people are willing to engage their minds, to ask questions, to discuss issues related to faith
Creation and the big bang theory
Darwinism and evolution
Are we all descended from Adam and Eve?
These are not usual topics for discussion in Thailand. Talking about these issues within a religious framework, and in public, is not something that happens very often. But perhaps that’s why about 150 people, half of them non-Christians, came to a two-hour meeting to discuss God and science in mid-November.
Padipat Ong, General Secretary of TCS Thailand, told us more. ‘In Thai society we can talk about everything except politics and religion! In common conversation we don’t talk about those issues much, even in the university. It’s okay to invite people to church and talk about religion there, but not outside.
In spite of these cultural obstacles, Peace Santisuk Prapa-apirat, a student who helped organize the event, feels that doing apologetics is crucial in his context. ‘Most Thai people are Buddhist and I feel that people today don't use their minds as much as they need to. Also in Thai culture people' tend to avoid conflict, so we often lack conversations that include healthy debate. By picking one side, we must naturally say "No" to the other side: this is not so attractive for Thai Christians or Thai people in general. That might be the reason why not many seminars in Thailand are organised around controversial issues.’
Each of the three topics was presented in a 30-minute lecture and a question-and-answer session. Peace Santisuk Jittiarunchai, another student who was there, writes, ‘People responded with a lot more questions than we expected. There were many questions that we didn't have time to answer, so we plan to create a blog to answer these questions.’
They also got very positive feedback from Christian students – in fact students are now suggesting future topics such as God and the arts, and God and economics! Ong is concerned that they don’t have the resources to facilitate discussions, and most of the available books are only in English. But he is not deterred. ‘I’ve given them some books to read… I think it is time for students to read and think and this would prepare some to be leaders… then we can have events on other topics.
‘We don’t have a culture of researching and asking questions. Usually Thai people learn about faith by experience. So it’s really hard to have this kind of apologetics discussion and lead people to Christ.’
TCS also has plans to engage others in seeing how Christianity is about the whole person. ‘We will invite people to connect with us in our “social work”, says Ong. In January we’ll join with an NGO that works with homeless people, street children, people in rural areas, etc. We’ll invite people from the event as well as other non-Christian friends.
Isn’t it exciting to see how Thai students are willing to swim against the tide of culture in order to show people what it means to be a Christian! And how wonderful to see the response they are getting: people are willing to engage their minds, to ask questions, to discuss issues related to faith. Please pray that the blog will also generate good conversations and that as students read the books Ong has given them, they will be excited about how they can involve others in examining the Christian faith. Next on the agenda for Thai Christian students? God and justice, God and poverty!