As the heavy rains pounded Thailand this year causing abnormally high water levels, each person in government has done what they can to help the affected areas. However, in Bangkok, the governor has come under some criticism as the people of Bangkok think he is not doing enough.
As the waters continue to slowly flow downhill toward the basin of the nation, which happens to be the capitol city, people keep wondering why the governor did what he did last week. Last week, he performed an ancient ceremony to appease the spirits of water. He came out to sacrifice the food and offerings to the spirit to ask for protection and help in this time of crisis. In his mind, this ceremony would prevent his city from the calamity coming its way. This same calamity has already hit the ancient capitol of Thailand, Ayutaya, with its ancient temples now collapsing. (On a side note: The water levels in Ayutaya just north of Bangkok have yet to recede, and the broken ancient temples bring into question the worldview of many in Thailand. The flood has caused new cracks within the Thai identity.)
No crack stands out more than the Bangkok governor performing a ceremony to prevent the water from coming. One of my Thai friends told me that this is a 100 year-old ceremony that is outdated and unnecessary. He went on to say, the people in Bangkok were frustrated with the governor for performing the ceremony since we have technology in Thailand now.
The Thai people, rich in their history with spirit worship and appeasing the unseen forces of nature, have collided with the forces of science and reason. They are frustrated that their leadership takes steps to appease the spirits rather than measures to reinforce flood barriers and work with the agencies that are channeling the water around the city.
As we minister in Thailand, we need to be aware of the shift in their culture…but for now, in the midst of this crisis, we simply pray for the people and show them authentically the love of God.
How would you react if your government started their response to a natural disaster with an ancient animistic ceremony?