Evangelism in Sri Lanka
January 5, 2004 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Globalized fundamentalism versus tradition. This report for the Society for International Development describes the efforts of foreign funded Christian evangelists to gain converts in Sri Lanka, which the author views as an assault on traditional Sri Lankan culture. There is a backlash, which some say is leading to the suppression of religious freedom and state sponsorship of Buddhism. [Via Plastic.]
posted by homunculus (10 comments total)
This issue is quite the can of worms, or Pandora's box, or what have you. We've all read about the plans of Christian missionaries for Iraq, of course. (See the Time piece from last April as well.) There are those who see Christian values as an essential component of the democratic values we expect to instill in that part of the world:
If the U.S., in collaboration with its allies, is going to exercise a major global leadership role, Christians and churches in the U.S. have a similarly important task to ensure that the values promoted enhance global solidarity and wholeness.

(Globalization for global community: A challenge to ministerial formation, Currents in Theology and Mission, June 2003.)

This prelapsarian "wholeness," of course, is what God took away from us at the Tower of Babel. It's interesting, then, to read about the ways in which, as the article you cite says, "an ever increasing need for competence in English ... has played right into the hands of the fundamentalists bank-rolled by their American foundations." A case to consider: The Watchtower Society of the Jehovah's Witnesses publishes its tracts in 230 languages, but (no doubt for budgetary reasons) uses the same art for all — heavy on the kind of blue-eyed Jesus iconography we grew up on in American churches, and stock photography depicting identifiably American family groupings ...
posted by hairyeyeball at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2004

Excuse me. I have PERSONALLY met a Sri Lankan Christian pastor (ETHNIC Sri Lankan, NATIVE Sri Lankan, LIVES in Sri Lanka. )

Right now the Buddhists and Hindus are threatening the local Christians. They are at risk of being murdered.

I think the Sri Lankan people have as much right as anyone to choose their religion. Right now they are trying to make it illegal to convert to Christianity. Just Christianity.

I have personal friends over there, and they are over there at the invitation of the local pastor, and they are over there at the risk of their own lives. One friend who visited had a brick thrown thru a bus window hit him and break his jaw.

Funny. I always thought Hindus and Buddhists were pacifist. Stupid me.
posted by konolia at 5:03 PM on January 5, 2004

Yeah, I always thought Christians were peaceful, but look at George Bush.

Such generalisations are what's stupid, konolia.

People are people first.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:14 PM on January 5, 2004

No matter how silly or irrelevant I think a religious group's message is, or how embarrassing it is that they are part of what other countries see when they are hit on the head with Western values, violence still trumps all.

While any religious persecution should face international consequences, it's still true that these christian types might want to do some re-tooling on the product they're trying to sell, for their own sake.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:28 PM on January 5, 2004

Proselytizers piss me off.
posted by dyaseen at 8:27 PM on January 5, 2004

I always thought Hindus...were pacifist. Stupid me.

What, have you not read the Bhagavad Gita? At the center of the book is Krishna's exhortation to Arjuna to fight:

How hath this weakness taken thee? Whence springs The inglorious trouble, shameful to the brave, Barring the path of virtue? Nay, Arjun! Forbid thyself to feebleness! it mars Thy warrior-name! cast off the coward-fit! Wake! Be thyself! Arise, Scourge of thy foes! Chap. 2, trans. A. Edwin

The point being (I think, at least; I'm neither a Hindu myself nor an expert on the religion), that Arjuna must fight because it is his duty at this time. Perhaps you'd be more familiar with this similar sentiment:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:.... a time of war, and a time of peace.

I don't know, konolia... typically, I have great respect for your views on religion, but it is pretty stupid of you to make judgements about a religion that you clearly are barely familiar with.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:43 AM on January 6, 2004

I always thought Hindus...were pacifist. Stupid me.

What, have you not read the Bhagavad Gita?

Mr_roboto wins the prize for greatest ever mefi rhetorical response line! I'm still smiling.
posted by nofundy at 4:32 AM on January 6, 2004

An interesting point to remember about Christianity is that although we hear that it is a doctrine of love and mercy taught by their savior, there is actually no point in Christian history or place in Christendom where an example of love and mercy was ever shown.

Wow. Looks like we have blazing generalizations on both sides now. Sure, scores upon scores of atrocities have been committed throughout the last two millenia in the name of Christ, but "No point in Christian history?" Come on...

