A Study of Non Religious Factors in Growth of Christianity in Thailand
Park, In Hyuk
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Graduate School of International and Area Studies
Lee, Byung Do
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A Study of Non Religious Factors in Growth of Christianity in Thailand: With Special Reference to Karen People This study is analyzing the growth of Christianity among the Karen people in Thailand, approaching the matter from a non-religious perspective. The Karen are a group of people in Myanmar who cooperated with the British rule of Myanmar during the British period with the promise of receiving help from Western great powers to gain independence from Myanmar. After Myanmar regained its independence, the Karen did not get their wish; instead they lost in the insurgencies against the Myanmarese Army and became refugees. The study began with the question of how one group of people could have such high rates of Christian conversions in a predominantly Buddhist Thailand and Indochina peninsula. Although there are various factors, the first non-religious factor is Karen mythology. Traditional Karen myths have much in common with Christianity, functioning as the greatest reason for the Karen to accept Christianity without resistance when the Westerners arrived. Karen Christianity showed meteoric growth and played a central spiritual role in the formation of the Karen people's state. The second factor is the role of international relief organizations. For the past 30 years, a noticeable growth of Christianity in the tribal church of Thailand has occurred a rate of 8 percent in spite of a low Christian population in the country as a whole. The reason is that minority ethnics living in the northern hills were influxed, and a lot of Karen converted to Christianity with the help of cooperation and assistance of western organization. Karen refugees living in the Thai border gradually grew more global with the help of international NGOs after 1998, and the UNHCR undertakes many different roles for the refugees in need. Western NGOs contributed largely to the systematization of the Karen people by enlightening the people on human rights and organization management during their work in refugee camps. Most of the international relief organizations were Christian-related groups, whose approach to voluntary work for the Karen people was more active than the relief works of non-Christian religion organizations, giving more economic benefits to the Karen and enabling the Karen to accept the faith with less resistance. Thirdly, the Christian churches are actively reaching out to the Karen people in refugee camps. Christian churches are consolidating their relation to the displaced Karen by cooperating with and complementing the works of NGOs. The Thai Buddhists' and other religions' network with the Karen people is not as strong as that of the Christian church. Christian Karen were shown to receive more social, economic and other benefits than Karen of other faiths, resulting in a practical and positive factor for Christianity. There are various factors influencing the Christian conversion among the Thai Karen people, but it can be concluded that non-religious cooperation is as important as factors in the religious area.