Buddhist-Christian Dialogue: A Way Toward Peaceful Co-Existence in Myanmar (By Ciin Sian Khai)

Dissertation title: Buddhist-Christian Dialogue: A Way Toward Peaceful Co-Existence in Myanmar

Author: Ciin Sian Khai


Myanmar is known as a land of pagodas. Buddhism is the pre-dominant religion in the country. However, I grew up in the Chin state of Myanmar in which more than 80 percent of the people are adherents of Christianity.1 Therefore, the Chin state is regarded as a Christian state; specifically the place where I grew up has only Christian community though a small number of followers of primal religion known as Dawibiakna in the local language were there before. The understanding of Christianity among the Christians in my homeplace is predominantly exclusivist, referring to John 14:6, which states that only those who believe in Jesus Christ can be saved eternally. These Christians actively participate in converting nonChristians into Christianity. As a result, the whole community converted to Christianity. Being of an exclusivist mindset and pastoring a Baptist Church there, I also actively and enthusiastically participated in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to non-Christians in order to convert them into Christianity. In short, my understanding of Christian mission at that time was only to convert nonChristians into Christianity, but apparently it was not a holistic mission. In June 2000, I continued studying in the Master of Divinity program at Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT), Yangon where there is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural milieu. There, I got to learn not only Christian theology, but also Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic theologies. My studies at MIT led me to seriously consider the need for indepth study on the gospel and culture as Myanmar is religiously, ethnically and culturally diverse. From that time onward, I am of the opinion that dialogue can be a common meeting point with people of different faiths and ideologies in the country. From 1988 to 2010, a military regime ruled Myanmar.2 In order to win the support of the majority Buddhists, the regime promoted Buddhist mission among nonBuddhists because there was the opinion that if non-Buddhists converted to Buddhism there would be unity and peace in the country. Thus, the target of the regime was converting particularly ethnic minority Christians, who had been adherents of Christianity for many years, into Buddhism. To persuade Christians, the regime “tried to lure Christians into becoming Buddhists by offering them…

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