Professor Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan, formerly Professor of English at the University of Bahrain has written a lengthy Review titled Unchristian and Christian Missionaries which appeared in the Sunday Island newspaper, Colombo, 25 April 2010. Some excerpts from the Review:
A strong corrective of the negative image of Christian missionaries can be found in Thiru Arumugam’s Nineteenth Century American Medical Missionaries in Jaffna, Ceylon: with special reference to Samuel Fisk Green (South Asian Studies Centre, Sydney, 2009). …To read a book is to enter into, and inhabit, the world and times it re-presents. Here, in Arumugam’s work, we encounter the human beings behind the label “missionary”. …As with members of all religions, there are some who, in the name of their religion, act in ways contrary to the teachings of that religion (hence “unchristian” above) while others live by, and exemplify, the highest and noblest ideals of their faith. 0ne realizes, yet again, that truth, rather than being single and simple, is often multiple and complex. Congratulations and thanks are owed to the author.
The full review is also available.
Professor K. Indrapala, formerly Professor of History, Jaffna Campus, University of Sri Lanka and author of The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity.
Let me congratulate you again for bringing out this very valuable book and throwing much light on perhaps the brightest chapter in the history of Jaffna. It has much relevance to the understanding of contemporary events and the build-up to the inter-ethnic problems of the 20th century. Few will realise that if Jaffna was left to languish in the backwaters of the country, like Mannar or Trincomalee, things would have been different in the 20th century. The fact that Jaffna had a head start in education, especially science and medical education, made all the difference. What you have narrated is also a story of missed opportunities (as you have rightly pointed out) and tragic episodes (especially the sacrifices made by the missionaries in the form of lost children and spouses) as well as the endurance and commitment displayed by the Americans untainted by colonial attitudes.
Mrs. Parasakthy Sundharalingam:
Thiru you have done yeoman service in bringing out the zeal of the missionaries. The book is well researched and the writing is refined. As Macintyre remarked you have done a thorough job. I cannot say anything more than what he has said. Dr Green is a rounded personality knowing so much besides medicine and Christianity. There is an underlying manithaneyam – humaneness – that leaves an indelible impression on the readers, otherwise one could not have achieved so much. I would not be flattering you if I say that your journey with Dr Green reflects the same spirit. I liked the comment by Dr Mills: “I hope Mr Arumugam’s book will rekindle memories of a very valuable and historical past”, and your quote and explanation by Ambi on page 130 -131 for the lack of recognition of Dr Green (which has now been rectified): “We have a responsibility – a sacred responsibility to honour Dr Green and re-trace his trails. We should admire his vision and mission”. This is an apt conclusion to the invaluable services of a Great Soul.
Ernest MacIntyre is a playwright, producer and director of his original plays such as Irangani, He still comes from Jaffna, Rasanayagam’s last riot, The UN Inspector is a Sri Lankan, The education of Miss Asia etc. Read what former UN Under-Secretary General Jayantha Dhanapala had to say about Ernest Macintyre. Click on the picture below for a video clip of Ernest’s speech reviewing the book at the Book Launch on 19 December 2009: