Wednesday, 25 April 2018
Did you know that almost a quarter of Australia’s people were born overseas, and that four million of us speak a language other than English? Australia’s rich cultural diversity is reflected in our food, lifestyle and traditions.
Of course, with multiculturalism comes religious diversity. According to the 2016 Census, just over half of Australia’s population is Christian, but a number of other religions are also represented. These include Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and traditional religions.
Buddhism is the religion of 2.4% of the Australian population. That means that among our neighbours are more than half a million Buddhists, they’re here in our own backyard. Our Buddhist friends are trusting in a system that tells them they must be continually reborn so that one day, if they are fortunate, they might reach “enlightenment”. And they are headed for an eternity separated from Christ … unless we cross the spiritual barriers that separate us, and share God’s good news with them.
Buddhism’s roots are in the birth of “the Buddha”, Siddhartha Gautama, in Nepal, probably in the fifth century BC. Many Buddhists believe that he walked immediately after he was born, and lotus flowers sprang up wherever he placed his feet.
His goal, and the aim of Buddhism, was to achieve enlightenment, and he devoted himself to teaching others how to reach this state. He taught that people are locked into a cycle of constant rebirth, and our actions determine the nature of future rebirths (karma).
The Buddha also taught that the “illusion” that each of us is unique and important is down to our ignorance, greed and aggression. Because we suppose we are unique selves, we must be continually reborn. The antidote is to lose our individuality, through realisation of our Buddha nature.
For Christians, the goal of Buddhism is futile because its followers seek to achieve a state that says goodbye to their own unique God-created individuality. The challenge before us is to help Buddhists see that our fundamental problem is not suffering, but sin. The solution does not lie in escaping from ourselves, but in seeing ourselves through the eyes of the One who created us as unique individuals, who loves us and gave Himself for us.
This article was gleaned from Mike Wilson’s booklet “Whoever is a Buddhist”
How can your church engage with Buddhists?
Buddhists follow a religion that tells them that if they develop the right habits, positive energy is generated and that will lead to a more favourable rebirth. They need Christian friends who will explain how they can be born again, once and for all, and be assured of their salvation.
Because Buddhist practice is individual, not communal, many adherents are deeply moved when they experience the warm welcome of a healthy church. So let’s introduce our friends to loving Christian community.
With more than 125 years of experience in cross-cultural mission, SIM Australia is ready to help you reach out to Buddhist neighbours. Mike Wilson is SIM’s Church Engagement Coordinator. He supports churches throughout Australia in reaching out cross culturally and in developing a mission culture. Mike and others in SIM are available to help your church engage with local people from a Buddhist background. You can make further enquires here.
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