fr. Fernao Queyroz, 1688, Rev. Fr. S.G. Perera’s translation, 1930, p. 659).

In 1619 when Jaffna was annexed by Portugal, there were 1200 Christians. However from 1624 to 1626, Franciscan monks alone baptized 52,000 Tamils. Tikiri Abeysinghe of University of Colombo (1986, p. 54) confirms this.

Following this, in Jaffna’s population of 278,759, Protestant Christians numbered 180,364, or more than two thirds of the population. In those days of low population growth, discounting the Muslims who refused to convert, it may be surmised that all Hindus had taken baptism, even though Hinduism had been prohibited only in the towns by the Dutch.

This number then begins to fall. Prof. S. Pathmanathan, citing the Dutch historian Valentyn, informs us that in 1722 Jaffnapattinam had 189,388 Christians. 38 years later, by 1760, this number had fallen to 182,226. This was towards the end of Dutch rule when they were less strict about Hinduism, and allowed the rebuilding of Hindu temples.

After the arrival of the British in the 4-year period 1802-1806, Non-Roman Christianity had virtually vanished. According to a Christian priest in Jaffna in 1806, once magnificent Churches were seen in ruins, with a Hindu preacher in charge of all the ruins in the province.

Today, we seem to be at the end of the second cycle of Christianity. Already like Friar Odoric finding idols in Church, today we see the picture of Jesus in offices and buses placed with other deities. The mainline churches are fearful of aggressive Buddhism. The Roman Catholic and National Christian Council Churches tacitly accuse the new “Fundamentalist Churches” of unethical conversions even as they in their joint statement state that all religions in Sri Lanka send out missionaries and perform works of charity:

The fact that missionaries are being sent out from Sri Lanka to propagate religion in other countries demonstrates our appreciation and our exercise of that fundamental right in other countries. No fetters should be placed in the path of the exercise of that freedom by legislative or other means. All religions teach their adherents to perform works of charity and all such works of charity cannot be permitted to be criminalized on the assertion that they serve as allurements. It is both a basic feature and duty of all religions to teach and propagate their faith, for in doing so they spread the highest human values.

They affirm the longstanding tradition of doing good works and preaching the Good News. However, they stab the new churches in the back for doing the same.

This second cycle of moving away from Christianity seems to be approaching its peak. Already Christian grooms are difficult to find in Tamil areas. Against biblical principles, many Christian women are marrying outside the religion and marrying in two ceremonies, one Hindu and one Christian. The church looks the other way ignoring that they are performing sacred marriage rites for a couple that is already now married. Given that Hinduism is ascendent in these times, the children effectively become Hindus, or by becoming polytheistic. Naturally, the Churches are compromised in singing Hari Krishna hymns and even preaching the Bagavad Gita from the pulpit, alluding to all religions being the same. How can they be the same when the Bagavad Gita (4.13) says we Sudras (that is nearly all Tamils in Sri Lanka) were created as bad people by Him based on our works. Most of us, despite being Sudra, have seen unwinnable debates being closed by saying the opponent has shown his caste qualities (chaathi puththi). That Bagavad Gita verse is ingrained in Tamil society. Any of us Sudras with dignity and a little pride would resist this oppressive narrative and seek out faith doctrines that acknowledge our full humanity and bring out the best in us.

At the consecration and enthronement of the Bishop of Jaffna, it was comical to see consecrating Bishops wearing Siva’ pottu to pass on the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands in colorful, expensive chasubles (vestments). At a later ceremony I saw Bharata Natyam in front of the altar, an altar where we the faithful are asked to bow in reverence every time we pass.

To the objective observer, it should seem clear that we are in a period of history where Hinduism is ascendant, and Christianity is on the wane. The false narrative of forced conversions to Christianity are a weapon of the Shiv Sena nationalism, which aims to stir up ill-feeling and violence.

Our history shows that Tamils have always been open to other faiths – it is how we have survived waves of war, expansion, and colonialism where others have died out. But now, those who assert Hinduism as the Tamils’ one true religion are coercing us to abandon our histories, and the diversity within us.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 9
    4

    Atheism is the best belief system of all. Atheists have never killed anyone for reasons related to faith. Religion by itself is not bad, and the troubles start only when people treat it with far more seriousness than it deserves.

