The place of religion in the process of migration

 Sociologists have observed that the relationship between religion and migration is not random but integrally connected to many realities, which should be studied to gain a better understanding of the life and work of immigrants in the host countries. [1] For instance Warner clearly and directly has said,


Migration and religion are not mutually independent. [2]


In this it is necessary to look carefully into religions practised by the immigrants in their home countries and the religions followed by them after their migration to the host country in relation to the process of their integration within the host country. [3] Accordingly the content of this chapter examines the realities of both home and host countries in investigating the influences on Sinhala people in and around London. For this, apart from the research methods suggested in the methodology of research, the experiences of the researcher living with this group of people in Sri Lanka and also in and around London are recounted.


 Structured interviews revealed that, broadly speaking, the prominent and immediate reason for migration of Sinhala people (as for many other Asians, as mentioned by Warner) has been “in search of a better life”[4] with economic gain and the expectation of educational opportunities for their children in the UK. Apart from this the other reasons expressed by them were connected to unpleasant experiences faced in Sri Lanka due to tensions such as ethnic, religious and cultural, which are very common in Asia. [5] Also in general informal interviews it was found that some Sinhala people who came to the UK purely for studies or employment for a specific period of time decided to stay while there was civil unrest in Sri Lanka. For instance, the researcher was able to have discussions with three Sinhala families who have decided to stay on in this manner in 1989 due to a Sinhala youth uprising in the southern parts of Sri Lanka. However, generally all the immigrants have migrated with the expectation of living in peace and prosperity in the host country.

 It was clear that these immigrants, in the process of deciding the most suitable country for their migration and settlement, have taken their religions seriously. [6] Therefore they come within Warner’s generalisation that,

Religion is salient for immigrants. [7]

In structured and informal interviews both Sinhala Christians and Buddhists willingly indicated their awareness of the decisive functions played by their religions in the process of migration. [8] In this regard both Sinhala Christians and Buddhists expressed how and why they had to consider their religions important in the context of their primary objectives such as employment opportunities and better education opportunities for their children.

There were two cases of Sinhala Christian immigrants who felt that their religion was a primary factor directly connected to their migration. One lady (Ms. SC-2) said,

I have been brought up as an Anglican with Anglican values and attitudes in Sri Lanka. When I decided to migrate to give my children a better education, England became the first choice because we were Anglicans.

Where the choice of the country for migration was concerned this lady was certain that her migration with the family to the UK was very much determined by the fact that she and her family were born and bred as Anglicans in Sri Lanka. This was further confirmed by her intimate participation in the activities of the local Anglican Church, including playing the organ at her English parish church where she and her family are the only Asian or African immigrant members of the congregation. She often participates in these activities with her husband, who was the churchwarden in the parish two years ago. It was observed that the social life of this family is integrally connected to the local parish church. Before leaving their parents’ home for employment, their son and daughter, who are now in their late twenties, have also taken part in many activities of the church, such as the Youth Fellowship and Sunday School.

The other Sinhala Christian gentlemen Mr. SC-1, said,

My migration to the UK was directly connected to Christianity as my Amma (mother) came to this country on a scholarship from a Christian organisation. A few months after my mother’s arrival my father and I came to the UK and settled in this land. Today almost 30 years after of our arrival we are well settled in the UK. Very specially we take a leading role in Christian circles.

This was a clear case where religion was the primary factor in facilitating migration. Although cases if this kind are rare and do not show a strong pattern, they make an impact in the Christian church in the UK. These immigrants often function as bridges between Sri Lankan and English churches, enhancing better understanding between the communities. Therefore, in the analysis of religion and migration it is necessary to take such immigrants into account irrespective of their numerical strength. This fact could be supported by the participation of these immigrants in important church activities where they were the only church members other than the white British majority, making an effective contribution to the church’s work.

Two catholic immigrants respectively told the researcher how their religious leaders gave them support both before and after migration, giving them helpful information. This became special for them, as they believed it difficult to get this sort of information from ordinary people. Although they did not interpret this with a religious understanding such as that it was “God given” they gave the impression that it was something special in the context of their faith. They believe that their religion was important in supplying the encouragement and psychological support, which were decisive in making the arrangements for migration. Here it is necessary to note that both these respondents said that they don’t consider themselves as very religious people although they take active roles in religious activities. These were two clear cases where they said that they were more involved in religious activities in the host country than in the home country and had pleasant experiences of religion with migration. In this background they felt that they have become more “religious” in the host country than in the home country. Highlighting the importance of religion for migration in American society Helen Ebaugh has said,

When immigrants arrive here, the first place they go are the churches - that’s where fellow countrymen are and where their culture reproduces itself. [9]

This American observation gives the impression that the British results of this research are not random happenings but common with immigrants in the West.

Structured interviews revealed that one immigrant initially has migrated to a Middle Eastern country and subsequently has migrated to the UK. This Buddhist lady Ms. SB-1, who has worked in the Middle East, said,

Before I came to the UK I worked in one of the Middle Eastern countries and in that country I found it difficult to practise Buddhism. Therefore I did not want to settle there although I got a better salary in that country” “For me to have freedom to practise my religion and be accepted by others as a Buddhist is important. Although we need money to live, money is not everything.

According to her, she received a better salary in the Middle East than in the UK. Yet when the opportunity arose she decided to migrate to the UK to have better freedom to practise her religion - Buddhism. Later when asked about other reasons for her migration to the UK, she referred to the education of her son.

As this feature of migration appeared important, the snowball method was used to get more information about migrations of this kind, starting from this lady, to research this pattern of immigration. [10] This exercise revealed that the pattern of this lady’s migration was not an isolated happening: many others have followed this pattern. The researcher was able to have discussions with five of Sinhala Buddhist immigrants from Sri Lanka who have migrated following this pattern. It is important to note that these immigrants knew each other through an unstructured network strengthened by telephone calls, e-mails and occasional gatherings in a house of one of their members.

