Introducing the Department of Christian Civilization
The Department of Christian Civilization at the University of Jaffna is one of the remarkable centres of teaching and research related to Christian studies in Sri Lanka. Christian Civilization is a discipline that comes under humanities which treats the origin, expansion and the important characteristics of Christian religion. It encompasses the scriptures, beliefs, practices, history, art, literature, morals and the contemporary trends of Christian religion, together with its interaction with other religions and other social, cultural, ethical and biomedical issues that affect the society. It will give a comprehensive view of Christian religion from its inception to the present day considering it as a civilization the permeated and responsibly influenced the history of humankind.
Christianity originated as a group of Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth, and became a movement. It moved fast from Palestine, its place of origin, to many parts of Europe, North Africa and some parts of Asia, including India already in the course of the first century BCE. With the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity, it became the official religion of the empire and became a major influence on the lives of the people of the empire. Gradually, Christianity as a religion penetrated into the cultural fabric of Europe forging a civilization beyond the confines of the Roman Empire. With waves of European colonization, Christianity spread to Ameircas, and the other parts of Africa and Asia.
Over the centuries, Christianity has contributed to education, art, architecture, drama, music cinema, music, literature and sciences (many scientific inventors were by Christians, and many scientific theories were also by Christians such as the Big Bang theory).
The study of Christian Civilization encompasses Christian scriptures, beliefs, practices, history, art, literature, morals and contemporary trends of Christian religion such as interreligious dialogue, social and biomedical ethics. The study at the University of Jaffna offers a comprehensive view of Christian civilization through the ages as a major influence in the making of human history.
In the annals of the history of University of Jaffna the existence of the Dept. of Christian Civilization is registered as a Unit for four decades and as a full-fledged Department for three decades. Year 2019 was a landmark year for the department to recall the above historical events. The department offers the undergraduates an opportunity to graduate in Christian Civilization with General (3 years) and Honours (4 years) degrees. It has as its aim to produce graduates with the profile which falls in line with the vision, mission, strategic goals, core values and objectives of the corporate plan of the University of Jaffna. Christian Civilization is also offered as one of the fields of studies at the Centre for Open and Distance Learning (CODL) for external students. The department offers also the opportunity for postgraduate researches leading to MPhil and PhD in Christian Civilization through the Faculty of Postgraduate Studies. It has launched a postgraduate master’s degree programme, namely, ‘Master of Christian Studies’ which is a taught course comprises of one academic year.
History of the Department
In 1974, when a campus of the University of Sri Lanka was established at Thirunelvely in Jaffna, the long standing aspiration of the people of Jaffna for a higher education center was partially fulfilled. The Jaffna Campus became an independent and autonomous University bearing the name ‘University of Jaffna’ on January 01, 1979. From a very modest beginning, the UoJ has grown enormously and is today the home of ten faculties, with fifty seven academic departments, several service, academic and support units and centers. Such an expansion has given the UoJ an opportunity to journey towards the achievement of its vision and mission and to increase its commitment to the region and open its doors to the society to serve and guide towards excellence.
University of Jaffna is the pride of the Tamils and the centre of knowledge of the Northern Sri Lanka; it stands as a magnificent institution with the vision “to be a leading centre of excellence in teaching, learning, research and scholarship”. It has produced thousands of graduates during the last forty four years. As a growing academic venture it progresses ever young and ever new. Christian Civilization joined in to add to the beauty of this institute as a Unit in the Faculty of Arts in 1979 and became a Department in 1989. Year 2019 was a landmark year for the Department of Christian Civilization as it remembered its 40th year as a unit and 30th year as a Department in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Jaffna.
Mr. S. Jebanesan, now Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan, the Bishop emeritus of the Church of South India, prepared the syllabus and was appointed as a lecturer and the first coordinator of the Unit, Christian Civilization. Eleven students were enrolled as pioneering students of this Unit. When the Department of Language and Cultural Studies was started in 1981, this Unit along with Arabic and Islamic Civilization became part of it. Rev. Dr. A. J. V. Chandrakanthan joined as a permanent lecturer and Unit Coordinator in 1981.