    • 8
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      There is no such thing as forced conversion. In the particular case mentioned, the couple has the option of a civil marriage if the Church refuses to officiate. Does reciting Gathas make you a Buddhist? Or does dunking yourself in a river make you Christian?
      As Dr.Hoole notes, no Muslims seem to get converted, and there aren’t any complaints of pressure on them to convert. But non-Muslims do take up Islam for various reasons. The famous musicians AR Rahman and Cat Stevens are good examples.
      Poor (and not-so-poor) Buddhists do convert to Evangelical Christianity. But there is no force involved. The Buddhist hierarchy should compare their opulent existence with the generally austere Evangelicals to find out why.
      In any case, many people who pride themselves as followers of any particular religion are just plain hypocrites. That’s obvious from the number of rapes, robberies, murders and frauds we see every day.

      • 2
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        old codger – EVIDENCE ON VEDAS (The other aricle is closed for comments or replies).
        The word-limit prevented me adding this line to my previous comment regarding Vedas.
        .
        When you read about King Vaishrawana (Vismakarma) and King Rawana (the Third or Sakvithi Ravana), it may look like they are contemporaries. But, don’t be misled. They are NOT.

        • 3
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          Champa,
          So where is the link?

          • 2
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            old codger
            Pleasse read the first part of my reply under your question appeared on the other article. I have given you ample information.
            All books are not available on line for me to show the link.
            Just as I had, found tbe books and read them, I suggest you to do the same. Easy.

            • 2
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              Champa,
              The Vedas are indeed available online at
              https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/
              At least now, show me a page that mentions Ravana’s nuclear weapons.
              Religious scripture is just that. It isn’t history. History needs proof from independent sources. Is there a single inscription by Ravana in SL?

              • 0
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                old codger
                Ha ha ha. Be my guest and read them by yourself. I don’t need links. You are the one who wanted a link. And please don’t forget to read the books in Vedic Sanskrit, not fake Indian Sanskrit.
                For your information, Vedas are not religious scriptures. They are ancient science books. Our ancestors have written religious books in Pali/Magadha.
                Vedas written by Sakvithi Rawana are the oldest written works in the world. They cover all the countries he ruled. As you know, there was no India at the time. Of course there are inscriptions, although crooks in the Archaeological Department didn’t document them. There have been more than one Rawana. That is why people are super confused. I learnt the evidence-based history of ancient Lanka by myself. I suggest you do the same.

                • 1
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                  Champa,
                  So, you can’t provide evidence, naturally.
                  Even I can say that I have read Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and that proves that fairies exist, and wolves can talk.
                  Same with the Vedas. The gullible can read anything into them. But if you have any knowledge of science and technology, you will know what is possible and what isn’t.

      • 11
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        OC
        There is much money changing hands, promise of material benefits, and shameful acts of deception that one cannot ignore.
        Very few convert by conviction.

        • 7
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          S.J,
          True there are material benefits. In Portuguese times it was a chance to escape from one’s caste niche. Can’t blame those who converted. But their descendants are pretty much convinced by now. When it is advantageous, people have been known to embrace whatever religion is currently advantageous.

          • 6
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            OC
            Thanks.
            Ambedkar offered Buddhism as a way out of Hindu untouchability.
            EVR offered rejection of all religion and learning English as the way out.
            I agree that it is right for a person to leave a religion that does not accept him/her equality in worship.
            (There is someone on these pages constantly referring to Muslims and Sinhalese as low caste Hindu converts, and only I seem to object.)
            But what I referred to was the rather cynical manipulation of poverty.

            • 3
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              S.J,
              The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an interesting lot. You should see this Australian exposé.
              https://youtu.be/gDwHdj7plWo

          • 4
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            old codger

            ” When it is advantageous, people have been known to embrace whatever religion is currently advantageous.”

            This is also true when you consider those who switch their loyalty to current leaders or political parties when they see they could benefit from new relationships.

            You should consider becoming member of SLPP, UNP, JVP, FP, NFF, CP, SLFP, SJB, SLMC, BBS, …………………………………. all at the same time.

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              Native,
              I wouldn’t mind joining anyone who will meet my terms. But that’s more than a buth packet and arrack.

      • 2
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        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

        For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

        • 4
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          soman

          I am worried about you.

