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A tour of the Holy Land

TOUR: Many Christians in this country dream of a pilgrimage to the Holy land where Christ was born. Most are unaware that such a pilgrimage could be made from a distant country such as ours. We Sri Lankans too can visit the birth place of Jesus for a reasonable fee.

There are many travel agents or travel companies catering to such pilgrims. The average tour could take seven to nine days. The name holy land is given to where Christ was born, lived, preached, made miracles and ascended into heaven. The holy land is where the old and the new testament bore witness.

The average pilgrim on such a tour can visit Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Bethany, Emmaus and many other places. Many pilgrims to the Holy land offer prayers on behalf of themselves and also for peace and prosperity for our country.

Visiting the birth place of Jesus could be a memorable experience as many monuments of our lords day still remain, intack. Recent excavations have unearthed many secrets that prevailed in the time of Christ. Pilgrims could visit the holy land alone or with friends.

The average pilgrim could visit Tiberias from Nazareth in Galilee and see the lake Geneserath. A few miles away is Capernaum. The house where Peter the disciples of Christ lived is now a synagogue.

For the pilgrim the church of primacy is a must, and one could also visit the venue where Jesus delivered his sermon on the mount of Beatitudes. Where Jesus blessed the fishes and the loaves now stand as, the church of multiplication. The pilgrims could visit where angel Gabriel appeared to our lady Mother Mary and the church of St. Joseph.

Most pilgrims never forget to visit the Jordan river or ascend the mount Tabor where Christ’s transfiguration took place. For the pilgrims visiting Emmaus could see the place where Christ had a meal with his disciples before his ascension. Visitors should not forget to see the wailing wall a most cherished venue of the Jews.

The old city of Jerusalem could be viewed from the Mount of Olives to the east. Jerusalem is believed to have derived its name from God Shalem. The pilgrim visiting the garden of Gethsemane would endure a memorable experience as the olive trees still exists from the time of Jesus.

This garden where Jesus spent the night before his betrayal has turned to a beautiful land scape with many varieties of trees and wonderful flowers in bloom.

The room of the last supper with eye catching architecture in curved arches makes the visitor amazed. During the first millennium A. D. the Persians destroyed many monuments in the holy land and it was only in the 12th century that the Crusaders repaired and rebuilt what was left.

The church of St. Peter in Galicantu and church of Domition where the statue of Mary in peaceful death rest and the church of St. Anne mother of blessed Mary and her birth place is worthy to visit. The sentimental pilgrim could walk the way of the cross along the vis Dolorosa.

Calvary and the tomb of Jesus evoke much religious ferver and the mount of temptation and the Basilica of the agony near the garden of Gethsamane arouse the curiosity and piety of many pilgrims.

The Jordan river although with a meagre flow of water is the venue for renewed baptism for many pilgrims. The Dead sea is an amazing place to see and bathe and a visit to Emmaus where Christ had a meal with his disciples before his ascension are worthy to visit.

For those who have not visited the holy land before, the general impression is of a land filled with ruins within desert and sand. It is really to the contrary.

The Holy land which is regarded as the place for many bloodiest of battles now remains a much improved protected and respected land of pilgrimage to the world. Visitors for the first time to the holy land await a pleasant surprise.

After many a historic battle for thousands of years the holy land offers the pilgrim traveller modern hotels and other amenities at present. For those who cannot make it to the holy land many books, VCDs and travel magazines are available, to inform those of interest. Perhaps faith in Christ and his rich blessings would undoubtedly enable all to visit this cherished land.

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Rev. Fr. Ignatius Pinto - the Catholic priest and Intellectual



Rev. Fr. Ignatius Pinto

From the times of the arrival of Portuguese Goa had been a Catholic centre, that gave a great impetus to the Catholic faith in Sri Lanka. It was blessed Joseph Vaz from Goa, who revived the Catholic faith and saved it from extinction during the Dutch persecution in our country.

His assistant, companion and successor Fr. Jocome Gonsalvez, who too came from Goa, laid the foundation for an indigenous Church. Rev. Fr. Ignatius Pinto OMT was another Goanese priest who made his mark in the 20th century in the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka.

He was a lecturer in European history of yesteryears in the University of Ceylon, the chaplaincy of undergraduates, founder of Peradeniya Newman Society and architect of the beautiful Church of Our Lady of the Seat of Wisdom at Peradeniya Campus. His 35th death anniversary falls on May 24, 2007.

Fr. Pinto was born at Torvirine in Goa on January 21, 1907. As his parents later domiciled in Sri Lanka, he had his education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He subsequently entered the then University College and passed his B.A. (London). He then proceeded to England, joined the Wadham College, Oxford and passed M.A. in history.

Although there was a bright future before him in the secular field, he opted to work in the vineyard of Christ and entered the OMI novitiate, Nieuwenhove in Belgium, did his philosophy and Theology at the Angelicium and then at Gregorian and was ordained a priest in Rome in July 11, 1937.

Returning to Sri Lanka in the following year he joined the staff at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and when the new University of Ceylon was set up with Sir Ivor Jennings as the Vice-Chancellor Fr. Pinto was appointed as its lecturer in European history.

