by "Watch-Right"

The Pope has recently gone round the world and apologised for the great destruction the Catholic Church has caused to other cultures. Factually speaking, this includes, horrors such as: invasion, war, rape, murder, genocide and destruction of unique architecture and priceless temples. This systematic destruction of buildings and temples of the countries they invaded, has obliterated the evidence of the inspiration and culture of the many, and diverse civilisations they conquered.

It is all as a result of the treaty of Tordesillas (1494), in which the Borgia Pope Alexander VI, allotted all lands newly discovered and those lands yet to be discovered around the world, to either Spain or Portugal. He, as the Representative of God on earth, claimed ownership of the entire world. He gave all the Americas except Brazil to Spain. The eastern half of the Globe was given to the Portuguese with the addition of Brazil.

This Pope believed that foreign cultures and civilisations needed his brand of Christianity. His authority to do this is to be found in the Bible. The Five Books of Moses give us numerous instances where the God of the Bible incites his chosen people to wage war, kill, murder and exterminate peoples of other cultures and even practise the worst form of aggression - the rape of women and smashing of young children on rocks.

This donation of the entire world and all that lived in it to the Spanish and Portuguese by this Pope, for the single purpose of Christianising the world, resulted in them going out and conquering and forcible colonising, and exerting their will by force and superiority of arms, all round the globe. They were not restrained, they whole-heartedly asserted their rights and invaded and fought and conquered all done in the pursuit of religion.

Eminent historians, who usually belong to Christian institutions and countries, do not record these aspects.

There was no necessity to have any moral compunction because the Pope had given them authority and besides, was always ready to issue Papal indulgences to absolve them from accusations of sin. The Pope's sole desire was to bring Christianity to distant lands and baptise their populations. "Heathenism" was made a capital offence and this included Buddhism which more than any other religion had practised love, compassion, kindness and friendship everywhere it took root and it raised populations to cultural heights they had never known before.

The treaty of Tordesillas was, therefore, the prelude to the Portuguese intervention in Sri Lanka. They arrived here in the year 1505 and by the middle of the sixteenth century they had upturned the tens-of-centuries-old Buddhist traditions by installing an apostate King, Don Juan Dharmapala (1541-1593), whose treacherous actions spelt doom for the populace and its culture. This puppet King had been brought up and indoctrinated by Franciscan monks since childhood and was only too willing to do their bidding. So crippled was his mind, he even went to the extent of offering his kingdom, which by implication meant the whole country, to the Portuguese by a legal deed on January 19th, 1591.

Under Dharmapala, the Portuguese had free reign to expropriate and destroy Buddhist temples and places of worship. In Kelaniya, for example, a temple building known to classical literature as Kitsiri Mevan Paya, probably the work of a Polonnaruwa king in the twelfth century, disappeared without trace. It was part of the Kelaniya Mahavihara, known as one of most sacred places of Buddhist study and worship in medieval Sri Lanka. It had been hallowed by the legendary visit of the Buddha and had a large repertoire of historical and mythological associations. It was built, or rather rebuilt by King Vijayabahu III, (1232-1236) and enlarged by his successor Parakrama Bahu II (1236-1270). The restoration activities of the temple by these two monarchs find special mention in the Sri Lankan chronicle Culavamsa written during that time (Ch. 81: 59-61). According to this chronicle the Kelaniya Temple was five storeys high with traditional styling and roofing.

The Portuguese Captain of Colombo, Diogo de Melo attacked this temple - this temple of inestimable value to the Buddhists, in 1575 and demolished it completely. The villagers resisted, but they were either killed or thrown into the Kelani river and were drowned. Later generations clung on to the stone remains, burned oil lamps to them and worshipped them. As if this desecration and destruction of the Kelaniya temple was not enough they built the Church of Saint Anne at the site of the ruined stupa. But, after the Dutch drove out the Portuguese, they requisitioned the stone remains and used them for the construction of their Colombo fort.

This devotion to the remains of Kitsiri Mevan Paya in Kelaniya clearly demonstrates the love and devotion of Buddhists of those unhappy times, to their sacred precincts, and the great sense of loss and grievance these remaining people felt at that time.

The physical harm and ruin to Sri Lanka brought about by the Portuguese is colossal by any reckoning. The list should always include the following:

(1) The burning and destruction of the city of Kotte located near to Colombo, with its three-tiered Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Kotte was the capital City at that time.

(2) Great seats of learning such as Pepiliyana, and Totagamuwa,

(3) The ancient towns of Kalutara, Weligama, Matara, Dondra and Ratnapura were also all reduced to ruins.

No Buddhist temples were allowed in Portuguese territory. In Kelaniya they built the Church of St. Anne beside the demolished Dagaba.

Upon entering any village, they systematically destroyed its nerve centre, the temple and erected Christian shrines some of them, which later became big churches. They put to the sword all those who resisted conversion to Christianity. If not for records left by the Portuguese themselves, it would be difficult to imagine the extent of terror, horror and torture practised by the Portuguese in their efforts to convert the country to Christianity. Only those who joined the Portuguese bandwagon can condone and forget these heinous atrocities and believe that Christianity is a religion of peace and love.

All this social and cultural destruction amounted to the killing of the soul of the Sinhala people. And in addition to all this, is the Orwellian-like crippling of their minds as a result of the doctrines introduced.

All this calls for an apology and reparations by the Pope for the indisputable past atrocities in Sri Lanka, as he is doing in other countries. The question of reparation is pressing and urgent. And specialists must work out reparations, now. Payment of adequate reparation can only be a token given in recognition of this colossal damage.


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