          • 1
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            Sri Lanka is the only country where minorities are free to **** the majority at will.

            Soma

            • 5
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              soman

              “Sri Lanka is the only country where minorities are free to **** the majority at will.”

              Good point.
              Did you mean Thirukumar Nadesan and Nirupama Rajapaksa?

              • 2
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                Native,
                Naughty, naughty.

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                  old codger

                  You are dirty old man.

    • 8
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      Captain Morgan,
      .
      ‘Atheists have never killed anyone for reasons related to faith.’
      .
      Mao Tse Tung and his Red Guards were Atheists, how many deaths were they responsible for?

      • 4
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        Soma,
        Read again. There was no faith involved, unless you think Marxism is a religion (??)

      • 3
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        Svenson: Mao Tse Tung and his Red Guards killed people for ideological (political) reasons, and that had nothing to do with religion. Other atheists too may have killed people for various reasons other than religion. My point is that it does not make any sense at all to kill in the name of religion but religious fanatics continue to do exactly that.

    • 2
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      CM,

      You may be right. China, the becoming world power for the future, but marginalizing all other nations aside, does not have a religion above them, but some rituals, that young generational inherit from their parents and grand parents. Most of them today, would not agree to be buddhist, MOST OF THEM ARE ATHEISTS.. but they would not be away from their culture and tradition. It is like – apples fall not far from the tree; if you would raise their question about their religion. So that has proved, also without religions and religious beliefs as guidance, countries and nations can be developed from their scratch states to prosper if the developement would be based on materials.
      .
      Religions are man made theories for their survival. There are gaps between evolution theories and the creation of human beings. That is why even experts in BIOMEDICINE yet today believe in some sort of unknown, invisible forces should be behind the human creation. They tend to keep away the human being (home sapiens) from the other animals. However, to me, it is not right. With the fact what human beings have discovered over the centuries is not more than what they failed to do so, none of us yet today can draw conclusions about the unknown forces behind human beings.

  • 4
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    Maravanpulavu sachithananthan has strong connection with Indian BJP party specially with Tamil nadu bramins who are from RSS background. I remembered one time this guy and his friend and leader of indhu makkal kadchi ( hindu people party) Arjun sampath mentioned that until srilankan Tamil choose a leader who is a patriotic hindu and embrace Hinduism India wont help sl Tamils to reach a reasonable solution for their struggle. Sl Tamils are not anyway under the Indian Bramins and this is always irritating the bramins in India and this Guy Sachi and his friend Yogeswaran ( batticalo mp) both are using by them to destabilize the peace among tamils in srilanka. Indian government is planning to annex North and eastern srilanka with India in the name of hindu Tamils. This guy Sachi is the main tool for their long term agenda. Sl intelligence officers please take note.

    • 0
      5

      why?

    • 6
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      “Maravanpulavu Sachithananthan has strong connection with Indian BJP party specially with Tamil nadu bramins”
      BJP, yes.
      RSS, probably.
      BJP Brahmins in Tamilnadu?
      *
      Jayalalitha was the leader of the AIADMK, and even clashed with the Kanci Kamakodt Mutt, but was subject to Brahmin influence within limits.
      The BJP has as much Brahmin presence in Tamilnadu as the CPI(M).
      If Brahmins are politically manipulative, they operate in Delhi than in Tamilnadu.

      *
      MS is small fry.
      I wonder if any important Tamil political party’s leadership, much to its credit, will like to have much to do with him.

  • 7
    2

    Jeevan Hoole is into his customary mischief. So much so, I have no hesitation in calling him a troublemaker.
    .
    Maravanpulavu Sachchithananthan is a nonentity. Hoole is using him to stir trouble.

