Bishop Ambalavanar's Last Charge


(Bishop of Jaffna of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India; 1971 to 1993)

The retiring bishop's Last Charge to the Annual Sessions of the Council of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India held in the Ottley Hall, Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, Sri Lanka in early March, 1993. An extract of a fuller text.


Rt. Rev. D.J. Ambalavanar, Retiring Bishop of Jaffna giving his Last Charge at the Annual Sessions of the Council of the JDSCI said that the Tamils area nation and not a minority.

The Bishop in his Charge further said:

This is the last chance for me to give you the Charge as the Bishop of this Diocese and I am grateful to God for this opportunity. As I present to you this Charge, it is our prime duty to consider two things:

(i) We should consider and evaluate the past and give thanks to God;

(ii) We should have plans for the future.

As I sat to prepare this Charge, I got reminded of the last Charge Bishop Kulandran gave 23 years ago. He also considered the past and made plans for the future. That Charge was later published as a small booklet. There may be differences between these two, but we are called to remind ourselves of the task that lies ahead of us.

What is God's message to us? We are called to fulfill our local task in the total vision. What is the total vision? As Bishop Kulandran laid down his offices as Bishop after 23 years, the world situation had changed quite a lot. The world of Empires of Imperialism came to a close. It was the end of an era of western Imperialism. But as one form of Imperialism came to an end, another form of Imperialism came into existence. That was the 'Tyranny of Majorities.' Majorities began to oppress the minorities. Our own situation bears witness to this fact. I still remember the speech of the late S.J.V.Chelvanayagam in this Hall during one of my vacations as a student. He said, "We are happy that our Sinhalese brethren have got their Independence. Now the task of our brethren is to fight for our Independence. That is the goal of our party."

As he said, we are a nation in this island. There are two nations, namely a Tamil nation and a Sinhalese nation. Only when this is recognised, we can lead a life based on justice and peace. This kind of feeling is not unique to our country. Many countries do have the same situation. Same is true of ex-Baltic countries like Lithuania and Estonia. This can be said of those who got split from the Soviet Union, for example, Ukraine and Georgia. Similar situation exists in Czechoslovakia , too.

The struggles of the Tamils in Sri Lanka are a sign or a symbol of the struggles of the minorities in the whole world. This is the context of our Church today. The important thing is not to be popular, but to fight for justice and work for it.

When others consider us as a majority, they want us to join the majority and accept their way. But we are a nation and we are not like the Burghers and the Malays in this island. What I stress is not the division, but the concern for our own right for self-detemination. We must strive to get our identity. We are the only people who can defend our own position and there won't be anyone else to do so. It was possible by the Grace of God to explain our position to the World Church during the last ten years. Organisations like the WCC and CCA, have understood that the Church of South India is the only Church today which can raise its voice for the Tamil cause.

It has always been an embarrassing thing for me when people in the South identify me as the Bishop in Jaffna. The reason is, they do not like what I stand for or what I represent. But thanks be to God for makings it possible for the World Church to understand our plight.

No one would have thought a hundred years ago that the British Imperialism would one day come to an end. What they finally felt was that it was impossible for them to continue to rule others without their consent. The same will come true one day in our country, too. It is in this context of our concern to identify ourselves with the struggle for the Tamils we are called as a Church. The promise of God for all people is a reminder that God does not wish any of his people to live under slavery. This is indeed the will of God that all of God's people must live a life of freedom. We may have our own failures and weaknesses, but at the same time we stood in solidarity with our Tamil people. So it is our task to be present wherever our Tamil people are.

(Courtesy of Hot Springs, Jaffna, 18/4/93)