Material Assistance

In the aftermath of last December’s horrific tsunami disaster in South Thailand, another strange phenomenon has occurred: the number of Christian churches in this Buddhist community has mushroomed. But don’t go thinking that all the locals have suddenly become “born again” religious fanatics. The reason for the surge in church building is simply due to Christian missionaries targeting a susceptible group of people whose lives have been turned upside down by a natural disaster.

According to an article this week in Thailand’s The Nation, many provinces in the tsunami-affected region are experiencing an explosion of new churches. In the popular tourist island of Phuket, the church count has increased from eight to 16 since the tsunami, and 17 new churches have sprouted along a single five-kilometer stretch of road in the neighboring province of Phang Nga.

“I never gave much attention to the church,” admitted villager Nu Rukdee. “But when I saw them building replacement homes for their members, I figured it was the only way I could get mine fixed.”

Nu’s strategy appears to be shared by other poor villagers, many of whom are joining churches in order to get new homes or repairs made to ones that weren’t washed away. As would be expected, though, some of the new “converts” aren’t sticking around to become active church members.

“We stopped helping those who were too keen to get just material assistance,” said Busrakum Suparaj, a Phuket church leader. “We don’t have enough resources to help everybody, so we just have to concentrate on our members who truly believe in God.”

Hmm…I guess these Christians are the sort of morally superior souls that think they hold a monopoly on the “true” belief in God.

Phang Nga senator Wongphan Na Takuathung also views such Christian “charity” with distrust. “I strongly disagree with the ties between material aid and religious conversion. It does not come from pure hearts. It is happening everywhere in my province and I worry about this trend.”

Amen, brother!

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