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Monks killed and ancient shrines destroyed with Churches built over them
According to MU de Silva, from 1574 onwards, the Catholic zealots kept destroying Buddhist and Hindu temples all along the Western coast. The monks and priests over there either fled or got killed or went underground. A group of militant monks called Ganinnanse discarded the traditional yellow robe and began to wear a white robe instead to hide themselves.Link
Dr Susantha Goonetilleke, who is spearheading the anti-Portuguese movement, says that the 1,000 pillared temples in Devundara in the deep south and Trincomalee in the East; the Saman Devale (temple) in Ratnapura; and the Kelaniya temple, all very much revered, were ransacked and burnt.
According to Prof Endagama, the Portuguese deliberately built churches over the ruins of Buddhist or Hindu temples. The present Kochikade church in Colombo and the Madu church in Mannar, both very popular now among Catholics, were Pattini Devales or temples for Kannagi, the famous heroine of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.Buddhist schools (pirivenas), which were also mini universities, were ransacked and burnt, and their monk-scholars killed. Among the schools thus destroyed were the Sunethra Devi Pirivena in Kotte, Vidagama Pirivena in Raigama, and the Tottagamuwe Pirivena in Hikkaduwa.
Today there hardly exists a Buddhist Temple over 150 years old in areas once ruled by the Portuguese, particularly in the maritime coast.From: Repression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, which also contains the section Execution of Buddhist monks, besides the sections Mass Conversions and Destruction and Plunder of Buddhist Temples.
The campaign against Buddhism had the involvement of three principal agencies namely -
(1) The Roman Catholic Emperor of Portugal (2) His Viceroy at Goa and (3) The Roman Catholic priests in Sri Lanka (52)
Hindu Temples were also not spared from destruction. Fellippe de Oliveria, the conqueror of Jaffna was reputed for having destroyed 500 Temples. (62)
...the Portuguese came not only for trade and territorial acquisition, but for proselytising. Historian Dr Lorna Dewaraja says that the Papal Bulls of 1452, 1455 and 1456, gave the clear go ahead to Portugal to acquire territory and convert heathens. The Pope had conferred on Portugal a monopoly on all this. Force and intrigue were used convert them [the Sinhalas and the Tamils].Link
Many coastal communities in Sri Lanka underwent mass conversion, particularly in Jaffna, Mannar, and among the fishing communities living north of Colombo such as in Negombo and Chilaw. Roman Catholic churches with schools attached to them served Catholic communities all over the country. These schools also contributed to the spread of the Portuguese language particularly among the upper classes of society.
The efforts of Roman Catholic clergy particularly the harsh methods adopted by them to convert Buddhists and reduce the influence of Buddhism among the public were viewed with great alarm by the Buddhist Sangha who had fled from Kotte to the Kingdoms of Sitavaka and Kandy, upon the conversion of Dharmapala and the seizure of Buddhist Temples.
It is generally recognised now that if Portuguese rule had continued and spread to the interior of the island, Sri Lanka would have completely lost its Buddhist heritage and become a completely Westernised and Catholic country. But even with the limited territorial reach (they were strong only in the Western maritime provinces) the impact had been deep, perhaps even indelible.Link
Divide and conquer
Tamil-Sinhala divide created by PortugueseLink
Prior to the advent of the Portuguese, there was much Sinhala-Tamil and Buddhist-Tamil amity in Sri Lanka. MU de Silva says that Hindu temples dotted the maritime provinces, though these were Buddhist-majority areas. In the Thottagamuwa school, no distinction was made between Sinhala and Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit.
According to Prof Endagama, it was the Portuguese who first created a division between the Sinhalas and the Tamils. One reason for this, according to Prof Dewaraja, was the fact that the Portuguese found it easier to convert the Tamils. [divide into smaller groups and convert]
The family system, based on respect for the elders, and the traditional framework of mutual familial obligations, began to break down because the Catholic converts were told that the only entity to be worshiped was God, Prof Endagama says.
Sri Lanka's deceived Catholic citizenry continue to look favourably upon the Portuguese invasion of their country and forced conversion of their own ancestors. It's understandable, considering how St Patrick is celebrated in Ireland, Charlemagne is accorded a positive place in European history and Columbus' discovery of America is commemorated.
In Sri Lanka, the people who still follow their indigenous religions oppose this unfounded pro-colonial attitude and the Church's whitewashing of the history of Christianity's entry into the region as some kind of benevolent force. Therefore, their historians have now started exposing the facts by writing articles
on the proselytising activities of the Portuguese and the ruthless manner in which they went about converting Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils to Catholicism. The Portuguese destroyed Buddhist and Hindu places of worship all along the Western coastline from Jaffna in the North to Humbantota in the South. They looted these places and put their priests to death.From: That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka
Their articles, bringing out the true history of Christianity in Sri Lanka, will probably not be favourably received by the country's Churches, who will doubtless shift their cries of victimisation to a higher gear in response to historical facts.
- Repression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, has sections on the enforced Mass Conversions, Destruction and Plunder of Buddhist Temples and Execution of Buddhist monks.
- Portuguese: Religious conversion and ending Tamilsí Sovereignty I, Portuguese: Religious conversion and ending Tamilsí Sovereignty IV and The Battle of Danure contain more information on this part of Sri Lanka's history.
- That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka, explains why the Sri Lankan people understandably don't like the Christian colonial period under the Portuguese.
- Christianity and Sri Lanka today
From Chapter 17 - Early History of Catholic Power in Siam and China, of the book Vietnam: Why did we go? by Avro Manhattan:
Missionaries explore Indo-China for the French East India Company
France's first bid for Asiatic dominions took place ... in the early 17th century via the French East India Company. The company's goal was to bring that region into the French commercial orbit. A less visible, though no less concrete aim, was the propagation of the Catholic faith. This last objective, although apparently prompted mainly by individual Catholics, was directly inspired by the Vatican, which backed the French East India Company from the very start.
However having established its first outposts in India, the company soon encountered unforeseen resistance by the British until the French decided to look to other fields and turned her attention to the small kingdoms of Indo-China and, in particular, to Siam. The first exploration of the new regions on behalf of the French East India Company was not undertaken by company officials or French diplomats, but by Catholic missionaries. These went with the permission and encouragement of the Vatican, under the pretense of religion, to investigate the commercial, political and strategic resources on behalf of French imperialism.
Jesuits on a mission: conversion, colonial expansion - same old story
[Captioned image] Jesuit priest Alexandre de Rhodes arrived in Indochina in 1610. A decade later he sent back to the Vatican and to France a very accurate description of the commercial, political and strategic potential. French Jesuits were promptly recruited and sent to help him in his double work of converting to Catholicism and commercial expansion. Rome and Paris considered these activities as inseparable stepping stones leading to eventual political and military occupation of these countries.Alexander de Rhodes, a Jesuit, arrived in Indo-China about 1610, and only a decade later sent a very accurate description of the possibilities of Annam and Tonkin. French Jesuits were promptly recruited to help him in his double work of converting those nations to the Catholic faith and of exploring the commercial potential. These tasks, in the eyes of both Rome and Paris, could not be separated, being the two most important stepping stones to political and military occupation.
The missionaries were so successful that by 1659 Indo-China was marked as an exclusive sphere of French commercial and religious activity. Subsequent missionaries extended their dual activities into Pegu, Cambodia, Annam and Siam. Siam, the most highly developed country of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, soon became the base for religious, commercial and political activities of both the East India Company and the Vatican. Their plans were simple: each would contribute to the Siamese subjugation according to its means; the company through its commerce, the French government through its armies, and the Vatican through its religious penetration.
Converting the ruler to force the Buddhist populace to convert
When commercial bases and missionary stations had been successfully established, the French government pressed for an official trade alliance with Siam. Simultaneously the Vatican concentrated on expanding its spiritual influence, not so much by converting the populace as by focusing upon the conversion of a single person: the Siamese king himself. If this could be accomplished, Catholic priests would then attempt to persuade the new Catholic king to admit French garrisons into the key cities of Mergui and Bangkok upon the pretext that this was in the best interests of the Catholic Church.
In 1685 the French government concluded a favorable trade alliance with its ruler. Two years later the Siamese king and the ruling elite converted to Catholicism. This powerful Catholic group set out to dominate not only the governmental machinery, but also use it to exert pressure upon the Buddhist society. Relentless streams of discriminating regulations were issued against Buddhist institutions and in favor of the Catholic minority.
Catholic Churches were erected everywhere while pagodas [Buddhist shrines] were closed at the slightest pretext or even demolished. Catholic schools replaced Buddhist ones. Discrimination against the Buddhist majority could be found at all levels. In no time the Catholics became top citizens to be found wherever there was power, privilege and wealth.The Catholic ruling elite, like in Diem's time [Vietnam under Catholic dictator Diem during the 1950s], turned into a kind of religious political Mafia, identified with the unrestricted exercise of absolute power which it used and abused without discretion. Resistance was ruthlessly suppressed by the Church's main supporter, the French, always ready to come to her help with their gunboats.