 All emphasised how their freedom was limited due to restrictions they had to face in Middle Eastern countries. They said that in some of these countries they were not allowed to possess an image of personal worship such as a statue or picture of the Lord Buddha. Further, they said that though the people in authority in Middle Eastern Countries at least make an effort to tolerate western Christianity, they hardly try to do the same for Buddhism or Hinduism. When the researcher requested them to give an example for this they said that for some western companies working in some Middle Eastern countries permission was given to have a Christian place of worship within the expatriate community but no facility of this nature is granted to Buddhists or Hindus. Through participant observation it was clear that this religious intolerance faced by them has become one of the main factors in bringing them together, to strengthen their faith and to gain solidarity among with others.

 Here, under the preview of this research, the most important factor to be noticed is the way in which religious freedom has become an integrated aspect of the total freedom expected by immigrants in the host country. This reveals that “the better way of life” of immigrants is not entirely determined by the best economic gain but that the aspects of religions are integrally associated with it as decisive factors.

 The researcher was able to meet Buddhists who were visited by Buddhist monks soon after their arrival in the UK. [11] This has mainly happened with information these monks got from their brother monks or other friends in Sri Lanka who were known to these immigrants. Here, usually before the arrival of the newcomers to the UK, three-way communication is carried out between a monk in Sri Lanka, a monk in the UK and the newcomers getting to know each other. On their arrival new immigrants in search of the society that they have left behind in the home country get a welcoming invitation from a monk resident in one of the temples in and around London to get involved in the activities of a temple. Naturally this gives the immigrants psychological support on their arrival in a religious atmosphere. This has created lasting impressions in the lives of these immigrants in the host country. As for many other Asian immigrants these kinds of activities have made Sinhala immigrants more religious or religiously involved in the host country. [12] Conforming to this pattern, when it was asked in a discussion how they got involved in their temple, one woman, SB-6, said,

 We were delighted by the way in which some monks in Sri Lanka and the UK arranged a temple for us to worship in the UK close to the area where we decided to settle. We were really overwhelmed by the surprise visit of the chief monk of the temple a few days after our arrival in the UK. This was particularly good for us to keep our children in the faith with the guidance of Buddhist monks. This first experience of Buddhism in the UK with the blessing of Sangha (Monk) made a lasting impression on Sri Lankan Buddhism practised in the UK.

 For immigrants from extended families, whose philosophy of the family is often tied up with religions, the religious philosophies of the extended family have become important in the process of migration. [13] This was visible in the Sinhala Christian and Buddhist immigrant community comprising the kith and kin of one extended family settled in East London. All the Christians of this community are Roman Catholics and come from a predominantly Sinhala Roman Catholic coastal area where 74.3% of the population are Roman Catholics. [14] Buddhists of this community come from various parts of Sri Lanka and are married to members of this Roman Catholic extended family. This extended family has been migrating to the UK during a period of about 20 years. As this family is comprised of both Buddhists and Christians they take part in the Sri Lankan Buddhist temple of the area and the British Roman Catholic church where they have chosen to worship. The first person to migrate from this community, who is a Christian, functions as the leader of this community and is supported by his wife who is a practising Buddhist in the UK. As there are number of mixed marriages in this community, they have taken both Christianity and Buddhism seriously as ways of life. When it was asked from the leader the way in which his extended family migrated, and the place of religion in their migration, he SC-3 said,

 After my arrival whenever there were opportunities such as employment for other members of the family to migrate, I made necessary arrangements for them to come. The fact that we are well settled in the local church and that we have Sri Lankan Buddhist temples in London helped their migration. The support and encouragement that we got from both temples and our church were very useful in handling many issues connected to the migration of my family. Here, where our cultural issues like language and practices are concerned the Sri Lankan temples support us. We don’t get this in the church where we worship in London. On the other hand our church helps us to handle UK practicalities such as getting introductions within the local community, to feel secure and become part and parcel of the local community.

 This statement shows that this extended family have used both Buddhism and Christianity in Sri Lanka and the UK to keep migration smoother for immigrants from their extended family. It appears that, in the process of migration, they have been keeping their Sri Lankan local realities alive through Buddhism while using Christianity to face the new realities on their arrival in the UK. When the researcher inquired whether they don’t feel any contradiction in taking part in both Buddhists and Christian activities the leaders of the community SC-3 said.

 Here there is no contradiction. Our Christians practise their faith in the Church and take part in the Buddhist temple for Sinhala cultural activities. On the other hand our Buddhists practise their faith in the Buddhist temple and are exposed to British culture by taking part in the activities of the local church. Also we believe we get blessings from both Buddhism and Christianity.

 Hence this shows that the main expectation of these immigrants “in search of a better life” is integrally connected to the religions they bring from the home country. Therefore in the process of migration the religions of these immigrants have functioned as a vehicle to carry their emotions and feelings from the home to host country, with facilitating effects on their migration. In this community it was important to notice that no one was directly or indirectly influenced to change their religions from Buddhism to Christianity or vice versa.

Migration and 19th century Buddhists revival in Sri Lanka

Williams and Warner show that with regard to the religions of immigrants, the Christian percentage is often higher in the host country than the home country. [15] Through this research it became evident that not only that the Christian percentage but also the percentage of immigrants with Western and Christian influence is higher than Sri Lankan traditional Buddhists. It was estimated that at least 90% of Sinhala Buddhist immigrants do not practise the rural Buddhism of traditional Sri Lankan villages, which is very little touched by western and Christian influences. Buddhists who are not of the traditional faith are those who have been living in the urban areas of Sri Lanka.

 Through structured interviews with six Sinhala Buddhists it became evident that the 19th century Buddhist revival was significant for all without any exception. They expressed their awareness of the effects and influences of this revival in home and host countries towards their migration to the UK. The result of the interviews clearly reveals that these Sinhala Buddhists have gained psychological strength through the Buddhist revival, helping them to adjust to western conditions. In this regard a Buddhist respondent, SB-3, made the following statement,

 I was fascinated to learn how some intellectual British people such as Rhys Davids were attracted to Buddhism and promoted Buddhism in the UK. I have realised that the knowledge of all those things affected my migration to the UK. Or in other words those things made the decision to migrate to the UK easier.

