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Rev.Canon Ivan and Ouida Corea of Sri Lanka
Christianity in Sri Lanka
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The tomb of St. Thomas in India

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Christianity

Sri Lanka Table of Contents

According to Christian traditions, the Apostle Thomas was active in Sri Lanka as well as southern India during the first century A.D. Small Christian communities existed on the coasts of Sri Lanka during the succeeding centuries, flourishing on the edges of the Indian Ocean trade routes as Islam did in later times. Christianity made significant inroads only after the fifteenth century, as aggressive Portuguese missionary efforts led to many conversions, especially among the Karava and other low-country castes. When the Dutch took control of Sri Lanka, they encouraged their own missionaries of the Dutch Reformed Church. Under their patronage, 21 percent of the population in the low country was officially Christian by 1722. The British, in turn, allowed Anglican and other Protestant missionaries to proselytize.

The relative number of Christians in Sri Lanka has declined steadily since the end of colonial rule. In 1900 a reported 378,859 people, or 10.6 percent of the population, were officially Christians. Although in 1980, the number of Christians had increased to 1,283,600, the percentage of Christians in the total population had declined to approximately 8 percent. This decline occurred primarily because the non-Christian population expanded at a faster rate. Emigration abroad, conversions of some Christians to Buddhism and fewer conversions to Christianity among Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims also were reasons for the decline. In the 1980s, Christians still were concentrated heavily in the low country in the southwest. They comprised 30 percent of the population in Colombo.

Some 88 percent of the Christians were Roman Catholics who traced their religious heritage directly to the Portuguese. The Roman Catholic Church has a well-established organization that encompasses the entire island. In 1985 there were 9 dioceses comprising 313 parishes, 682 priests, and 15 bishops (including two archbishops and a cardinal). The remainder of Christians were almost evenly split between the Anglican Church of Ceylon (with two dioceses) and other Protestant faiths. The Dutch Reformed Church, now the Presbytery of Ceylon, consisted mostly of Burghers, and its numbers were shrinking because of emigration. Other Christian communities--Congregationalists, Methodists, and Baptists--were small in number. Since the 1970s, there has been a movement of all Protestant Churches to join together in a united Church of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Table of Contents

Source: U.S. Library of Congress

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Sri Lanka - Statistics
 
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

President: Chandrika B. Kumaratunga (1994)

Prime Minister: Mahinda Rajapakse (2004)

Area: 25,332 sq mi (65,610 sq km)

Population (2004 est.): 19,905,165 (growth rate: 0.8%); birth rate: 15.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 14.8/1000; life expectancy: 72.9; density per sq mi: 786

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Colombo, 2,436,000 (metro. area), 656,100 (city proper); Legislative and Judicial capital: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, 118,300

Other large cities: Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia 214,300; Moratuwa, 181,000; Kandy, 112,400

Monetary unit: Sri Lanka rupee

Languages: Sinhala (official), Tamil, English

Ethnicity/race: Sinhalese 74%, Tamil 18%, Moor 7%, Burgher, Malay, and Vedda 1%

Religions: Buddhist 70%, Hindu 15%, Christian 8%, Islam 7%

Literacy rate: 92% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2002 est.): $73.7 billion; per capita $3,700. Real growth rate: 3.2%. Inflation: 9.6%. Unemployment: 8%. Arable land: 13%. Agriculture: rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef. Labor force: 6.6 million (1998); services 45%, agriculture 38%, industry 17% (1998 est.). Industries: rubber processing, tea, coconuts, and other agricultural commodities; clothing, cement, petroleum refining, textiles, tobacco. Natural resources: limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower. Exports: $4.6 billion (f.o.b., 2002): textiles and apparel, tea, diamonds, coconut products, petroleum products. Imports: $5.4 billion (f.o.b., 2002): textiles, mineral products, petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment. Major trading partners: U.S., UK, Belgium, Germany, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Iran.

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 494,509 (1998); mobile cellular: 228,604 (1999). Radio broadcast stations: AM 26, FM 45, shortwave 1 (1998). Radios: 3.85 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 21 (1997). Televisions: 1.53 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 5 (2000). Internet users: 121,500 (2001).

Transportation: Railways: total: 1,508 km (2002). Highways: total: 96,695 km; paved: 91,860 km; unpaved: 4,835 km (1999). Waterways: 430 km; navigable by shallow-draft craft. Ports and harbors: Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Trincomalee. Airports: 15 (2002).

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Country Profile of Sri Lanka