Sri Lankans living in and around Washington DC, celebrated Christmas at the Sri Lanka Embassy on Sunday December 17, 2006. As the community gathered amidst the festive decorations at the Embassy, Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke started the program with a welcome speech. He informed the gathering that since 2005, the Embassy was engaged in celebrating Sri Lanka’s major religious festivals such as Wesak, Thai Pongal, Christmas and Ramadan. Furthermore, with the multi-ethnic nature of Sri Lanka’s society, Sri Lankans belonging to the different religions need to feel that the Embassy is a place where all these religions are respected and people belonging to various denominations are welcome. During the course of his speech, the Ambassador related some historical information on Christianity in Sri Lanka. The popular belief is that the advent of the Christian church in Sri Lanka occurred with the advent of the Portuguese. This is belied by the discovery of the Nestorian Cross belonging to the Anuradhapura Period. The Ambassador related another incident about Cosmos, regaling of tales of Christians on the island of 'Sieledibe' referred to as ‘Taprobane’ by the Greeks, where there was a church of Persian Christians “with clergy and body of believers.” Added to these are the inscriptions, coins and other records that indicate the presence of senior foreign Christian officials at functions of Sinhala kings during AD 473-503.

Following the thought-provoking address by the Ambassador, Dr. Hilarian Coddippily, President of the Sri Lanka American Catholic Association of Metropolitan Washington spoke on “The Significance of Christmas.” Thereafter, Dr. Gregory Fernandopulle conducted the Christmas Prayer. As the spirit of seasonal joy pervaded the environment, the gathering joined in singing Christmas carols. The religious program ended with a Vote of Thanks by Mr. Maxwell Amirthampillai, followed by a reception where seasonal goodies were served to the people.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

19 December 2006


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