  • 5
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    Dr. Hoole,
    I am highly skeptical of the story of Saint Thomas visiting India in AD 52. When I visited IIT-Madras some decades ago, I did visit Mylapore, including the Hindu temples and the Santhome church, which is claimed to have the tomb of St. Thomas under it. People can believe anything they want, but I have no doubt that Christianity among Tamils was a result of the Western colonial project, which came much later.
    And as others have said above, Maravanpulavu Sachchithananthan is relatively unknown to many people in SL. Once I heard from my Indian American friend originally from Calcutta that MS was asking for financial support for poor Hindus in SL affected by the war. Despite my strong secular outlook, my opinion at that time was that the war-affected people among SL Tamils need all the help they need; that means the Catholics can reach out to the larger worldwide church and the Pope; Anglicans can likewise reach out for help from their churches worldwide, and the Hindus can seek the help of fellow Hindus in India. That in itself is not a problem at all. While the BJP is supported by RSS, there are many average moderate Hindus who also support BJP since the alternative, Congress, is considered too corrupt, dominated by the incompetent grandchildren of Indira Gandhi, and too lenient about illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

    • 2
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      Agnos
      ‘Syrian Christians’ are similar orthodox churches in N Africa, Syria, Egypt (Coptic Christians) and others.
      Their arrival precedes by centuries that of Islam which preceded Roma Catholic Christianity.
      There is reason to believe early spread, regardless of the role of St Thomas.
      Some historians argue that it is older than the modern post-Sankara Hinduism that we know.
      There was not much effort to convert and Syrian Christians are mostly confined to parts of Kerala.

    • 1
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      Agnos,
      “People can believe anything they want, but I have no doubt that Christianity among Tamils was a result of the Western colonial project”
      There are Christians and Christians, all of whom are not the same.
      Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are indeed connected to colonialism. But you must remember that there was trade between the Middle East and India long before the rise of Islam. So, Middle Easterners who came to India were mostly Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians. There was a Jewish community in India till Israel was formed. The Syrian Christians still thrive, and their liturgical language is Syriac, a Semitic language, not Latin.
      The church you visited in Chennai was first Syrian, then Catholic, and presently Anglican.

      • 1
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        Agnos,
        The legend of St.Thomas may or may not be valid, like the legend of the Buddha visiting us three times, but there is no doubt about the antiquity of Indian Christianity. At the latest, they may have arrived as refugees from Muslim persecution, like the Persians who landed up in Gujarat and are now know as Parsees.

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          It may or may not have been St. Thomas but definitely, some important Jewish disciple of Lord Jesus Christ had arrived soon after his ascension to the ancient Tamil Chera country to start his missionary work and convert many local Tamils to Christianity. However, there is a very strong indication it was. Thomas, as there are too many stories and incidents, with regards to him and his presence from many places not only in Kerala, which was at that time Tamil Chera Nadu but also in many areas in current Tamil Nadu, finally resulting in his martyrdom at the St. Thome Hill in Chennai, at the insistence of the local Tamil Brahmins, who were getting agitated as he was converting many upper-caste Tamils, Brahmins, Chettiars and Vellalar to Christianity. Remember at that time there were large Jewish colonies and settlements in the Tamil Chera country from the time of King Solomon but many arrived and settled after the destruction of the second temple in 70CE. There is a sect amongst the Syrian Christian of Kerala called Knanaya, who are descended from Sephardic Jews who converted to Christianity. Many of their customs and rituals are Jewish and different from the other Syrian Christian sects. I came across one of these families in Melbourne, they speak Malayalam and are very Malayalam in their culture but they looked very western Asian or Sephardic.

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            The modern Syrian Christians of Kerala, are a mixture of the original St. Thomas Christian Chera Tamil converts and the Tamil Brahmin, Chettiar and Vellalar converts from what is modern Tamil Nadu, who fled the strongly Hindu Chola country and took refuge in then Tamil Chera country that was very tolerant and where the vast majority of the converted St. Thomas Tamil Christians lived. Around 5% of their DNA shows that they also have Sephardic Jewish ancestry. This excludes the Knanya who are of Jewish ancestry. Later thousands of Syrian Christians from western Asia fled and took refuge in Tamil Chera Nadu, to escape Islamic persecution and gradually these ancient St. Thomas Tamil Christians and this Syrian Christian community started to intermarry and the modern Syrian Christian community of Kerala was born. Originally they used ancient Syriac and Tamil as their liturgy. Later in 1820 when the British banned the use of the local Tamil dialect, they started to use Syriac and modern Malayalam.

