Saturday, 27 November 2010

Christianity in Thailand already here for 460 years

In the 1550's the first missionaries from Portugal arrived in Thailand.
Unlike missionary work in Africa and South America they were not able to have a big influence in society.
Christianity seems somehow to be incompatible with Buddhism, scoring the world's lowest Christianity percentage in S-E Asia across the world. In most countries like China and Japan they had very little success.
In fact in Japan, trading was finished with the Portuguese because they brought too many missionaries in the country, disturbing their highly developed culture, in favour of the Dutch who understood the problem and promised just to stick to trading and were granted the trading monopoly on the small island of Deshima and were prohibited from going into the rest of the country.
Exceptions to the rule are the Philippines where for long time the Spanish and later the American missionaries successfully succeeded to f*ck up things thereby ruining the original country's culture and Indonesia which was occupied by the Dutch for about 150 years.
Christianity is still growing in Thailand, but (fortunately) Thai population grows more fast than the new Christians, resulting in 0.8% or less than 500,000 souls at this moment.
Especially in the North and along the North-Eastern border, where the very poor people live, missionaries scored bigger successes, especially with Laotians living in Thailand and former Myanmar hill-tribe people like the Karen tribe. When visiting the long-necks near Chiang Mai at the end of the village I was disgusted to see a Christian church, apart from the fact that a part of the whole tribe was moved there as a human zoo in 2005, easily reachable by taxi from Chiang Mai.
Now Christian missionaries gave up the direct approach and are into doing good work building their own hospitals and training centres, thereby retrieving once in a while a new lost Thai soul.
Nearby my mansion there's a small Catholic institute which gives vocational training to (bar)ladies and ladyboys, like English language, computer lessons, hairdressing and massage, all free of charge.
They hold three masses on Sunday at different times: One in Thai at noon, later one in Italian and after that one in French.


  1. I have conflicting views on the Christian missionaries. My knee jerk reaction is to be annoyed, but that is probably just my own prejudices. I have seen them do things that make me uneasy - like bribe people with English lessons and scholarships to America if they join their youth clubs. My last school was a Buddhist national school but the Christian missionaries would stand outside trying to spread their message to the kids; I thought this was disrespectful.

    To be fair though, the people of Thailand don't seem to mind this type of thing - so up to them. I actually think it is a great example of how Buddhism is such a tolerant influence here in Thailand. I think and converts wouldn't have been practicing Buddhism anyway so maybe they will find some comfort in Christianity. The 'rice bowl Christians' tend to return to their former beliefs once they benefit from the free gifts.There are also many Christians who have done good work in Thailand, but personally I’m always suspicious of any charity that comes with strings attached.

  2. Hi Paul,
    Hehe 'rice bowl Christians' that's a very good term.
    I have the same feeling, but you seem to have much more experience with their methods..

  3. I am a follower of Christ and know about missionaries (may be one in fact). Fact is, I agree with you mostly. What most missionaries don't believe, or act on, is that people are going to believe what they want...And they should. No one should accept a job teaching English (or whatever) to secretly teach the Bible. That's not ethical.

    On the other hand, those who believe that missionaries ruin cultures are supporting a type of censorship. People should have the right to choose what they believe. Beliefs developed by limiting information doesn't seem like a position most would embrace.

    So I agree with Paul, the Thais are remarkable in allowing people to come in to share opposing viewpoints. And I think that Christians could learn a lot from the respect that Thais show to everyone.

  4. Indeed people should have the right to follow what they believe, but how about their children?
    In Catholic church they are being baptised and indoctrinated (which is also a form of censorship) before they can choose out of free will and changing religion later will be quite hard.
    So where's the free choice then?
    And talking about free will; some centuries back the Spanish and Dutch used other methods to convert people than what would be regarded as ethical now. Little free will at that time..
    That's what I meant with destroying a culture.
    Nowadays it's quite different of course as I described, but still it's not really 'Kosher'.



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