 The response of this Sinhala immigrant should be understood in the context of the contribution of the Buddhist revival towards the elimination of Anglophobia among traditional Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Prior to this revival, Buddhists associated the English language with false religion or mithya drsi with the interpretation that Christianity as a false religion. [16] The removal of this barrier between Buddhism and the English language was done mainly to counteract the British Christian missionary enterprise in Sri Lanka, which categorised Buddhism as a pagan religion that should be abolished. This Buddhist revival, instead of rejecting English language, adopted it to promote Buddhism both in Sri Lanka and abroad.

 To analyse this phenomena on the process of migration, farther discussions were held with Mr. SB-3 and like-minded Sinhala immigrants who are educated professionals such as medical doctors and engineers. Their responses along with the literature review on this subject give a clear picture on the influence of this feature on their migration. In another interview SB-6 commented,

 The contribution of the leaders of the 19th century Buddhist revival towards a better understanding of Buddhism in the western world has been remarkable. Along with the other western people interested in Buddhism, they were able to show the effectiveness of Buddhism in the modern world. With the rise of Darwinism in the western world some western academics realised the parallels between Darwinism and Buddhism. They were able to show that Buddhist philosophy is free from a creator God and that it is the most rational religion in the world. With these happenings in the west the leaders of the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka worked tirelessly to popularise Buddhist thoughts in the West. The outcome of their efforts made Buddhism more acceptable and popular in the West, which in turn created a healthy background for the migration of Buddhists.

 This shows how the activities of the Buddhist revivalists became a factor of facilitation for the migration of Sinhala Buddhists to the UK. This was further strengthened by comments of the following nature by some Christian leaders.

In this regard Prof. Saunders (Literary secretary YMCA India, Burma and Ceylon) has observed,

 Lord Buddha could be very easily singled out as the one person known to man who received homage from the greatest number of mankind. [17]

 On the Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Bishop Milman has observed,

 I feel more and more that Sakyamuni is the nearest in character and effect to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. [18]

 Literature review, participation observation and the structured and informal discussions with Sinhala immigrants have disclosed that the Buddhist revival of the 19th century began as a reaction to the Western Christian Missionary movements in Sri Lanka and resulted in a better understanding of Buddhism in the west, which gradually became a “pull” factor in the migration of Sinhala Buddhists to the UK.

 Western association of Christians and migration

 Structured interviews with six Sinhala Christians clearly indicate that the western association of their churches in Sri Lanka has played a significant role in their migration, making their migration smooth and pleasant. For example expressing the importance of the western association of her denomination for the migration, Ms. SC-2 said,

 As we arrived, the letter of introduction we brought from the Anglican Church in Sri Lanka was very helpful to introduce ourselves to the Anglican Church in the local area.

Mr. SC-3 and Mr SC-4 came out with the following statements respectively showing the support that they received from the local churches in Sri Lanka.

 Mr. SC-3 : Before I migrated, I got a lot of advice and information from a Roman Catholic priest known to me. This advice was very helpful.

 Mr. SC-4: When I wanted to migrate, priests and sisters supported me a lot. They gave me all the information they had. You can’t expect this from ordinary people. When one tries to migrate usually others are jealous and won’t give information. In this manner my religion really helped me to migrate by supplying necessary information. Also these religious leaders introduced me to Roman Catholic leaders in England, which was very useful when I arrived in the UK.

 The Sinhala Christian girl, Ms. SC-5, born in the UK, showing her knowledge of the assistance received by her parents for their migration, said,

 I have observed how religions have helped my parents to migrate to this country. In a way that was their only international link before arrival in the UK. For instance, the links that my parents church in Sri Lanka had with a church in the UK have helped them to get information about the UK.

It was apparent that some Christian immigrants from Sri Lanka treasure their association with western Christianity. In the process of migration these treasured associations have become useful for Sinhala Buddhists and Christians from Sri Lanka. In the following manner, one Christian lady (SC-2) expressed how her Anglican upbringing became one of the decisive factors of her migration to a predominantly white British area,

 Even before our arrival our main intention was to migrate to a white British area and to worship with British people in a British Anglican church. We wanted to bring up our children with Anglican values and to give them an Anglican education in the country where the Anglican Church originated.

Statements of this kind by some Christians from Sri Lanka show that the western association through Christianity enabled them to make a prominent impact in the host country and made other home country realities, such as the Sinhala language they brought with them, less important.

 Discussions with Sinhala Christian immigrants aged over 60 years made it evident that certain moves implemented by Sri Lankan governments after 1956 caused them to migrate to the UK, as observed by Saram,

 Although anti-Catholic sentiments have been expressed by Buddhist militants since the early 1950s, it was not until 1960 that these sentiments were translated by the SLFP[19] into official policy, largely for political reasons. Buddhist activists had long resented what they considered to be the unfair privileges enjoyed by Sri Lanka’s Catholics. [20]

 In this background Christians generally and urban Christians particularly have been affected by three events after independence in 1948. These events have become “pull factors” in migration for many urban Christians in Sri Lanka. The three events were the take-over of schools managed by Christian denominations by the government in 1961, tea estates taken over by the government in 1972 and the “Sinhala only act” of 1956, which made the lives of Christians in Sri Lanka uneasy and unpleasant. [21] With these changes many urban Christians were forced to give up their positions in society with the denial of the English language, which was their first language for generations under British rule. It was natural for them to look up to the UK with its Christian associations so they could regain the place in society that had been denied to them. Regarding this issue, in an interview a Sinhala Christian (SC-2) aged over 60 said, 

 When they (the Sri Lankan government) took over most of our (Church) schools we did not have enough schools to educate our children in the language (English) we were used to with our Christian background. When they forced us to do all the work in Sinhala, it became impossible as we were not at all used to working in Sinhala. Above all they simply forgot our contributions towards the development of our country. (Sri Lanka) People began to look at us, as though we were their enemies. In this condition, before we migrated, the only consolation we had was our church which gave us a glimpse of all the things taken away from us.