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              The Portuguese actually persecuted them, as they did not like an ancient orthodox native Christian sect rivalling Catholicism. However, they still intermarried into them. The modern Syrian Christian is now a mixture of the original St. Thomas Tamil Christians from what was then ancient Tamil Chera and Chola Nadu, Jewish converts to Christianity, Syrian Christians who fled Islamic persecution and some Portuguese. If you look at many of the customs of the Syrian Christians and their rituals, it is very Hindu. Traditionally even their churches were built like Hindu temples, oil lamps were lit and many other Hindu customs were followed and part of their ritual. This may be due to the fact that the original St. Thomas Christians were largely from upper caste Tamil converts to Christianity. Brahmins, Chettiars, Nairs and Vellalar.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Thomas_Cathedral_Basilica,_Chennai

  • 4
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    How many Tamil Christians (including Hoole’s predecessors) converted to Christianity not by force but by bribery, place in a Christian school etc?

  • 8
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    Traditionally Tamil people just like their close ethnic brothers and sisters in Kerala, who were also Tamil a few centuries ago, are very secular. These are the only two people in South Asia, other than the Bengalis to some extent, where the ethnolinguistic bond and identity is much stronger than the religious identity. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are the only two states in India, where the Christians and Muslims proudly and closely identify themselves, with their Tamil or Malayalam ethnic identity. Tamil is the only language that has produced, great classical literature based on most major world religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism. Seerapuranam written by Umaru Pulavar is considered one of the best classical Islamic literature written in South Asia. The Tamil Christian classic Thembavani, written 350 years ago, by an Italian Jesuit priest from Bologna, named Fr. Constantine Beschi, also known as “Veermamuniver” in Tamil is another great classic. It is a shame if this secular nature of the Tamil people is now being tested by Hindu, Christian and Islamic extremists, who are now trying to divide the Tamil people in the name of religion and alien doctrines. Christianity came to the Tamil country 2000 years ago with the arrival of St. Thomas, to then Tamil Chera country now called Kerala and even to areas in modern Tamil Nadu.

    https://www.onlinekanyakumari.com/first-church-in-tamil-nadu/

    • 7
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      However contrary to what Prof. Hoole states, the Christian parents of this young couple are in love and want to marry. should allow the couple to decide what is best for them, and not force the groom to convert to Christianity. This is forced conversion, as they are using a situation to forcibly convert someone to their religion. The Hindu parents of the Groom are not making such demands, asking the girl to convert to Hinduism. They are behaving in a more civilized and cultured manner, in my opinion. Will Prof. Hoole, who is well known for his Christian zealotry and is now defending the Christian parents of the bride for demanding the groom to convert to Christianity before marriage, will he have the same opinion if the Hindu parents of the groom demanded the same? He would have been jumping up and down stating forced conversion. Just leave it to the young couple and parents should not interfere. Some Tami l Brahmins in Tamil Nadu are zealots but the vast majority are not and are very tolerant. Finally, Saivaism and the worshipping of Lord Siva as the one and only supreme deity is the religion of the Dravidians/Tamils. Saivism developed as an amalgam of pre-Vedic religions and traditions derived from the southern Tamil Dravidian Saiva Siddhanta traditions and philosophies, which were assimilated in the non-Vedic Siva tradition.

  • 7
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    Power is like a magnet. When one considers religious conversion as well as political conversions one could observe certain interesting conclusions. Sociologists claim that osmosis takes place whenever two or more different cultures meet and it is always from the superior to the less superior.

    The Christian missionaries were very powerful during the colonial periods and conversions took place towards the religions patronized by them.

    After independence missionaries were more or less replaced by political parties and the people oscillate among political parties depending on who holds power. Sinhala Buddhists also hold power and they depend on political parties in power in exercising their influence.

    It is to be noted that during Donoughmore era leading Anglican Sinhala Christians switched to Buddhism when they realized that the days of colonial regime are is numbered and they became more Buddhist than the native Buddhists.

    Hindus and Muslims never held power and their influence was marginal.

    If you consider Islam, it was rigid and conversions took place only in one direction irrespective of power at the Centre.

    But Muslims .of course after independence were a different kettle of fish.

    They switched sides easily and effortlessly depending on who holds power and reaped benefits from the ruling classes until Easter Sunday massacre intervened.

  • 3
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    srikrish,
    I think you have summarised briefly accurately about religious conversions within Sri Lanka. The reasons for conversions are many including power, benefits, oppression etc. I wish to point out that the caste system within the Tamil Hindu community also contributed to this conversion. We don’t need to worry too much about the Siva sena Satchithananthan because he is one of many try to be popular among few others.

