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Buddhist-Christian Encounter in Contemporary Thailand

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Kenneth Fleming

This book is a study of contemporary Buddhist-Christian encounter in Thailand. Case studies, which include a Buddhist nationalist group, a charismatic church movement, and a village community, describe the variety and nature of Buddhist-Christian relations. Arising issues – nationalism, identity, notions of the religious other – are discussed with regard to Thai history and modern society. The book also highlights cultural notions of avoidance and the Buddhist concept of friendship as Thai offerings to the field of interreligious dialogue. The study is based on qualitative research and draws on different academic disciplines, including religious studies, theology, and political studies. It makes a distinctive contribution to the fields of Thai Studies and global Buddhist-Christian Studies.
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Chapter 1: Considering Interreligious Encounter: An Introduction

Extract

The academic field of global Buddhist-Christan studies is a vibrant one, with journals, study centres and societies dedicated to its research.1 There is, however, with regard to the Thai context, a lack of information and critical reflection on the relationship between Buddhists and Christians. This book is a critical reflection on today’s Buddhist-Christian encounter in Thailand. At its heart are a series of contemporary case studies. The aims of the book are threefold: to provide a description of what is happening on the ground through the case studies; to critically examine the issues of interreligious encounter that arise in them, relating these to both the history of Buddhist-Christian encounter in Thailand and the context of contemporary Thai society; and to explore what significance these cases have for the wider concern for better interreligious relations. In this way it seeks to make a contribution to the fields of Thai Studies and Buddhist-Christian Studies.

Though most Thais describe the relationship between the two religions as generally good and better than in the past, it is obvious from discussions and the ways in which people relate to each other that the topic is a sensitive and, at times, controversial matter. When the topic of ‘religions’ is brought up in Thailand, whether speaking to a taxi driver, Buddhist monk, or rural day-labourer, an adage is often heard in reply: “Every religion teaches people to be good” (Th. ศาสนาทุกศาสนาสอนให้คนเป็นคนดี satsana thuk satsana son hai khon pen khon di). This comes across as the default...

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