 This shows how through Christianity they were attracted to the western way of life, which in turn became a place of consolation when the “western colonial life” was taken away from them in Sri Lankan society. When they had to look for ways and means to reclaim their lost honour, migration to another country became one of the options. Commenting on this option SC-2 said,

 Since we were Christians and were familiar with British realities we decided that we should migrate to the UK. Also the fact that our generation had been serving the British Empire made our decision to migrate to the UK easier.

 This reveals how post-independent socio-cultural and political changes in Sri Lanka which had made everyday life difficult for the Christians brought them closer to their religion. Christianity and the western attitudes they were familiar with made their migration smoother to the UK. [22] This has increased the importance of their religion for these immigrants in the host country.

 Religion and migration in the context of Sri Lankan middle class and capitalism.

 The vast majority of the Sinhala immigrants, both Christians and Buddhists, have lived in the urban middle class background in Sri Lanka where capitalistic values found a fertile ground. This was true of the sample of twelve people chosen for structured interviews. Eight of them were from this background and the other two belong to the second generation of these immigrants. Here the observation of Max Weber highlighting the connection between protestant ethics and the rise of capitalism is useful in studying the migration of these people. Commenting on Weber’s observations Ann Levine has noted,

 Whereas Marx saw religion as an obstacle to social change, Weber saw it as an agent of social change. Weber began with a puzzle: Why were the leading capitalists of the day overwhelmingly Protestant? Why not Catholic (or Buddhist or Muslim)? He found an answer in the Calvinistic phase of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin believed that the individual’s fate in the hereafter was preordained but did not advocate passive acceptance of whatever life brought. Rather he preached the redemptive value of work. The Protestant work ethic, with its peculiar combination of hard work and deferred gratification, was ideally suited to capitalism. Under Calvinism, investing in profit-making ventures became a moral duty. In this case, then, religion played a major, active role in social change. The one point on which all these theorists would agree is that the structure of religion and that of society are intertwined. [23]

 It was clear that the influence of protestant ethics was not confined only to Christians but also affected Buddhists, particularly those living in the urban areas of Sri Lanka. Among these immigrants to the UK, some had been living in urban areas in Sri Lanka for generations while others had migrated to urban areas in the recent past. Through the participant observation, the researcher was able to determine that these immigrants not only have lived in the urban areas of Sri Lanka but were also nurtured in a middle-class background with capitalistic values. They were not from the poverty stricken section of the urban areas in Sri Lanka such as slums and shanties.

 In this context it became necessary to investigate the relationship between migration and the religion of people in urban areas with capitalistic values in order to verify the influence of religion on the process of migration. It was clear that most of these immigrants had been practising their faith with capitalistic values, protestant ethics and the rise of capitalism. This is evident in their philosophy of life. For instance, they consider material prosperity as a blessing and they invest part of their income for profit and future use. Whether they were Buddhists or Christians the religious philosophy of these people has been associated with capitalistic values influenced by protestant ethics.

 The Buddhists in the urban areas of Sri Lanka who created "Protestant Buddhism" in the 19th century are from middle-class backgrounds with protestant ethics and capitalistic values and were more exposed to western realities than others in traditional rural areas of Sri Lanka. Through this research it became evident that the majority of the Buddhists in and around London are from this group and were influenced by both protestant Christianity and protestant Buddhism, and that this greatly facilitated their migration to the UK.

 After the political independence of Sri Lanka from Britain in 1948 most of those who remained Christians in urban middle-class areas with capitalistic values were more concerned about their power and prestige in the society. [24] Christianity and the western way of life which had secured their status before independence were essential for them. It was hard to think of Christianity without a western way of life. According to their way of thinking the British way of life was the best. When this way of life gradually changed in Sri Lanka they began to make an effort to keep it alive at least within the Christian Church. [25] It could be said that when this group accepted Christianity in a western form the form became more important than the content. The incarnation model of the Christian gospel was alien to this group. Therefore even after independence they were attached to the western way of life without a proper understanding of the changing realities around them. As this group had powerful positions in Christian churches the official position of the church was greatly influenced by them. In this regard Kenneth Fernando (later the Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka) has observed,

 So, by and large, the Church remained a group hankering after the fleshpots of the past colonial era, the language and culture of the colonial masters which gave them what they considered to be a social distinction and they espoused the cause of the privileged and the rich. [26]

 It is evident that this group was so attached to a western way of life with capitalistic values it became an integral part of their life. This made this group of people a “reality in Sri Lanka” and not “of Sri Lanka”. They maintained their liking for the former colonial way of life and began to speak of the present in the language of the colonial era. Though British rule had ended they wanted to continue life in the same way and with an emotional attachment to their faith.

 In this state they could manage their lives without serious tension until 1956.[27] The right wing government of the United National Party did not propose any drastic changes from the former colonial government. In that government before 1956 generally all Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers were from the Anglicised urban elite, ethnically from Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Eurasian (Burghers) communities, with Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Islamic religious associations. Later, when the newly formed Sri Lanka Freedom Party came into power in 1956 many Members of Parliament were from traditional Sri Lankan villages. They were not from the westernised elite and did not speak English fluently. The power inherited by the westernise elite from Britain gradually began to diminish. [28] This resulted in major changes in their life-style, creating an identity crisis for the westernised elite. [29]  Those who found it difficult to identify with this new society came to the conclusion that it would be more comfortable to live in the UK than in Sri Lanka. In an interview with one member of this group (SC-2) of immigrants in the UK the researcher noted some of the problems they had faced.

 Although we spoke English as our first language and followed the Christian faith, we saw ourselves as Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka was our motherland. But when the majority of people in Sri Lanka began to discriminate against us because of our faith and language we were felt compelled to migrate to a place where we would be accepted and comfortable. People were not ready to work hard like us. They wanted everything free of charge.

