The Southern Tai live across 14 different provinces in southern Thailand and Malaysia. While Thai is the official language, Many Southern Tai people speak Dambro, their tonal language, at home. Long ago, the Southern Tai came from China. Centuries ago, after relentless pressure from the Chinese, they gradually moved southward. conquering people and absorbing different cultures as they made their way down south. Southern Tai are well known for their hospitality and the ideology of respecting elders is an integral part of the culture. Families are at the core of Southern Tai society.Theravada Buddhism was introduced in Thailand in 329 B.C and remains a strong following today. Almost all Tai are Buddhists and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in pursuit of perfect peace, also referred to as Nirvana. These merits can be acquired through feeding monks, donating, to temples, and attending worship services. Traditionally, young men will spend three months in Buddhist monasteries to study Buddhists beliefs and practices.
There is also a large Sunni Muslim influence that comes from the neighboring country, Malaysia. Some Southern Tai Muslims believe in "semangat", a soul substance found in everything from inanimate objects to animals and human beings. They also believe that evil spirits cause illness so every village has a man of high moral character, a "bomo" who puts himself into trances to exorcise the evil spirits, thus healing the sick individual. For many Southern Tai people, Buddhism and Islam are incorporated with beliefs in existing folk animism, a practice where they pray and worship to spirits and objects.
Engagement // What's Happening Now
According to the article, “Reaching Buddhists” 80 percent of the world’s Buddhists live in PenAsia making it the largest Buddhist concentration on earth. Russ Turney explains that Buddhists have no ultimate deity, and sin is eventually relative. Because the rift between Christian and Buddhist beliefs is great, he says that it is essential to have a good understanding of the Buddhist mindset in order to live and serve within their culture.
Sustainability // The Bigger Story
Asia's Little Ones is the Asia Pacific regional child-care compassion ministry that works with children's homes, feeding programs, schools, and health clinics to touch needy children with God's love and message of hope.
Partnership // Move Beyond
Please spend a few minutes in prayer for the following:
- Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies currently ministering to the Southern Tai.
- Ask God to send Christian teachers and medical teams to work among the Southern Tai.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the SouthernTai towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Southern Tai in Thailand and the surrounding areas.