Thailand hosting Asian Bishops Conference
Thailand’s long history and tradition of religious freedom were in the spotlight this week, hosting the 50th Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference, which the federation said that it will focus on building more peaceful societies in the region.
“It is my hope that the conference will renew the churches in Asia in fraternal communion and in missionary zeal for the spread of the Gospel among the richly diverse peoples, cultures, and social realities of the vast Asian continent,” Pope Francis said in a message to the attendees.
Pope Francis visited Thailand in 2019 and took the opportunity to meet with his cousin Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, a 77-year-old nun at a Salesian school in northeastern Udon Thani province.
Thailand’s Minister of Culture Itthiphol Kunplome represented Thailand’s government at the conference, which runs until October 30. He joined 17 cardinals and over 200 bishops from the federation’s 29 member countries across the Asia-Pacific region.
The theme of the conference is “Journey Together as Peoples of Asia,” and participants will discuss how to build more peaceful societies in each of the member countries during the current social climate.
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country. Nonetheless, the Kingdom has always opened its doors to followers and representatives of every religion. The Kingdom has a sizeable Muslim population, and many of its tribal peoples are animists. About 1.2 percent of people in Thailand are Christians, and Catholics number just under 400,000. Thailand has a population of close to 70 million.
During the 19th century, Thailand, then known as Siam, welcomed missionaries from the U.S. and other Western countries. The most famous of them was Dan Beach Bradley. While they did not convert many Thais to Christianity, they brought numerous advances to the Kingdom, including the first printing presses, scientific and medical knowledge, and formal Western-style education.
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