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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 6: Conclusion: A Thai Offering


The study of past relations between Buddhists and Christians in Thailand raised four issues that were debated further: Buddhism and violence, the foreignness of Christianity, the Christian influence in society, and the atmosphere of distrust that characterised relations. Through the critical appraisal of the further issues found in the contemporary case studies – Buddhist nationalism, Christian inculturation, the understanding of the religious other – it was possible to trace aspects of continuity and change in the key matters that have shaped interreligious encounter.

A notable change is observable in the area of the Christian influence on Thai society. Christian institutions still provide important and much sought after services. Some of the country’s most prestigious health and educational establishments continue to be run by the churches. Through these, the churches are able to influence the character formation of Thai Buddhists and society. Christian organisations also provide significant input in different areas of social need on local and national levels, including poverty relief, AIDS work, and refugee concerns. However, Christian institutions, especially in health and education, are no longer the pioneering forces they once were. They face competition from the private and government sectors. In the past, missionaries would offer advice to kings and remonstrate with the country’s ruling elite. This is not the case today. There is also a realignment of political and economic forces in the region, with the West no longer having the dominance it once had and the arguments about the superiority of western Christian civilisation all but...

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