 It was observed that most of this group were from the Karava caste whose ancestors became Christianised as communities and not as individuals. Commenting on the conversion of Karava people to Christianity M. D. Raghavan has observed,

 The readiness to embrace Christianity arose from many causes. Being comparative newcomers, the Karava were less enmeshed in the intricacies of the Sinhalese social structure. Lesser involvement in the feudalism of the time gave them greater freedom of action. [30]

 As a result of their beliefs and way of life this group had more freedom and found it easier to live with capitalistic values enriched by Christian protestant principles. This enabled them to create a Christian culture of their own with middle-class capitalistic values that brought them closer to their colonial masters.

 It is clear that people whose caste association made them easier to become Christians in the colonial era with its capitalistic values found their Christianity a facilitating factor in emigrating to a new life in the UK, and to recover the self-esteem they had lost in Sri Lanka

 Religion, past-pupils associations and migration

 This research has discovered that UK branches of past-pupil associations of Sri Lankan schools (often with religious associations) are directly and indirectly linked to the emigration of many Sinhala people. [31] These associations often have branches in various countries with their main office in Sri Lanka. Through their activities they have been supporting their schools in Sri Lanka, both financially and psychologically. These links have been functioning as live wires connecting Sri Lanka and the UK through religious affiliations, as all these schools are religious foundations.

 The first and foremost influence of these schools is the English language, which is of primary importance for immigrants to the UK. These immigrants are grateful to their schools for equipping them with the English language. As for Buddhists, these schools not only have equipped them with English but have also taught Buddhism in English. This has been an enabling factor for smoother migration from home to the host country. In this regard a male migrant Mr. SB-3, said the following,

 When I look back I realise that my education in a school started by Buddhist revivalists of the 19th century has really prepared me for migration to the UK. In the school I learned how to be a good Buddhist in western contextual realities. I was encouraged to read and study Buddhism in English, although I did not see any necessity to do this in my school days.

 The majority of Sinhala immigrants in and around London have studied at schools started by Christian missionaries from the west or schools started by Buddhists revivalists of the 19th century assisted by some westerners. The Sinhala Buddhist immigrants who have studied at these schools have been exposed to many British influences such as the English language and cultural aspects such as drama and music. They have emerged from the Anglophobia which still prevails in many rural Buddhist villages in Sri Lanka. These Buddhists learned that the English language and British cultural values were of value in promoting their religion and their lives as devout Buddhists. These values and attitudes began to develop in Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 19th century with the Buddhist revival. These Buddhist revivalists rejected, on the one hand, certain Christian models and structures while adopting some of them with a different meaning and content. It is relevant to refer in this respect to criticism of the activities of the YMCA[32] and the formation of the YMBA, [33] which adopted the organisational structure of the YMCA.

 The participant observation revealed that the majority of Sinhala Christian immigrants belonging to traditional Christian churches are products of schools founded in the 19th century by western Christian missionaries in Sri Lanka. These immigrants are very proud of their upbringing in these schools and continue to be in touch with them. They are members of the British branches of the past-pupil associations of their old schools in Sri Lanka and work hard to help them. It is observed that, among other Sri Lankan immigrants, many identify themselves as “Thomians” or “Peterites” after the names of their old schools. These identities have become important for them with the fact that missionary bodies such as CMS [34] which started some these schools still exist with their headquarters in London. The other important factor with regard to these associations with their former schools is the links they have formed between schools in Sri Lanka and schools in Britain. Often immigrants are the main facilitators of these links, keeping them alive and active.

 The responses given by the Sinhala Buddhist and Christian immigrants show that the schools started by Christian missionaries and schools founded by Buddhist revivalists on the Christian missionary model have given immigrants a culture entirely different to the culture of their generations in Sri Lanka. The schools have given them a new culture not much related to their caste and profession in Sri Lanka. This is contrary to the traditional education in the caste system where they were confined to the profession of the caste. For instance children of the fisher caste learned fishing in the caste while farmers train their children to get involved in farming as their future livelihood.

 The process has enabled immigrants to establish a culture taught by their schools in contrast to the traditional castes and professional associations which influenced them in Sri Lanka. Their association with the British branches of past-pupils associations has shown how they value the culture gained at their Sri Lankan schools even after their migration to the UK. The term “past-pupils associations” gives the impression that even in the host country they consider them as pupils of these schools, retaining their pupil state as a present reality.

 When interviewed a British-born young man showed his awareness of the influence on his parent’s migration of the schools where they studied. Undoubtedly the main source behind this impression was the parents themselves who valued their schools as a facilitating factor in their migration - the importance of their schooling even when they are in the host country.

 The attraction of Sinhala immigrants to past-pupils associations and its connection with their education leads us to ask what is meant by “education”. The Latin word educare, literally means to “bring up” and is connected to the verb form educere, which means, “bring forth”.[35] I. Robertson has said, “In its broadest meaning “education” could mean “socialisation”, as both pass on culture from one generation to another.” [36] Durkheim’s definition of education as “the socialisation of the younger generation” is in similar vein. [37]

 In the traditional society of Sri Lanka, the broader sense of education was through “caste” - the basic social structure of that society. The elders passed on the knowledge of caste professions such as pottery work and carpentry to the next generation in a non- formal way, preserving the caste and profession within the community. [38] But the colonial, western form of education started by Christian missionaries and Buddhist revivalists changed the pattern and gave pupils a new identity associated with their schools. Even after migration they have retained this identity through past-pupils associations.

 The relationship between migration and the British branches of past-pupils associations has been further strengthened by the fact that some extended families send their children to the same school in Sri Lanka. Among average middle-class people it is not hard to find families who have been attending the same school for several generations. The schools they proudly send their children to were religious foundations during the British colonial era, started either by Christian missionaries or the Buddhist revivalist of the 19th century.

 The British branches of past-pupils associations have reinforced their strength by facilitating the migration of more people from extended families who have studied in the same school in Sri Lanka.