In 1989 the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies was divided into the Department of Linguistics and English and the Department of Christian and Islamic Civilizations. As a result the students had the opportunity to offer Christian Civilization for General and Special Degree of Bachelor of Arts. When the Department of Christian and Islamic Civilizations was created, more students opted to follow the course in Christian Civilization. The University Grants Commission too admitted students to this Department on the ‘special intake’ quota and thus the number steadily grew.
Owing to the ethnic crisis and displacement, even when the students of Islamic discipline left the University of Jaffna, the Department has to continue and is continuing with the initial name as Department of Christian and Islamic Civilizations, though all the students of Islamic Civilization were absorbed to follow their study in the other Universities of the country.
After the massive exodus of the Jaffna Peninsula 1995, Prof. S. Sivalingarajah, then Senior Lecturer in Tamil, was appointed as the Acting Head of the Department, until Rev. Dr. Anton Matthias was appointed as the Head of the Department on 1 October 1997. Rev. Prof. G. V. Pilendran took charge of the Department as the Head in the latter part of the year 2004 and he continued his services till early 2017. Rev. Dr. J. C. Paul Rohan was appointed as the Head in the early 2017 and he continues up to date.
The following persons have contributed for the growth of the Department by their potential leadership from its inception.
Mr. S. Jebanesan (Now the Bishop emeritus of the Church of South India) – Appointed as First Coordinator in 1979.
Rev. Dr. A.J.V. Chandrakanthan – Appointed as Permanent Lecturer and Second Coordinator in 1981.
In 1989 the Unit Christian Civilization was made a Department.
22.04.1991- 31.03.1997 Rev. Dr. A.J.V. Chandrakanthan (Head)
01.04.1996 – 30.09.1997 Prof. S. Sivalingarajah (Acting Head)
01.10.1997 – 04.11.2004 Rev. Dr. R.A.J. Mathias (Head)
05.11.2004 – 31.01.2017 Rev. Dr. G. Pilendran (Head)
01.02.2017 – Rev. Dr. J.C. Paul Rohan (Head)
University of Jaffna is the only University in Sri Lanka that conducts a Special degree undergraduate programme in ‘Christian Civilization’. The Department offers the students the opportunity to graduate in Christian Civilization with General (3 years) and Special (4 years) degrees. It has as its aim to produce graduates with the profile which falls in line with the vision, mission, strategic goals and objectives of the corporate plan of the University of Jaffna.
The graduate profile of the Department has the following objectives:
- Enlightening the students to become aware and conscious of the changes that occur in their environment and to respond to them with a Christian spirit.
- Helping them to use the knowledge to make a meaningful human life ‘worth living’ in this world with values, full of joy and satisfaction.
- Inculcating that the final end of education is to expand the heart, mind and attitude and to accommodate people of different ideologies, cults, cultures and ethnic groups and respect all human beings as neighbours and children of God.
In order to achieve this graduate profile, the students are given various facilities and opportunities in the department; the revised curriculum with OBE and SCL with the help of the international scholars and institutions; presentations with ICT, small group discussions and reports; field visits and handing over the reports; providing opportunities to interact with local and international experts of pertinent field.
Besides offering General or Special degree programmes for the internal students, the Department also conducts undergraduate degree programme for the external students through the Centre for Open and Distance Learning. Further the Department offers the opportunity for postgraduate researches leading to MPhil and PhD in Christian Civilization through the Faculty of Postgraduate Studies. Those who have done their bachelor degrees in our department and in the various Universities around the world have registered here and completed their MPhil and PhD researches. So far four have completed their PhD and eight have completed their MPhil. There are still others reading at present.
In 2022, the Department has launched a postgraduate Master’s Degree programme, namely, Master of Christian Studies which is administered by the Faculty of Graduate Studies of the University of Jaffna. However, the Department of Christian Civilization is the initiator and academic coordinator of this programme.