Adhering to the concept of Jennings concept to treat University as a community - a community one never leaves and remains a part of it for life, he nourished the concept to grow Fr. Pinto served as the warden of Aquinas Hall of residence for Catholic students from 1941 to 1949 and moved to the Arts faculty of the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya was shifted as the lecturer in European history and chaplaincy of Catholic students. Soon he conceived an idea to built a chapel and a hall of residence there.

After months of tenacious correspondence, he managed to get a land within the University Campus for the purpose.


Peradeniya University chapel, monument to his name

The first church in Sri Lanka said to have been built strictly adhering to indigenous art and architecture is St. Mary’s Church, Badalgama. It was a brainchild of Fr. Henry Rodrigo OMI, which was begun in 1953 and completed in 1956.

The church in Peradeniya Campus also had an indigenous outlook, taking shape at the foothills of Hantane. It was designed by Fr. Ignatius Pinto and he named it the ‘Church of Our Lady of the Seat of Wisdom’.

Fr. Ignatius Pinto initiated its construction in 1953 and completed within two years. It was blessed by Dr. Bernard Regno, the then Bishop of Kandy and was formally inaugurated in the late 1955.

Fr. Ignatius Pinto built the chapel in accordance with national concepts with Kandyan elements and Lotus shaped lamps etc. to fall in line with early University buildings in Peradeniya.

He commissioned the Goan artist Angela Trinidad to lay out the Mosaic. Such an outstanding Mosaic with an Oriental flavour is not found in any other Catholic church in Sri Lanka.

The chapel of Our Lady of the Seat of Wisdom is a unique structure that adorns Peradeniya University Campus, stands as a monument to his name.

A devout priest, Fr. Ignatius Pinto was seen praying in the sanctorium before Mass - a rare sight among Catholic priests of today. However, he abhorred grandeur, splendour, pageantry and revelry associated with Catholic festivals and church feasts. He believed in simple and authentic Christian living rather than outward show and manifestations.

Since the Vatican Council II, there are various interpretations to Christianity and one is at a loss to understand the Christian doctrine. The spirituality in religion has been relegated to the background.

There are some who attempt to link Christianity with Marxist ideals and give a political dimension to religion. There is degeneration of the standards of Catholic clergy and scandals of Bishops and priests have hit the headlines in the mass media. In that sense Fr. Ignatius Pinto has been prophetic.

Fr. Ignatius Pinto was sincere to God and sincere to man. As a priest of God, he projected a spiritual outlook in religion. His every endeavour was in harmony with his priesthood. He never transgressed on things angels feared to tread. He practised what he preached and led a simple, disciplined and exemplary life in accordance with Gospel values.

(The writer is a former High Court Judge and a Vice-President of the Newman Alumni Association)

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Universal character of Islam



Slave Island Wekanda Jumma Masjid Mosque.
Picture by Mahinda Vithanachchi

Islam is meant for entire mankind as The Holy Quran always addresses, ‘Oh, Mankind!’ in its universal message. As Allah is the only creator, sustainer, protector and Nourisher of all living creatures.

He has sent his Last messenger, Muhammad (sal) with the universal message that has been studied even by Non-Muslim scholars like George Bernard Shaw and recommended for all-irrespective of easterners or westerners in the world. Let us consider what Bernard shaw has once said:

“I have always held the religion of Muhammad (sal) in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age.

I have studied him - the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-christ, he must be called the Saviour of humanity. I believe that if a Man like Him were to assume dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness.

I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today” (vide G.B. Shaw: “The Genuine Islam-Singapore Vol. I No. 8, 1936).

One can find the following excellent characteristics of Islam as the main factors of success as recommended by Shaw.

Simplicity, rationalism - and practicalism are some characteristics of Islam. Besides, unity of matter and spirit add to the wide base of Islam. Further, Islam being a complete way of life to whole mankind appeals to all.

Islam shows a balance between individualism and collectivism. It also teaches universalism and humanism just as it has permanence and change. It maintains a complete record of teaching preserved in spite of changes in the world.

Islam is a religion without any mythology. There is no priesthood in Islam - no far fetched abstractions. Every body can have access to the Holy Quran and translate its dictates into practice.

Islam awakens in man the faculty of reason. The Quran advises man to pray. O my Lord! Advance me in knowledge” (20:114). The prophet of Islam said, “He who leaves home in search of knowledge works in the Path of God” - To seek knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim male and female.”

A unique feature of Islam is that it does not divide life into water-tight compartments of matter and spirit. It regards life as a unity. The Quran advises us to pray as follows!” Our Lord, Give us the good in this world and the good in hereafter”. (Quran - 11:201). Islam’s injunction is; “Eat and drink but exceed not and become extravagant’). (Quran 7.31) Islam stands for the middle path that is easy to be followed by all. Islam is a complete way of life.

The Quran says (Muslims are) those who, if we give them power in the land, establish the systems of salat (prayers and worship) and Zakat (Poor-due) and enjoin virtue and forbid vice and evil” (27:41). The Holy Prophet (sal) said: “Every one of you is a keeper or a shepherd and will be questioned about the well-being of his fold. So, the Head of the State will be questioned about the well-being of the people of the State”.

