Thailand

Thailand, formerly Siam and officially the Kingdom of Thailand, has few Christians. Spiritually there are many opportunities, with a general openness to present the gospel. However, there has not been a great response.

Population
• population: 61,230,874 [UK: 59,511,464] • density: 119 per sq km [UK: 243 per sq km] The population is unevenly distributed, with the greatest concentration of people in the central region. About 75 per cent of the inhabitants of Thailand are Thai. The largest minority group are the Chinese [14 per cent] and most are Thai nationals. Other minority groups include Malayspeaking Muslims in the south and hill tribes in the north.

there are many distinct tribal languages in the North. English is taught in all schools and colleges and is used in commerce and government.

Geography

• Buddhist 93.4% • Muslim 3.8% • Chinese 1.6% • Christian 0.5-1% • Hindu 0.1 • Other 0.1-0.6% There are 18,000 Buddhist temples and 140,000 Buddhist priests in Thailand. Nearly all Buddhist men enter a wat [monastery] for at least a few days or months. Nearly all Muslims live in South Thailand or metropolitan Bangkok. Islam is the majority religion in Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Satun provinces.

Religions

Thailand measures 514,000 square kilometres and contains many contrasts. The north and west are mountainous, the north-east is a huge barren plain, the central region is fertile and exceedingly densely populated and in the south there are narrow coastal plains and high mountains. The country is 7075 per cent rural.

Thailand has a moist, tropical climate influenced by monsoon winds. The hot season [February to May] sees temperatures reach 40°C. During the wet season [June to November] temperatures reach 26–37°C with cooler temperatures of 13–33°C from December to February. Inland areas are the hottest.

Climate

Thailand emerged as a kingdom in the 13th century and over the next four centuries enlarged its borders through conquest. During the 1800s British influence grew with trade, the country began to modernise, and Thailand kept its independence by ceding land to the colonial powers [Cambodia and Laos to the French; part of Malaysia to the British]. After initially siding with the Japanese during World War II, Thailand turned to the Allies in July 1944 and joined the United Nations in 1946. The present King Rama IX ascended the throne in 1946. Since then the government has changed hands many times, with military coups, political and social unrest and uneasy coalitions. Through it all, the king has remained a stabilising influence, being well respected and loved by the people.

History

Language

Thai, a member of the Tai language family, is the chief language. Four regional dialects are in use. Lao, Chinese, Malay [in the south] and Mon-Khmer are also spoken and

Thailand is unique in South-east Asia in that it has never been a dependency of another nation. The word Thai means ‘free’. Thai women, unlike women of some other East Asian countries, are active in business affairs, the professions, and the arts. No single culture has ever dominated the entire area.

The first missionaries came to Bangkok in 1828, but it was 12 years before the first sustained missionary presence was established. After 19 more years, they baptised their first convert. Official antagonism, persecution, and the short life-span of missionaries hampered the growth of the Church. The churches in the north of the country remain the strongest in Thailand, with 75 per cent of the country’s Christians being from this area. OMF came to Thailand in

Christianity in Thailand

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OMF International [UK], Station Approach, Borough Green, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 8BG TEL: 01732 887299 Fax: 01732 887224 Email: omf@omf.org.uk Web: www.omf.org.uk

there was no sustained Christian work before OMF sent workers in 1952. others remain totally closed to the gospel. which is closely interwoven with social culture. leading on to the founding of the Thai Christian Students [similar to UCCF]. rural. administration Student workers Medical personnel Bible translators English teachers Literature production Contact us to get your hands on: • Videos • Books • Free literature • Prayer tools Other Resources © OMF International 03/02 . Mission stations were opened in provincial towns. In the south. Church planters [urban. The first priority was to reach as many Thai with the gospel as possible. People are drifting to the cities and materialism is growing. and village leprosy clinics in 1966. Medical clinics were first opened in 1954 and Manorom Christian Hospital in 1956. Work is in progress in 21 of the languages. Bible translation is still a vital prayer need. Much of the growth has been among the Thai-speaking Chinese in the cities and the marginalised tribal peoples. The burgeoning economy is changing society. Hmong [Meo]. Pray for them as they take the gospel into these areas. with Saiburi clinic opening in 1956. but others remain without the Bible in their mother tongue. Today OMF remains committed to pioneer evangelism. tribal] Church nurturing Support workers: teachers. In 1971 OMF helped start the Bangkok Bible College and Theological Seminary. three have less than 100. Medical work was the main means to gain a foothold. literature and Scripture portions were widely distributed. dorm parents. Leadership training is vital. Other priorities are leadership training and discipleship. Courageous Christians committed to God’s glory and longterm investment are still desperately needed to go to South Thailand. Of the 76 provinces.000. Most of the 3. OMFers [including Isobel Kuhn] started work with the hill tribes: the Mien [Yao]. guest house. Since the 1970s church work has been a priority. In 1966 OMF began a student ministry. Thailand is a Buddhist country but there is freedom to belong to other religions. Pray for the opportunity to show Christian love to these peoples. There were no allweather roads. In Bangkok. The growth of the Church has been disappointing. The Thai Church is slowly growing. There are fine evangelical leaders. and other centralised ministries. host/hostess. OMF’s Strategic Priorities • • • • Training and motivating Thai Christians in evangelism and leadership Church planting in tribal and other minority groups Urban/rural evangelism and church planting Media work Opportunities Available • • • • • • • • How to Pray • • • • • • • • • • • Thailand’s religious culture is a complex web of spirit appeasement. working in partnership with the emerging church so that it becomes self-propagating. They chose several different fields of work: In the north. there was no real Christian witness until OMF arrived in 1952. Akha and Lisu.1951. Some people have responded readily. OMF set up its national headquarters. but the Malay Muslims did not respond. Students [one million] remain largely unevangelised. It is now beginning to send missionaries as well as receiving them. so OMFers took to boats. They also began outreach to the Pwo Karen and Shan. films were shown and during the dry season evangelistic projects were possible. Tribal Christians in the north have a vision and calling to reach their people groups in the countries surrounding Thailand. a publishing house. but it remains tiny. In 1956 a Bible Training Centre was opened at Phayao for the training of Thai and tribal Christians for the pastoral ministry. Thai/Chinese work grew [about 200 today are Christians]. and four have no evangelical congregations. In Central Thailand. The area’s main communication routes were canals and rivers. occult practices and Buddhism. but there are few who are adequately trained and spiritually mature. Pray that Christians may be able to express their faith without losing their cultural identity. as well as church planting among the Thai in the cities.000 Muslims live in South Thailand and Bangkok. We continue to work with students and recently set up a Christian centre at one university. Pray for local Thai and tribal churches to take up opportunities for evangelism among their own people. OMF is currently mobilising tribal Christians to travel across geographical borders with the gospel. 14 have fewer than 1000 Christians.