The qualified priests and pastors ministering in the peninsula have always given a helping hand for the lectures in the Department. Also lecturers of St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary in Jaffna, affiliated to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome and of the Christian Theological College at Chunnakam, affiliated to the Serampore University in India, willingly assist the Department as Visiting Lecturers and Department is indebted to them. At the moment the Department has three permanent academic staff and goes forward
The various endeavours of this Department have been facilitated and enhanced by the two Centres of the University since 1986. St. Thomas’ Centre for the Christians and the Good Shepherd Centre for the Catholics were opened in 1986. These Centres with residential chaplains regularly organize various activities, seminars, retreats, religious services, etc. Also the facilities of these Centres are regularly used by the Department for its various functions and activities.
The graduates and the post graduates who have completed their studies in this Department are serving at various capacities nationally and internationally. They are the pride and hope of this mission.
An International Research Conference on ‘Christian Studies’ was organized by the Department of Christian Civilization for the first time at the University of Jaffna in collaboration with the Centre for Performing Arts which was held on the 7th and 8th of December 2018. The theme of the Conference was “Towards a New Christian Humanistic Ethos”. The conference was a success and was able to achieve what it wanted. So many people contributed in so many ways to turn the conference into a smooth running event with many academic inputs, discussions and networking. It has taken the Department to new heights and assured the quality enhancement of its graduates.
Our Journey Continues…!
Documentary Presentation of the Department
Enlightening the students to become aware and conscious of the changes that occur in their environment and to respond to them with a Christian spirit.
Helping them to use the knowledge to make a meaningful human life ‘worth living’ in this world with values, full of joy and satisfaction.
Inculcating that the final end of education is to expand the heart, mind and attitude and to accommodate people of different ideologies, cults, cultures and ethnic groups and respect all human beings as neighbours and children of God.
Brief Profile of the Department
The Department of Christian and Islamic Civilizations offers General (3 years) and Honours (4 years) degrees in Christian Civilization. It has as its aim to produce graduates with a profile that falls in line with the vision, mission and objectives of the Faculty of Arts which are consistent with the strategic goals and objectives of the corporate plan of the University of Jaffna.
1. Strategic Aspirations of the Department
The Department of Christian Civilization is a part of the subdivision of Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and again it falls within the section on Religions and Cultures in Humanities. Based on the nature of its curriculum, the Department aims to produce graduates with the following motto: “Formation of integral personality through Religious and Cultural value-based education”
2. Degree Programmes
B.A. (General) Degree
B.A. (Honours) Degree
3. Fields Offered for Specialization
The Department provides the following principle areas in the field of Christian Civilization for the special degree students to do research and specialize.
- Scriptural Studies
- Christian Historical Studies
- Christian Philosophy and Theology
- Christian Art and Literature
- Christian Worship and Practices
- Christian Ethics
- Comparative Study of Religions
- Christianity and Society
- Current Trends in Christianity
The Department has incorporated in its revised curriculum an internship unit for the students of special degree programme with the following objectives: to expose the undergraduates with real work-life situation and to equip them with necessary skills for employment. It is designed to provide them with valuable experience in non-profit, educational, faith-based, governmental and related organizations. It helps students translate the knowledge and analytical skills learned in the courses of Christian Civilization into a professional context, while exploring potential career paths and professional opportunities.
5. Scholarships and Awards
‘Thambiah Muthaliyar Chatram Trust’ is awarded for having the best performance in Christian Civilization in the Second, Third and Fourth Years.
6. Students’ Association (CCSA)
All the students (General and Special) and teachers of the Department are members of the Christian Civilization Students’ Association (CCSA). The head of the Department is the patron of the association. Office bearers are newly elected for every academic year. The association creates a platform for the students to develop their skills, talents, abilities and leadership qualities. The association organizes welcome for the new students, farewell for the outgoing students, Christmas get together and useful inputs by inviting guest speakers.
7. Publication / Journal
Plans are underway to publish a journal annually by the Christian Civilization Students’ Association (CCSA).
8. Undergraduates / External
Besides offering General or Special degree programmes for the internal students, the Department also conducts undergraduate degree programme for the external students through the Centre for Open and Distant Learning.
9. Master of Christian Studies
The Department has launched a postgraduate master’s degree programme, namely, ‘Master of Christian Studies’ which is a taught course comprises of one academic year.
10. Postgraduate Studies
The Department offers the opportunity for postgraduate researches leading to M.Phil and PhD in Christian Civilization through the Faculty of Post Graduate Studies.