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Buddhist-Christian Encounter in Contemporary Thailand


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 4: Buddhist-Christian Encounter: Contemporary Case Studies


The encounter between religions is more than an abstract, intellectual exercise in comparative texts and beliefs, it is constituted by the meeting of religious people in the midst of all the struggles, joys and routine that make up daily life. It is a complex reality that embraces the shifting sands of competing political ideologies, cultural norms, and personal motivations. Here, we examine five unconnected case studies, drawn from the Thai context, where the encounter between Buddhism and Christianity is of significance. The five have been chosen because they provide an insight into the variety of relations. They speak first and foremost for themselves as largely unconnected entities, but not in isolation – they are parts of the fabric of interreligious encounter that make up the Thai context, and a close study of them helps to raise and shed light on issues of national, transnational, and transcultural significance, which feeds into the general field of Thai studies and Buddhist-Christian studies.

A similar approach is followed in each case. Background information about their histories and general concerns is the starting point. This is followed by a description of how the two religions actually engage with each other. Three key aspects of this are explored: manner, conceptualisation, and influencing factors. The manner of encounter depicts the ways in which the protagonists communicate with each other and the intentionality that lies behind this. Conceptualisation, here, refers to the predominant notion or image of the religious other that is expressed or evident in the...

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