 The migration and de-Europeanising of Christianity with de-Asianising of Buddhism

 Warner (along with other sociologists) has observed that due to migrant religions in host countries traditional ethno-religious associations have been changing rapidly. In our research it was evident that Sinhala immigrants belonged to two universal religions, Buddhism and Christianity, have been contributing to this trend. [39]

 Most of the Sinhala Christian immigrants belong to denominations such as Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic, which developed in Western Europe in response to theological, cultural, social and political realities. The traditional protestant denominations in Sri Lanka are closely associated with London, often with their head offices there or with international links. At the same time over the years these denominations have been integrated into Sri Lankan realities.

 Many Sri Lankan Anglicans are aware of the pioneering steps taken by the Sri Lankan Anglican Church in the first half of the 20th century to indigenise the Christian church outside Europe, making the theological claim that aspects such as indigenous music and idioms can and must be used in worship and other activities of the life of the faith community. [40] Some Anglican Sinhala immigrants are proud of this contribution by the Sri Lankan Anglican Church to the worldwide Anglican Communion. Pioneering contributions of this nature by the Sri Lankan Christian church has given them a sense of dignity in the UK, giving them their unique identity in British society.

 The participation of the Sri Lankan Christians in the de-Europeanising of Christianity in the UK has created a plus factor in the process of migration for the incomers who feel a sense of belonging on their arrival in the UK. This has happened with the contribution of Sinhala Christians who helped to bring about changes in the general Christian identity in the UK. Through participant observation it was found that Christians who contributed to the de-Europeanising of Christianity are members of three Christian sub-cultures namely white British, other black and brown people and Sri Lankan communities with an understanding of the British society who welcome new immigrants with fellowship and help them to settle in British society.

 In East London there are churches packed with Asians and Africans. In one particular church, it was observed that about forty Sinhala Christians were worshipping along with white British and other Asians and Africans. Over the years in this particular church the Asian population has been increasing with a decreasing number of white British people in the congregation. This particular Sinhala Christian community is very close to the Sri Lankan Buddhist temple of the area and some of them take an active part in the activities of the temple. This participation has been strengthening with a few mixed marriages between Sinhala Christian and Buddhist in this community. De-Europeanising of this Christian congregation has been attracting some Sinhala immigrants to this fellowship, making their migration smoother and more pleasant.

 The position of Sri Lankan Christian leaders in important Christian organisations has been a facilitating factor in the influx of some immigrants from Sri Lanka. Christian leaders based in the UK, Sri Lanka and other countries have influenced the process of migration in variety of ways. Leaders based in Sri Lanka are consulted by migrants before their movement in order to become aware of what they will have to deal with in the host country. On their arrival leaders in the host country are often contacted to arrange for them to be introduced to communities (the leaders working with in the UK) In an interview, a Sinhala Christian immigrant (SC-6) from Sri Lanka made the following statement,

 We are proud of our Sri Lankan Christian leaders in international organisations, especially the Christian priests in these organisations who were helpful before and throughout our migration. The support we got from them in Sri Lanka before our departure and after our arrival in the UK made our migration smoother, avoiding many problems faced by immigrants to the UK. In this regard, according to my understanding and experience the positive impressions they made through their association with influential people in the UK have been particularly helpful for us in making our first impression with British people in response to them.

 Buddhism has been de-Asianising from the 19th century with the rise of Buddhist institutions in the West. England was one of the prominent countries in this, with London as the centre of these activities. According to available data today there are about a hundred Buddhist temples in the UK, including twenty-three Theravada temples. [41] The following observation shows that, apart from these, many other Buddhist institutions have been growing in Europe over the years.

 One notes also the rapid increase of Buddhist institutions in Europe, which in Britain shot up from seventy-four (1979) to about 340 (1997) and in Germany from some forty (1975) to more than 400 (1997) meditation circles, groups and centres. [42]

 The contribution of these temples towards their migration, one Sinhala Buddhist person (SB-6) said,

 Long before our migration - indeed, even before we dreamt of migration - we were well aware of the existence of many Buddhist temple in and around London. Also I am aware that there are nearly a hundred Buddhist temples in the UK from various traditions, including an order called “the friends of western Buddhists”, which is mainly a white British institution. Here I think it is important to note that while Christian churches of some denominations are closing at a steady rate, the number of Buddhist temples in the UK is increasing. The existence of these temples was a great source of strength for our migration. This was great in two ways. Firstly it was great to have our faith and philosophy of life along with the other Sri Lankan Buddhists. Secondly it was great because we could relate to British people through British Buddhists who have often understood our faith better than us.

In understanding this process of de-Asianising of Buddhism the following observations by Almond could be considered relevant,

 In fine, the Buddha was an ideal Victorian gentleman,…[43] 

 By the middle of the Victorian period, the Buddha had emerged from the wings of myth and entered the historical stage. No longer identified with the ancient gods, distinct from the Hindu account of him and his mythical predecessors, the Buddha was a human figure - one to be compared not with gods but with other historical personalities, and one to be interpreted in the light of the Victorian ideal of humanity. [44]

 In a poem by Edwin Arnold called “The Light of Asia”. George Cobbold, an Anglican clergyman, described The light of Asia in 1894 as the book which,

 …probably more than any other work of the day has been the means of drawing the attention of English-speaking people to Buddhism…. [45]

There is no doubt that these changes of attitudes of British people (especially in the Victorian era) towards Buddhism have been a facilitating factor for some British people to embrace Buddhism. This in turn has become an enabling aspect to have a better understanding between western and Asian people through Buddhism. It is manifest that this understanding has been an enabling factor in the migration of Sinhala Buddhists from Sri Lanka who firmly believe that their identity is inseparable from Buddhism.

