Historical records link Christianity in Sri Lanka to colonial rule. In 1505 the Portuguese introduced Catholicism to Sri Lanka and were followed by the Dutch, who in 1658, introduced the Dutch Reformed Church (Protestant). In 1796 the British, who brought with them the Church of England, gained control of the entire country by 1815. Today, five centuries after the advent of colonial rule, the combined number of Roman Catholics and other Christians stands at less than 9% of the total population. The Roman Catholic Church is spread across Sri Lanka, with churches in every district and ministering in all languages and across a wide cross-section of social groups, while growth within Protestant denominations has been stagnant. The Sri Lankan constitution in 1972 recognised Buddhism as the national, state-supported religion. Sri Lankan Buddhists and Tamil Hindus regard Christianity as a residue of the colonial governments. With the cycles of violence, Christian churches find opportunity to bring together believers from the Sinhala and Tamil ethnic groups and work for peace. In addition, with more emphasis on addressing key social justice issues, there is ground for confidence that Christianity in Sri Lanka can sustain itself and flourish in the coming century.
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