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Forcible Religious Conversion

 

In expressing their concern over the Prohibition of Forcible Religious Conversion Bill (Daily News 15/07/04) the Presbyterium of the Diocese of Chilaw, presided over by Bishop of Chilaw, Rt.Rev Frank Marcus Fernando, referred to 'the forcible take over of schools in 1960'.

This is not the whole truth, it is a half-truth. The popular belief, reinforced by the Churches, is that Christian schools were forcibly taken over by the Government. What actually happened was a little different.

Most of the church schools depended almost entirely on government financing. In almost all of them the majority of children were Buddhist although the schools were very careful to avoid recruitment of non-Christian teachers, even though their salaries were provided by the government of a Buddhist country.

It was this financing that ceased and at the same time the government prevented the schools from levying fees. As a result they had a choice of closing down, going it alone or becoming part of the state school system. Most chose the latter but a few of the larger schools became private institutions and kept their independence. As a matter of fact, Buddhist and Hindu schools too were affected by the same laws and became part of the state school system.

The above is very different from forcibly taking over schools. The wonder is that it didn't happen earlier. Can you imagine the Christian government of a Christian country financing Buddhist schools that teach Christian children? It's unthinkable. The churches have always seen education as a means of conversion. It took the courage of Sirimavo Bandaranaike to take on the power of the churches and this later contributed to the attempted coup of 1962.


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