UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Peoples of the Buddhist World
Peoples of the Buddhist World Peoples of the Buddhist World
A Christian Prayer Guide and Diary

Paul Hattaway
ISBN 9781903689905 (1903689902)
Piquant, 2004

Category: Prayer and Poetry

Prayer lies at the heart of the Christian faith: if we stop praying, it's as if our spirits shrivel up and die. Yet so many of us struggle with prayer — not only with setting aside time for it but often simply knowing how to pray and what to pray about. So when a book like this comes along, it's a real God-send, an encyclopaedia of information about the people of the Buddhist world designed to help us focus our prayers, to help us pray with our eyes wide open to what we're praying about.

The book provides concise introductions to 238 Buddhist people groups, some only a page, others several pages long, each one given a suggested date or dates for prayer so that it can be used throughout the year. Thus as I write this review on June 12th, I'm invited to pray for the Khun people of north-east Myanmar (formerly Burma) and northern Thailand. I discover that there are around 120,000 Khuns, most of whom are Theravada Buddhists. This, unfortunately, brings us to one of the book's few weaknesses in that it presupposes a basic familiarity with Buddhism. Several introductory sections include five pages on "Methodology and Terminology" which offers an overview of the three main branches of Buddhism, with a single paragraph on Theravada Buddhism: I find myself only slightly enlightened. A fascinating article entitled "Insights for Missions to Theravada Buddhists" is provided further on in the book but this, again, presupposes an understanding of Theravada Buddhism that I lack.

Setting these questions aside, however, I am much better informed than I was and find myself praying for these people far more intelligently than I would have otherwise. Would I have prayed for them at all without this book? It's unlikely — and I'm now considering buying myself a basic introduction to Buddhism to help me pray even more sensibly.

Sample PageThe book is beautifully presented, with colour photographs throughout, maps to pinpoint each people group in the world, basic facts and statistics about population, percentage of Christians, language and availability of the Bible, and graphs showing the "Status of Evangelization". 56% of the Khuns, we're told, have never even heard the gospel, whilst only 2% are adherents to some form of Christianity.

A dozen articles are strategically distributed through the book — "Buddhism and the Gospel in China" by Ralph Covell, a former missionary in China and Taiwan, to name but one — providing further background information and food for thought. The volume as a whole is backed up by three appendices (Index of Alternative Names, Language Affiliation Index and Distribution of Buddhist Peoples by Country) and a 22 page bibliography, leaving the reader in no doubt of the book's authenticity and authority.

But most important of all is the book's accessibility. Whether you approach the book from a position of ignorance or expertise on Buddhism, you'll leave it both better informed and better equipped to pray. Suitable for use by individuals or by groups, it's not a book to be left sitting on the bookshelf: it's rather one to keep handy, alongside your Bible or alongside your favourite armchair — anywhere as long it's somewhere that you're going to pick it up and use it in prayer.

Phil Groom, June 2005

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.


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