Another Unique feature of Islam is that it establishes a balance between individualism and collectivism.

The Quran says! “Man shall have nothing but what he strives for” (53: 40).

Quran says “God does not change the conditions of a people unless they first change that which is in their hearts”.

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Ordination

ORDINATION: Rev. Brother Prasad Sanjaya Fonseka OSB of Hendala, Wellapalliya will be ordained a priest of God today at 3.30 p.m. by Kandy Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianny Fernando.

The ceremony will take place at the national seminary of our Lady of Sri Lanka Chapel, Ampitiya. Brother Sanjaya is the son of Benedict Fonseka and Grace Irin Fonseka of Hendala. He is an old boy of Kristu Raja Vidyalaya, Hekitta, Wattala.

He will be offering his first Holy Mass on June 3 at 8 a.m. at the church dedicated to our Lady of Mount Carmel, at Wellapalliya. He will be accompanied by Ratnapura Bishop elect Don Cletus C. Perera, Prior of the Montefano OSB Monastery, Ampitiya.

Qadianis are not Muslims

Supreme Court of South Africa upholds MJC decision:

A. H. Ghouzul Ameen LLB, LLM, JPUM, Lecturer and Sr. Treasurer, Muslim Majlis of the Sri Lanka Law College

Qadianis claim to be Muslims, are misleading the Muslims in Sri Lanka. Their movement carry a campaign among innocent muslims by extending financial help and surreptitiously arranging marriage between them and muslims.

The Ulamas, (theologians), the leaders and members of the Muslim community have taken their campaign seriously and there is a growing concern among muslims of Sri Lanka which culminated in a National Convention against Qadianism+recently.

A muslim is one who believes in the five basic principles of Islam. Five Principles of Islam are

1. Kalima - ‘Lailaha Illallahu Mujahammadurrasoolullah’ that is the declaration of faith in the one-ness of Allah and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sal) is the Messenger of Allah,

2. Salat Five times prayers daily,

3. Zakat Charity,

4. Sawm Fasting for one month during the month of Ramazan and

5. The performance of Hajj.

The last principle is obligatory only on those who could afford physically and financially. Above all, the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the last Prophet of Islam, Kaathamul Nabi, and no prophet shall be sent to the earth by Allah.

The Holy Quran was revealed by Allah to the mankind through His Messenger the Holy Prophet Muhammad and every muslim has to accept the Holy Book which is in the original form without any amendment made and is a guide to mankind. Holy Quran says that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to entire mankind.

Qadianis are followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who was born in India. His doctrine of ideology is known as Qadianism or Ahmedism. Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the son of Mirza Ghulam Murthaza was born in an area called Qadian in the Punjab Province of India in or about 1839.

His family was known supporter of the western imperialist, the Britishers who conquered India and ruled. He read philosophy, Logic, Medicine and Law nothing he completed and did only part of everything but was a good writer and speaker.

There is evidence to show that he was suffering from mental disorder. He with his father began to extend their support to the British and was richly rewarded by the British for the dirty work done.

He began to interpret the Holy Quran in support of the British and declared that ‘jihad’, an accepted Islamic concept is contrary to Islamic principles.

In or about 1876 with the death of his father he claimed that he received the divine command from Allah. First he claimed to be the ‘Mujaddid’, the reformer and he resembled Holy Prophet Issa (sal), the Jesus Christ in humility, calmness and simplicity. Later he claimed to be the promised Mesiah who will appear at the end of the World.

In 1901 he claimed that he was a complete prophet. In or about 1904 he claimed to be Krishna, one of the Hindu Gods. He called Maryam (Mary, the Mother of Jesus) and her family prostitutes and refused accept her as virgin Mary. His followers are called Quadianis or ‘Ahamedis’.

His idealogy is known as ‘Quadanism’ or ‘Ahmadism’. His death is a greater tragedy and exposure when he challenged a respected and reputed Ulama, a learned person of India, Moulana Sanaullah of Amristar who had extensive campaign against Qadianis.

On or about 15th April, 1907 Mirza prayed that whoever be a liar between them, in their lifetime will die suffering of a serious illness. The prayer of Mirza became true for himself and he died on 26th May, 1908 after 13 months and 10 days according to his father-in-law of cholera, a deadly disease at that time in India.

However, Moulana Samaullah lived forty years after the cruel death of Mirza and passed away peacefully on 15th March, 1948.

In 1945 an Association of Muslims Ulamas, learned men in Islam in the name of the Muslim Judicial Council, MJC was established in South Africa.

The MJC claimed authority over religious matters of the Muslim Community in the Western Cape. In exercising its functions it has advised on and applied rules or prescriptions which in its perceptions are laid down in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah (the traditions of Holy Prophet). It gives the necessary guidelines on religious matters to all mosques. On occasions it has declared a person who regarded himself as a Muslim as murtad ie. an apostate.

In 1914, six years after the death of Mirza the movement split into two. Members of the first branch became known as the Qadiani Ahmadis and those of the second under the leadership of Muhammed Ali as the Lahore Ahmedis.

The main differences in the tenets of the two groups may be summarized as:

To be continued

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