 “Religion and migration” in the context of globalisation

 After independence in 1948 and up to 1977 was a period in which the government of Sri Lanka took over many foreign companies and sent foreigners back home. Christians missionaries from foreign countries gradually decreased in the Christian churches in Sri Lanka, weakening their relationship with countries such as the UK. [46]  In this situation various denominations such as Anglican and Methodist began to work closely, coming together to emphasise their Sri Lankan Christian identity rather than their British origin of the past. But after the official introduction of an open economy in 1977 once again it became easier for various denominations to strengthen their relationships with their respective denominations in European countries. Today, many urban churches in Sri Lanka with middle-class congregations have links and relationships with churches in the UK. These relationships have been strengthened and new relationships are emerging in the context of globalisation, along with modern communication facilities such as the Internet and e-mail. This has enabled migrants to get familiar with British churches before their emigration, and has been a plus factor for migrants. In consequence, on their arrival in the UK some Sinhala Christians from Sri Lanka become part of a local church known to them through their local church in Sri Lanka.

 The global aspect of religion is evident in a statement by Mr. SC-1 during a structured interview,

As we were Anglicans in Sri Lanka with a good knowledge of English even before our arrival, we did not notice any remarkable difference between Anglicanism in Sri Lanka and the UK.

 Note how he has spoken of “we”, to include his family. This statement along with the researcher’s close association with this family shows how they were influenced by the urban globalisation trends of Christianity in Sri Lanka before their migration.

 Through observation it has been noticed that in the global economy the infiltration of the basic functional structures of multinational companies into religions have been a facilitating factor in migration. This is particularly true of urban people working for multinational companies, practising their faith in an urban church dominated by the capitalistic values of the global economy. This influence has been visible in Sri Lanka, very specially from the mid 70’s with the official introduction of the open economy of globalisation. [47] From that time, the strong integration of the values of the global economy has been reshaping the activities of churches of various denominations in Sri Lanka.

 This change in the churches in Sri Lanka often have brought the churches of similar values closer to each other at time across the denominations. These relationships are strengthened through members of Sri Lankan and UK churches working for the branches of the same company in Sri Lanka and the UK. A Sinhala Christian immigrant (SC-6) from Sri Lanka working for a multinational company with branches both in Sri Lanka and the UK said,

I migrated when there was a vacancy in the British branch of the company that I worked for in Sri Lanka. The churches that some of the employers of my company belong to in the UK have links with my local church in Sri Lanka and this made my migration a pleasant experience. We could trust each other as members of the same faith with the same theological perspectives.

 This gives the impression of a kind of a standardisation of religion through globalisation, as in multinational companies where there are branches very similar anywhere in the world. Churches of this kind in the UK have made close relationships, with Sri Lankan churches with the similar values globally, resulting in facilitating effects for migration. This clearly reveals the enhancing role played by types of religions emerging in the global economy as a factor in migration.

 In most of the urban areas of Sri Lanka these relationships have created many tensions between global and local realities of Christianity. Through the researcher’s extensive living experience in Sri Lanka and discussions with Sinhala immigrants from those areas of Sri Lanka it has been observed that these tensions have been contributing to the process of migration. This has happened with the fundamentalist trends of Christianity associated with global economy, promoting the concept that other religions are of no soteriological value. These philosophies have been strengthened by the establishment of many multinational companies in the global economy, promoting western values such as individualism and the personal salvation associated with Christianity. This has created a lifestyle for some urban Christians combining their religions and employment. Some have formed associations of Christian business people to promote these values in the global economy.

 In a charismatic trilingual congregation of Sri Lankan origin in London there are some Sinhala Christians from grass-root level, who are not found in other London churches. Most have converted to Christianity within ten years, either in Sri Lanka or in the Middle East where some had worked before their arrival in the UK. The conversions of these people, whether in Sri Lanka or the Middle East, is closely related to the aspects of globalisation which have facilitated the migration of charismatic churches of this kind to Sri Lanka. In discussions it was revealed that they have had a psychological migration from rural areas to urban life style, especially through the charismatic Christian faith embraced by them. Some rural folk who preferred to migrate to western countries have chosen to embrace this form of Christianity. It is noticed that some of the pastors of these denominations indirectly show how they could prosper in western countries with their form of Christianity. This has helped them to have the basic detachment from the traditional rural environment necessary for migration.

Although the researcher has observed these realities in Sri Lanka and in London, it was difficult for these immigrants to discover the sociological reasons for their conversion and the connection between their religion and migration. One Sinhala Christian person (SC-6) said,

 It was God who called us to be his children. We became Christians because it was the will of God. Because we obeyed God we were blessed and God showed the way for us to come to this country. We are certain that if we obey Him, He will give us more blessings.

This statement shows that, although they did not reveal the effects of globalisation and religion on their migration, they drew a close connection with their relatively new religion and migration. Here under the purview of this research, it is necessary to interpret their religious experiences in sociological terms. According to their religious experience the enabling role played by their religion towards their migration is a blessing from God because they obeyed Him. They believe that the main aspect of their obeying was the change of their traditional religion to the true religion, which is Christianity.

 This reveals how the psychology supplied by the religions closely associated with globalisation are facilitating and encouraging migration to western countries such as the UK.

 Religions generally encourage believers to venture out into what seems extremely difficult or impossible tasks on the basis of faith and faith community. When things are rationally unapproachable, religions create space to keep the hope of expectation. In the face of a bleak future religions supply the psychological support to keep believers alive and active. In this analysis of the “place of religion in the process of migration”, it is clear that the religions of the immigrants have been functioning to fulfil these roles to take them through the passage of migration, facilitating them to encounter many realities, which are unexplainable and unresolved by merely rational arguments.

Abbreviations – SB = Sinhala Buddhist - SC = Sinhala Christian

[1] Warner, R. S. and Wittner, J. G. (Edited) (1998), Gathering in Diaspora, Temple University press, Philadelphia, USA & Williams, R. B. (1988), Religions of Immigrants from India and Pakistan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

[2] Warner, R. S. (1998), Approaching  Religious Diversity : Barriers, Byways, and Beginnings, <> >

[3] Yang, F. & Ebaugh, H.E. (2001 Sept), ‘Religion and Ethnicity Among New Immigrants :The Impact of Majority/ Minority Status in Home and Host Countries, Journal for Scientific Study of Religion 40:3 pp. 367-378.

[4] Warner, R. S. and Wittner, J. G. (Edited) (1998), Gathering in Diaspora, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, USA, p.5.

