Evangelization of Asia: Significance of objections to Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka
The US and Western Christian nations have made clear their foreign policy objectives in Asia. The focus of Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic faith and the State of Vatican is also Asia. Asia is seen as having the greatest potential for the expansion of Catholicism. When the Church declares the Third Christian Millennium as “a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent,” it definitely means harvest of souls and conversion of non-Catholics to Catholicism. Should non-Catholic nations and nationalities not therefore have the right to prepare for eventualities and raise these concerns in public without being told that objections to conversions is against reconciliation, amity between religions and people?
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Objections to Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka
While Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhists, Tamil Hindus and Muslims do not have any objections to the leader of a faith coming to bless people of that faith, the Church and Catholic public need to realise that their fears have historically justifiable reasons. Anyone who has committed crimes over 500 years cannot be offended when reminded of them. The Church showed no remorse for any of the crimes committed upon inhabited lands that colonial crusaders were given orders to declare as Christian ‘discovered lands’ and confiscate them from the indigenes while converting natives and killing those that refused. Present-day lay Catholics need to realise that these crimes were committed on behalf of the Church while confiscating artefacts, goods and wealth that belonged to these nations – these confiscated and stolen treasures are all lying inside the Vatican.
1. The Church has committed millions of murders in the name of God and while the Church has apologized to the rest of the world, an apology to Asia has yet to be given, as well as compensation for these crimes.
2. The crimes cover missionary activities under colonial rule, Goa Inquisition, forceful conversions or death for those that refused; these are documented crimes admitted by Catholics themselves
3. Thousands of Buddhist, Hindu, Islam places of worship were destroyed and Churches built in their place, for which an apology has yet to be given. The works of Queroy lists out all such churches built on top of Buddhist/Hindu temples and kovil. The Madhu Church in which the Pope is scheduled to hold prayers was originally a Hindu kovil.
4. The present efforts by the Church through their priests and lay advocates to use poverty and other social ills to cunningly draw people to embrace their faith as salvation and the manner the Church uses the power of wealth and Western governmental/ non-governmental Catholic/ Christian associations and leaders to influence Asian politicians against protecting non-Catholics is a case in point.
Asia is a continent that holds 60% of the world’s people. At the end of 2007, 1.15 billion people were Catholic, and approximately one billion were non-Catholic Christians. Fifty nations where Catholicism is spreading rapidly are all in Asia & Africa. Between 1542 and 1552, St. Francis Xavier converted an estimated 700,000 souls in modern-day India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan. Between 1610 and 1651, St. Peter Claver baptised some 300,000 slaves in Cartagena, Colombia.
At the conclusion of the final message of the 10th General Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences in 2012, the statement issued noted that, “The mission of new evangelization, new in its ardour, its methods and its expressions, is urgent,” “we are a community of faith called by the Lord to a mission of evangelization in the world”.
Lessons from South Korea
South Korea was a formerly Buddhist nation. Today South Korea is under the Western thumb and the Catholic faith. The Korean Catholic Church traces its origins to 1784 and foreign missionaries took up the task of converting non-Catholics. Catholics make up almost 11% of South Korea’s 50 million population. In 1960 there were just 2% Catholics. At the end of 2013, South Korea’s 5.4 million Catholics were served by 4,261 priests, with a further 1,489 seminarians in the pipeline.
Catholics in South Korea are increasingly prosperous - Bishop William McNaughton attributes the financial success of Catholics there to the excellence of Catholic education. The flip side is that as people acquire more education and money, they no longer need God, and this led to the decline of Catholicism in Europe.
However in South Korea, where wealth, education and church expansion continue to go together – this is the template being used for the rest of Asia. Tom Fox, author of “Pentecost in Asia,” said “the starting point of the Asian church has always been the local church.” This is the model of local governance and evangelization that Pope Francis encourages and promotes. Korea was largely evangelized by lay activists, not organised missionary campaigns. Charity and Giving are slogans to draw non-Catholics of Asia to embrace the faith and it is working in a region that is POOR. The message is clear – want education? Want to come out poverty? Want employment? Want key places in state and private sector? Want a better life and belong among elite society? – Become a Catholic!
Representatives of the Korean churches agreed to reorganise the ‘Conference of Christian Unity of Korea’ into the ‘Commission on Faith and Order of Korean Churches’ in 2012. The member churches of this newly reformed Commission are 11 religious bodies: the Catholic Church in Korea, the Orthodox Church in Korea, the National Council of Churches in Korea, the Presbyterian Church of Korea, General Assembly of Presbyterian Church, the Korean Methodist Church, the Anglican Church of Korea, the Salvation Army of Korea Territory, Korea Evangelical Church, the Korea Assemblies of God, Lutheran Church of Korea.
The South Korean success story provides the inspiration for the Church as its stamps forward to evangelize the Asian continent.
The case for defense
The Church and missionaries have identifiable goals, they have funds and other means to enforce their objectives. The question is what have non-Catholic organizations (Buddhist and Hindu) done to protect their people against conversions and the social ills of poverty, unemployment, good education etc that are key areas that enables the Church to draw people to their fold to embrace their faith because they are promised to be given what people are seeking.
How far have Buddhist/ Hindu organisations/ associations that are constantly bickering amongst their own, addressed fundamental areas where their people live in poverty (at different levels)? People want education but lack even the fundamentals, people desire employment and social status but have not been given the tools to enable them to rise and create for themselves a better living standard? How far have Buddhist/ Hindu associations established programs to keep people informed while also addressing the core reasons why people are prepared to give their ‘souls’ to another faith simply because their faith has not addressed simple aspirations.
Why can’t the Buddhists galvanize themselves to address these core areas – empower the poor, show ethical livelihoods in keeping with the philosophy of Buddha, sustain these teachings to education, enable employment and address other social ills that entice people to do wrongs. There is much that Buddhist societies and in particular the Buddhist clergy can do and must do instead of the present manner in which they function.
Thus, on the one hand while there is no grudge against the Pope arriving to bless Catholics, we need to look at the ulterior motives behind the visit of the Pope while highlighting that he is obliged to offer Asia and in particular India a long overdue apology complemented with compensation. It is poignant that Asia is reminded that the Pope arrives not simply to bless his people, but with the intention to encourage lay and Church clergy to advance their agenda of harvesting more souls.
Sri Lanka that weathered Western Christian missionaries, criminal colonial rule and numerous other Catholic Action initiatives must remain alert in spite of a thin Constitutional provision that establishes the Buddhist identity of the nation that has been diluted by multicultural political leaders with no grasp of or interest in preserving the historical heritage of Sri Lanka, but who need it nevertheless to come into power and remain in power.
- Kalinga Seneviratne - Pope Francis’ Sri Lanka Mission Unleashes Controversy http://www.indepthnews.info/index.php/global-issues/2300-pope-francis-sri-lanka-mission-unleashes-controversy
- Dr. Susantha Goonetilake – The visiting Pope apologizes?
- Shenali D Waduge - Joseph Vaz – Did he take part in the Goa Inquisition
- Shenali D Waduge – Pope Francis arriving in majority Buddhist Sri Lanka must apologize for the crimes of the Catholic Church
- Shenali D Waduge – Appeal to Heads of India and Sri Lanka to initiate an impartial DNA test : Venerable Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula or Francis Xavierhttp://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2014/12/09/appeal-to-heads-of-india-and-sri-lanka-to-initiate-an-impartial-dna-test-ven-thotagamuwe-sri-rahula-or-francis-xavier/