Just reward: the Thai Buddhists ban Christianity
Like with Diem, the Buddhist majority finally, after many fruitless protests, organized popular resistance. This was also ruthlessly suppressed. The measures provoked widespread anti-Catholic feelings, which in no time swept the whole country. Churches were attacked or destroyed. Catholics were hunted down and soon the resistance, which curiously started at the royal court where originally the Catholics had been so welcomed, surged at all levels. Catholic priests and French officials as well as native Catholics were expelled or arrested until finally all Catholic activities ceased. In no time the Catholic minority which had acted as the persecutors, became the persecuted. French commerce ceased entirely and missionary work was stopped. The French-Vatican bid for the political and religious control of Siam ended in 1688. Result: for a whole century and a half Siam became practically a forbidden land to both.
Conversion and colonial expansionism continue to go hand in hand even today. Venezuela expelled U.S. missionaries because they were spying for their government, scouting Venezuela for its natural resources and simultaneously forcing Christianity on its indigenous population. Missionary organisations are also thought to be spying inside China. Sufficient numbers of converts could be used to break the country and cut off the economic boom it appears to be experiencing.
Whether it's Catholicism or Protestantism (including the new Evangelical born-again forms), whether it's 300 years ago or today, it's all the same.
Christianity makes inroads into Indo-China, followed by colonialism
Historically the Catholic Church was the first Christian church to operate in the Indo-Chinese peninsula as far back as three hundred or so years ago. Vietnam was the spearhead of her penetration from the very beginning of the sixteenth century, when her stations were manned chiefly by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries.
Religious settlements were followed by commercial ones. In due course, other European nations such as England, the Netherlands and France started to compete for the attention of the native populations.
The most vigorous introducers of Western enlightenment, which in those days meant Christianity, were the Jesuits, then in the prime of their exploratory zeal. The Franciscans, Dominicans, and others, although prominent, never exerted the influence of the Jesuits who were determined to plant the spiritual and cultural power of the Church in Southeast Asia. Having arrived there about 1627, they spread their activities practically in all fields. They attempted with varied success to influence the cultural and political top echelons of society, unlike the other missionaries who contented themselves exclusively with making converts. Their efforts were helped by the printing of the first Bible in 1651, and the growing influence of several individuals, men of sophistication, who were welcomed in certain powerful circles.
Church given state protection and uses it for religious and cultural domination
The result was that in due course, owing to political intrigues and commercial rivalries, the European influence declined. The Catholic Church increased in reverse proportion however, and during the following century came to dominate the ruling elite, thanks chiefly to the liberality of certain native potentates, beginning with the Emperor GiaLong. In fact, it was mainly thanks to his protection that the Catholic Church was soon granted privileges of all kinds which she used vigorously to expand her influence.
Like in so many other instances however, the privileges very quickly gave way to abuse. In no time the Catholic communities came to exercise such a disproportionate religious and cultural domination, that reaction became inevitable throughout the land. The reaction turned into ostracism, and eventually into veritable persecution of anything European which, more often than not, meant anything Catholic.
Under missionaries, converts stage uprisings against their own indigenous governments
The Catholic communities reacted in turn. From passive opposition they became actively belligerent. Ultimately revolts were organized practically all over Cochin-China. The disorders were inspired and very often directed by the Catholic missionaries, supported by French national and commercial interests. The continuous inroad of Roman Catholicism, the spearhead of the European culture and colonial incursion into the land, in the long run inspired the hostility of the Emperor Theiu Tri, who ruled between 1841 and 1847. By this time the French intrigues with the Catholic missionaries had become so intermingled that the two ultimately became almost identical. The Catholic missions were boycotted, restrictive legislation was enforced, and Catholic activities were banned everywhere.
Cries of "persecution" followed by greater colonial imperialism - end of Vietnam's independence
The reaction in Europe was immediate cries of religious persecution. This was typical of the European Imperialism of the period [this is still true today]. In 1843, 1845, and 1847, French war vessels stormed Vietnamese ports, with the pretext of requesting the release of the missionaries. As a reply the Vietnamese rulers intensified their objections to European ecclesiastical and commercial intervention in their country. This strong Vietnamese resistance gave France and Spain further pretext to intervene.
