Introducing Dr. Prabo Mihindukulasuriya: Get to Know Our Post-Doctoral Fellow in the History of Christianity
As we announced last month, Regent College is thrilled to welcome Dr. Prabo Mihindukulasuriya as Post-Doctoral Fellow in the History of Christianity for the 2022/2023 academic year. Prabo has a wide-ranging background in theological studies and history. He comes to Regent after over two decades at Colombo Theological Seminary in Sri Lanka, where he has held a variety of faculty and staff roles since 1997.
Prabo is known for his breadth of experience and gifts in teaching. He has supervised numerous BA and MA students over the years, and has taught no less than thirty courses and seminars, including 20th-Century Christianity, History of Christianity in Asia, and Christian Engagement with Religious Pluralism. He has also guest lectured at Regent in several of Diane Stinton’s courses and seminars.
Prabo’s dissertation will soon be published as Unmasking the Empire: British Christian Humanitarians and the Ceylonese Campaign for Justice Following the 1915 Pogrom (2022). His substantial publication history also includes a 2013 monograph, two edited volumes, numerous journal articles, and multiple entries in reference works, including "Poverty and Wealth" and "Prosperity Gospel" in the South Asia Bible Commentary (2015).
We recently had a chance to sit down with Prabo, and want to share that interview so you can get to know him a little bit better.
Prabo, you are a Regent graduate (MA '00). Welcome back! What draws you back to the Regent community twenty-two years later?
In some ways it feels like I never left! Since graduation, my wife Dorothy (MA '05) and I kept returning to Vancouver to visit friends who supported our work in Sri Lanka, spending a lot of time in the Regent atrium and bookstore when we did. I’ll return this fall to take up a one-year postdoctoral teaching fellowship in the History of Christianity. It’s a wonderful opportunity to participate in the learning community that continues to be transformational for me.
I understand that your research specialty is in the history of Christianity in South Asia, with a particular focus on Sri Lanka. Can you tell us what draws you to this area of interest?
Growing up in Sri Lanka, I was struck by how the ideologies of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic nationalisms in South Asia make it hard to learn anything about Christianity in the region beyond its connection with Western imperialism. The evangelical Anglican spirituality that I inherited and embraced in my late teens kept my curiosity alive and impelled me to dig deeper into the history of Christian missions in South Asia. I discovered that there was much in its complex legacy that mediated the transforming work of Christ in the lives of our ancestors and the societies they lived in. I feel that an even-handed discussion of Christian history is an essential part of sharing the good news of the kingdom in our non-Christian societies.
Where do you see God moving in the global church? Are there any current movements that you’re especially excited to track right now––either personally or in your role as a historian?
If you ask me again in ten years, I may have a credible answer! It’s apparent that we are going through a period of profound disorientation. The great challenge for the global church right now is to resist the implosions and polarizations of the structures and alliances that have proven to be so fragile. Ten years from now, it will be interesting to see how the church in Europe responded to the crisis of mass immigration and xenophobia, how the church in North America struggled to find common ground in the wars of identity politics, and how the churches of the Global South took care of their poor and staved off the false apostles of prosperity.
What are you currently working on?
During the past year, I’ve been turning my doctoral thesis into a readable book. It’s about how, between 1915 and 1919, two British Christian humanitarian organizations helped the native people of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) seek justice and political representation at the beginning of their struggle for independence. Very little has been written about this episode, and it deserves to be known. It reminds the Sri Lankan church of a legacy for which it can be grateful.
What do you hope to teach students as post-doctoral fellow?
I hope to impart two historical sensibilities of equal importance. One is a critical appreciation of the Western Christian tradition which has significantly shaped the North American social imaginary in both its conservative and liberal impulses. The other is to expand their embrace of the global church and its theological traditions by discovering Christianity as a multi-centered movement from the beginning. Good theology is contextual. We must be mindful of where we are in time and place to faithfully love God and neighbour.
Dr. Mihindukulasuriya will be teaching History of Christianity I in Fall 2022 and History of Christianity II in Winter 2023. These courses will be available both on campus and online. Please join us in giving Prabo a warm welcome to Regent this September.