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Missionary Spotlight – Sri Lanka – Features

February 1998

Physical: An island 25,328 square miles in area, 50 miles south-east of India. Hilly in the south. Adam’s Peak, standing 2243 metres high, is sacred to Buddhists.

Population: 18 million. Sinhalese – 74%; Tamils 17%; Moors – 7% (partly descended from Arab seafarers); others – 2%. Population density – 622 persons per square mile. One quarter are urban dwellers. Life expectancy – about 65 years.

Capital (and chief port): Colombo (nearly 2 million); town: Kandy; ports: Jaffna, Galle, Negombo, Trincomalee.

Languages: Sinhala and Tamil (official languages); English. Literacy – 85%.

Economy: Mainly agricultural, rice being the staple crop and tea the chief export; also light industrial and services. Exports: tea, rubber, coconut, graphite, textiles, ceramics and gems. Income from citizens working abroad is a major source of foreign exchange. GNP – $539 per head.

Religions: Buddhist – 69%, mostly Sinhalese; Hindu – 15%, mostly Tamils; Muslim – 8%, mostly Moors; Roman Catholic – 7%; Protestant – 1%. There is, unusually in Buddhist society, a strong caste system. Many cults are active, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Moonies.

Protestant groups: Church of Ceylon (Anglican); Methodist; Assemblies of God (AOG); Ceylon Pentecostal Mission; Foursquare Gospel Church; Fellowship of Free Churches; Church of South India; Salvation Army; Baptist Union; Dutch Reformed Church; independent charismatic groups.

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Sri Lanka