If you want a list of examples regarding love & mercy since 0 AD, it's going to have to come after more coffee. I'm only human.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:47 AM on January 6, 2004

Buddhists have never started any wars, I've heard. Then again, the Buddhists could be lying - they are so inscrutable to me, they just don't make sense. A great world religion which lacks a central deity? What's that all about? Oh, I get it. They're faking that. They worship that Buddha of theirs.

Hindus have been more or less peaceful, save when throttling or being throttled by Muslims, since they got their yucks out way back when, several thousands of years ago when they had that big war that used up all their flying machines and nuclear weapons. It took quite a while for Hindus to recover from that mess and re-acquire the bomb (although it generated a number of exciting religious sagas )
but the mess convinced them that it's generally better to espouse pacifism (whilst well-armed, certainly) and the law of karma, and to worship the emblematic cow which blocks snarled traffic as it gently and lovingly contemplates all creatures from it's large, deep-pooled eyes full of compassionate wisdom for the suffering creatures all locked onto the wheel of karma, unable to re-merge with Atman.

Me, I'm inclined towards Animism and so I wonder if the Sri Lankans would be better off *raises arm to ward off a whacking from Konolia* sending a delegation to Japan. The Japanese, I have heard, have had some success in dealing with this sort of pesky infestation of Christianity.

Oh, but what am I saying? I am a pacifistic animist. Live and let live, except when pressed (sort of like Arjuna before the battle's onset, Krishna whispering in his ear) that's my motto.

The Christians should get off their high horse and stop trying to convert everybody, and the Buddhists and Muslims should stop persecuting those Christians, and refrain from chucking bricks through their windows.

Who am I to tell you all what to do? I'm just some kid from the neighborhood. Don't listen to me.

But, heck - this is just what you monotheistic sky god worshippers (sorry, Buddhists) do, isn't it? You kill for the greater glory of your god and spread your faith by whatever means convenient at the time - fire and sword and a lack of birth control technology, or by money, good works, and PR.

Animists watch all of this with wary eyes, then shuck it off and dance, bare breasted, around their fire-circles to the hypnotic sound of hand drums beating out polyrhythms to bless the earth, it's beings, and all the spirits.
posted by troutfishing at 8:16 AM on January 6, 2004

Konolia, you're welcome to join us, clothes on, and dance 'round our circle speaking in tongues. There is much resonance here, and we won't bother you at all. You'll fit right in - live and let live. We're peaceful, we fire-circle dancing animists.

The violent animists are elsewhere - they are to be found offering their blooded, sacrificial kill to fiery and open-mawed Moloch within the torchlit deep of the Bohemian Grove.


OK, homunculus - I apologize. I'm done mudskippering amok in my crazed fashion, climbing up rhetorical trees with my prehensile pectoral fins to leer at the world from the branches.

This is a tough problem posed by your post, and quite beyond me. But here is a start :

Death and life in the ethnosphere. (The Naked Geography Of Hope) ( from Whole Earth Magazine, Spring, 2002, by Wade Davis )

In Haiti, a Vodoun priestess responds to the rhythm of drums and, taken by the spirit, handles burning embers with impunity. In the Amazon, a Waorani hunter detects the scent of animal urine at forty paces and identifies the species that deposited it. In the deserts of northern Kenya, Rendille nomads draw blood from the faces of camels, and survive on a diet of milk and herbs gathered in the shade of frail acacia trees. On an escarpment in the high Arctic, Inuit elders fuse myth with landscape, interpreting the past in the shadow of clouds cast upon ice.

Just to know that such cultures exist is to remember that the human imagination is vast, fluid, infinite in its capacity for social and spiritual invention. Our way of life in the West, with its stunning technological wizardry, its cities dense with intrigue, is but one alternative rooted in a particular intellectual lineage. Polynesian seafarers who sense the presence of distant atolls in the echo of waves, Naxi shaman of Yunnan who carve mystical tales into rock, Juwasi Bushmen who have lived for generations in open truce with the lions of the Kalahari, reveal other options, means of interpreting existence, ways of being.

Together the cultures of the world make up an intellectual and spiritual web of life, an ethnosphere that envelopes and insulates the planet, and is as vital to our collective well-being as is the biosphere. Think of the ethnosphere as the sum total of thoughts, beliefs, myths, and intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. It is humanity's greatest legacy, the product of our dreams, the embodiment of our hopes, the symbol of all that we are and have created as a wildly inquisitive and astonishingly adaptive species.

Tragically, just as the biosphere is being severely eroded, so too is the ethnosphere, and at a far greater rate.

And this, quite reasonably, brings us to Cultural Survival
posted by troutfishing at 8:41 AM on January 6, 2004

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