In 1858 a Franco-Spanish force invaded Darnang. Saigon was occupied in February 1859, followed by the adjacent three provinces. In June 1862, a treaty was imposed upon Vietnam. The treaty confirmed the French conquest and gave the provinces to France. One of its clauses provided the Catholic Church with total religious freedom.Within a few years, France had occupied almost the whole country. Hanoi, in the North, was taken in 1873. In August 1873, the final "treaty" was signed. The Vietnamese independence had come to an end. The whole of Indo-China: Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, had become French colonies. The conquest had been pioneered and made possible chiefly by the activities of the Roman Catholic missionaries, and the Catholic Church which had first sent them there.
Missionaries given supreme power and start mass conversions together with turncoat converts
This was proved soon afterwards when Catholic missionaries were given special privileges throughout the new Vietnamese regions. The missionaries had not only supreme power in religious and cultural matters, but equally in social, economic and political ones. And since the power of the French military and civil authorities were always behind them, they never hesitated to use the French bayonets to impose the cross upon the reluctant natives.
Friars, Jesuits, priests, nuns, bishops and French military and civil governors set to work to implant Catholicism throughout Vietnam. The original native Catholics [early converts] were regrouped into special villages. Intensive, mass conversion to Catholicism was undertaken everywhere. Whole villages were persuaded to "see the light" either because the conversion brought food and assistance of the missionaries, or because money, position or privileges in the educational or colonial echelons were beyond the reach of anyone who refused.Such inducements, more often than not, became irresistible to those who were ambitious, restless or did not care for the traditions of their fathers. The temptation was great since only those converted were allowed to attend school, or had a chance to undertake higher education. Official positions in local and provincial administrations were given exclusively to Catholics, while the ownership of land was permitted only to those who accepted the Catholic faith. During recurrent famines, thousands of starving peasants were induced to receive baptism, either in family groups or even entire villages, prior to being given victuals from the Catholic missions. [This is still some of the methods employed by Protestant and Catholic missions today, in spite of the media's silence on the topic.]
Native converts carry on the Church's legacy
The methodical Romanizing of Vietnam was promoted not only by the machinery of the Church, it was enforced by an increasingly repressive French colonial legislation inspired behind the scenes mostly by the missionaries themselves. As a result of such intensified religious colonial double pressure, in no time the French colonial administration had been transformed into a ruthless conversion tool of the Catholic Church, over the mounting protests of the liberal religious and political sections of metropolitan France. After more than half a century of this massive ecclesiastical and cultural colonization, the native and French Catholics practically monopolized the entire civil and military administration. From there sprang a Catholic elite stubbornly committed to the Catholicization of the whole country. This elite passed the torch of the Church [down] from generation to generation...This led to the miserable state of the Vietnamese Buddhists under a Catholic dictator during the Vietnam War. Forced Christianisation and discrimination against the indigenous religion of the country caused Buddhists to immolate themselves in protest. As a result, further torments awaited these unfortunate people.
See: Recent genocide - Asia: Vietnam, for more on the plight of the Vietnamese Buddhists during the ruthless Christian dictatorship of the 1950s.
Just as Europe responded to the staged cries of "persecution" of converted Vietnamese and missionaries, the same continues to happen today in these and other non-Christian countries of the world. The methods employed in the past to convert the Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, eastern Indians, Sri Lankans, are still among those that both Catholic and Protestant missions and "relief" organisations use today. And when the Churches grow numerically stronger, they yet again start dominating non-Christian countries in religious, cultural, economic, educational, administrative and political spheres as well as in the media (whence emanate reports of Christian persecution, which never give information on the persecutions inflicted by Christians).
See the sections Recent Genocide and Present-day genocide and cultural extermination.
Vietnam - why did we go? by Avro Manhattan is also available online at a born-again Fundamentalist, Evangelical site. The author, deceased, is in no way associated with that site, its beliefs or objectives. The site hosting his book is peculiarly opposed to the Catholic branch of Christianity, but conveniently leaves out of consideration all the horrors perpetrated by various Protestant denominations in the past (including slavery and in the Americas), in recent times and in the present.
Because most Evangelical Christians don't consider Catholicism to be a Christian denomination, the editors of this evangelical site have inserted quotation marks around Avro Manhattan's use of the words Christian and Christianity whenever he referred to Catholicism as Christianity.
Baron Avro Manhattan, formerly a BBC commentator, was a prolific writer and philosopher. He's written several books critical of the Vatican's politics and policies, which made these books end up on the Roman Church's Index of Forbidden Books.