[5] Boucher, J., Landis, D. & Clark, K.A. (1987), Ethnic Conflict: International Perspectives, Saga Publications, USA, India and England.

[6] Williams, R. B. (1988), Religions of Immigrants from India and Pakistan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

[7] Warner, R. S. (2000), The New Immigrant Religion: An Update and Appraisal, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago,

<> >

[8] Warner, R. S. and Wittner, J. G. (Edited) (1998), Gathering in Diaspora, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, USA, p. 20.

[9] Murry, B. ( 2002), Covering the ‘ New Immigrants’ and Their Religion,

<> >

[10] Babbie, E.R. (1975), The Practice of Social Research, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., Belmont, California, p.203.

[11] Murry, B. ( 2002), Covering the ‘ New Immigrants’ and their Religion,

<> >

[12] Chen, C. (2002), ‘The Religious Varieties of Ethnic Presence: A Comparison between a Taiwanese Immigrant Buddhist Temple and an Evangelical Christian Church’, Summer, Sociology of Religion, <> >  

[13] Baumann, G. (2002), Contesting Culture – Discourses of Identity in Multi-Ethnic London, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, p. 95.

[14] Somaratne, G.P.V. (1982), Christian Religion in Sri Lanka (In Sinhala), Deepani Publisher, 464, High Level Road, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. p.170.

[15] Williams, R. B. (1988), Religions of Immigrants from India and Pakistan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 102-121.

[16]Tilakaratne, Asnga (1998), Buddhism Since Independence: 1948-1998, A paper presented at the Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue, Havelock Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka, p. 3. 

[17] Sri Dhammananda, K. (1992), Buddhism in the Eyes of the Intellectuals, Buddhist Missionary Society, 123,Jalan Berhala, Off Jalan Tun Sambanthan, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, p.13.

[18] Sri Dhammananda, K. (1992), Buddhism in the Eyes of the Intellectuals,  Buddhist Missionary Society, 123,Jalan Berhala, Off Jalan Tun Sambanthan, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, p.17.

[19] Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

[20] Saram, P.A.& Caldarola, C. (Edited) (1982), “The Evolutionary Dialectics of a Buddhist State” in Religion and Societies: Asia and Middle East, Mouton Publishers, Berlin, p.358.

[21] Somaratne, G.P.V. (1982), Christian Religion in Sri Lanka (In Sinhala), Deepani Publisher, 464, High Level Road, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. pp. 164 – 204.

[22] Somaratne, G.P.V. (1982), Christian Religion in Sri Lanka (In Sinhala), Deepani Publisher, 464,High Level Road, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. pp. 164 – 204.

[23] Bassis, M.S., Gelles, R.J. & Levine, A. (Prepared by Ann Levine) (1983), Study Guide to Accompany Sociology , An Introduction , Second Edition,  Random House, New York, pp.172 & 173.

[24] Somaratne, G.P.V. (1982), Christian Religion in Sri Lanka (In Sinhala), Deepani Publisher, 464, High Level Road, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. pp. 164 – 204.

[25] Somaratne, G.P.V. (1982), Christian Religion in Sri Lanka (In Sinhala), Deepani Publisher, 464, High Level Road, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. pp. 164 – 204.

[26] Fernando, K. (1991), ‘The Story of the Church’, in “Hopelessness and Challenge” Edited by T. Ferdinands, Christian Conference of Asia – Internal Affairs & The Commission for Justice and Peace of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, p.33.

[27] Houtart, F. (1974), Religion and Ideology in Sri Lanka, Hansa Publishers Colombo-3. pp.140-142. 

[28] Houtart, F. (1974), Religion and Ideology in Sri Lanka, Hansa Publishers Colombo-3. pp.142-149.  

[29] Somaratne, G.P.V. (1982), Christian Religion in Sri Lanka (In Sinhala), Deepani Publisher, 464,High Level Road, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. pp. 164 – 193.

[30] Raghavan, M. D. (1961), The Karava of Ceylon, Society and Culture, K.V.G. de Silva & Sons, 415, Galle Road, Bambalabitiya, Colombo, Sri Lanka, p.32.

[31]Daily news” – Sri Lankan newspaper – Lake House, Wednesday, January 9, 2002.

[32] Young Men’s Christian Association.

[33] Young Men’s Buddhist Association.

[34] Christian Missionary Society. 

[35] Shankar Rao, C.N. (1998), Reprint- Sociology, S. Chand & Company Ltd. Ram Nagar, New Delhi- 110055, p 415.

[36] Robertson, I. ( 1983), Sociology, 2nd edition, Worth Publishers Inc. New York 10016, p.377.

[37] Shankar Rao, C.N. ( 1998), Reprint- Sociology, S. Chand & Company Ltd Ram Nagar, New Delhi- 110055,p 416.

[38] Robertson, I.(1983),Sociology, 2nd edition, Worth Publishers Inc. New York 10016,pp.237&242.

[39] Warner, R. S. (2000), The New Immigrant Religion: An Update and Appraisal, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago,

<> >

[40] SuryaSena,  D. (1978), Of Sri Lanka I Sing,  , Ranco Printers & Publishers Limited,   Galle Road, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka, pp. 66-69 & De S.Kulatillake, C. & Abeysinghe, R. (1976), A Background to Sinhala Traditional Music of Sri Lanka, Department of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka, p.8.

[41]  Appendix Two.

[43] Almond, P.C.(1988),  The British discovery of Buddhism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, p.79.

[44] Almond, P.C.(1988),  The British Discovery of Buddhism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, p.140.

[45] Cobbold, G.A. (1894), Religion in Japan: Shintoism, Buddhism, Christianity, S.P.C.K.,London, p.32.

[46] Somaratne, G.P.V. (1982),Christian Religion in Sri Lanka (In Sinhala), Deepani Publisher, 464,High Level Road, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. p.197.

[47] David, L. (1994), Sri Lanka:  The Invention of Enmity, United States Institute of Peace, Washington D.C., pp.78-81.