    • 6
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      Not correct as the caste system amongst the Eezham Thamizh is as rigid as the Chingkallms not more not less. Further, the vast majority of the Protestant converts to Christianity are from the upper Vellalar caste. The lower castes hardly converted. The vast majority of the Catholics amongst the Eezham Thamizh are from the coastal fishing Karaiyar and other fisher castes like the Mukkuvar, Paravans and Thimilar. These castes are not considered low or unclean but middle castes. Not surprising as they lived along the coast and bore the brunt of these forced conversions to Catholicism by the Portuguese. After these coastal fishing communities, most of the Eezham Thamizh Catholics are from the upper Vellalar caste. Again largely the descendants of the former Jaffna kingdom aristocrats who again were deliberately and forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese, as a safeguard against future rebellion and as a punishment for fighting against Portuguese domination. This is why the vast majority of the descendants of the Jaffna royal family, who survived are Catholics, only a minority of them are now Hindu. Very few lower castes converted to Christianity/Catholicism but remained steadfastly Hindu. Debunking the caste system amongst the Eezham Thamizh Hindus.

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        In India other than the Syrian Christians of Kerala it was the opposite, the harshness of the Hindu caste system forced many to convert to Christianity or Islam. In Sri Lanka the colonial powers were deliberately and calculatedly targetting the upper and middle caste to convert to Christianity and during the colonial era, western education and government white-collar jobs were used as bait to convert poor upper-caste families to Christianity. Very few converted due to conviction. I am a Protestant Christian and know the actual history. My mother’s family is from Vaddukottai and my father’s are from Araly ( the neighbouring village).

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    Professor Hoole, since you love Christianity and the Tamil culture, here is a beautiful Tamil Christian devotional song and dance, that you may like. Hope the Piglet also likes the song, Listen to the beautiful words of praise to Lord Jesus Christ. The original song and dance

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJfdtM29wxw&list=RDNJfdtM29wxw&index=1

    Later
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26t3MA1Up0k&list=RDNJfdtM29wxw&index=2

  • 1
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    Thanks, Siva Sankaran Periappa, I enjoyed the song dance and music. This is also very beautiful in classical Carnatic style by Jesudas

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIizu6F4ajM

  • 0
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    Two religious fanatics at their throats – Sachchithananthan, basically a wannabe ardent pious Hindu, who is nothing but a vicious anti-Sinhalese fanatic while Hoole is an anti-Sinhalese Christian fanatic.
     
    Sachchithanathan is actually a totally idiotic wannabe clown, trying to appeal and adjust according to Shiv Sena’s policies. Siv Sena is basically an anti-Tamil organization, which actually was formed to stop Tamils coming to Mahashatra and taking up jobs there. According to some sources Shiv Sena’s slogan had been “Mumbai for Marathis” to keep the Tamils out and some years back Tamils were attacked in Mahashstra. And now, this clown Sachchithanathan thinks that he can convince Shiv Sena that the Sinhalese are attacking Hindus here, and that India should help the Tamils. Shiv Sena is so interested in the issue that Shiv Sena proposed that Hindu Tamil refugees in India should be given Indian citizenship! That’s how much they have bothered to understand what Sachchithanathan has been telling them. What Sachchithanathan is doing is actually demeaning the Tamils to these Indians who look down on the Tamils. With all the troubles with the Sinhalese, Sinhalese never look down on the Tamils.

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      The government must not get involved in this issue at all, but direct the Tamils to settle the issue among themselves, maybe in the provincial council or GOD knows where… If the government interferes in this conflict, whatever decision the government takes will be a source for bogus claims by the Tamils about the (Sinhalese) government persecuting Tamils, Hindus and Christians… A starting point for the Tamils is to try to use existing laws (until the anti-conversion bill is handled/passed), and try the issue namely whether demanding a groom to convert to Christianity is legal. I do not think its the parents who are asking the boy to convert, as Hoole is saying, its most probably the priest who is going to marry them. And the priest too has some right to demand conversion/baptism, since if he is to marry the couple, then both have to have been baptized, as the priest cannot grant holy matrimony, which is a holy sacrament, to a person who is not baptized. The groom cannot demand to marry in a Christian church if he is not baptized. The church has rules on this, which should be respected.

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