Modern missionaries

An Italian missionary father told me this morning that all newly baptized Catholics, all over the world, are baptized with a goal: Apart from becoming a member of God’s family, they will also become missionaries, proclaiming and living out the Good News through their actions. Every year, in Hong Kong, 3000 new ‘missionaries’ are being baptized into the Catholic Diocese. The amount of people being baptized in the Protestant Church is even higher. On top of that, there is also the Anglican Church.

Every year, Hong Kong Churches are baptizing more and more ‘lay missionaries’, who can proclaim to Good News through their actions; not only in Hong Kong society itself, but also on the mainland.

And the Buddhists? What about them? In almost every interview with Buddhist people I had so far, clergy and laity stress that their religion is not a missionary religion. They don’t go out into the world to proclaim ‘Buddha’s Good News’, trying to convert people to Buddhism. However, they do preach the Dharma, they do try to bring a better religious education to the people in the mainland, and they do try to influence their own Hong Kong society by living out Buddhist ideals.

Modern missionaries, both domestic and crossing over regional borders.

How different are they from Ashoka the Great, the Indian emperor who in the third century BC tried to bring Buddhism to many other Asian countries? And what is the different between these modern missionaries and Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit missionary who brought Catholicism to China in a very local, Vatican II manner?

Is it perhaps their perception of themselves that makes them different? Is it the fact that they are lay people, whereas ‘real’ missionaries are members of the clergy? Or is it the impact they have on contemporary society?

Many interesting questions – questions that require answers. Unfortunately, I don’t have these answers. Not yet…

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