A Study of the Belief Systems and Decision Making of the Isan People ofNortheast Thailand with a View Towards Making Use of These Insights inChristian EvangelismChansamone SAIYASAKProefschrift ter verkrijging van de graad vanDoctor in de Godgeleerdheid en de Godsdienstwetenschappenaan de Evangelische Theologische Faculteitte Heverlee (Leuven), Belgiëopenbaar te verdedigen September 2007Promoter:Prof. Dr. William WAGNERCo-promoter: Prof. Dr. Stephen BAILEY
-iii-A Study of the Belief Systems and Decision Making of the Isan People ofNortheast Thailand with a View Towards Making Use of These Insights inChristian EvangelismChansamone SAIYASAKa dissertation submitted for the degree ofDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), in Theology and Religious Studiesfrom the Evangelical Theological Facultyof Heverlee (Leuven), Belgiumto be publicly defended September 2007Promoter:Prof. Dr. William WAGNERCo-promoter: Prof. Dr. Stephen BAILEY
-v-ABSTRACTSaiyasak, Chansamone.2007“A Study of the Belief Systems and Decision Making of the Isan People ofNortheast Thailand with a View Towards Making Use of These Insights inChristian Evangelism.”Evangelische Theologische Faculteit.Doctor ofPhilosophy in Theology and Religious Studies.379 pp. (single space)For over 170 years Protestant Christianity has endeavored to evangelizethe people of Thailand. Roman Catholicism’s efforts date back even farther, with over400 years of evangelism work.However, after almost 500 years of combinedministry time, hundreds of missionaries, thousands of dollars, and countless pages oftranslation and text, the results have been rather disappointing.Among the Isanpeople, who are the dominant group in Northeast Thailand, the number of converts toProtestant Christianity is even more discouraging than statistical records of convertsthroughout the remaining regions of Thailand.Among the total 263,729 ProtestantChristians in the whole country in 2004, there were only 20,620 of these reportedlylocated in the Isan region of Northeast Thailand.However, the number could belower than indicated because a large number of those reported are no longerpracticing Christians.In addition, from 1992 to 2002 the author’s work of evangelismand church planting among the Isan people of Ubonratchatani province in NortheastThailand endured tremendous challenges and protests from the community.As aresult of this resistance and lack of response to the gospel message, the author decidedto undertake this study in order to discover ways to effectively communicate thegospel message and plant churches among the Isan people of Northeast Thailand.Chapter 1 gives a review of the geographical, historical, anthropological and politicalaspects of Isan (Thai-Lao) Buddhism as it merged with the animistic religion of theIsan region.Especially important was an examination of the diffusion of Buddhismfrom its place of origin in Northern India to the Isan region of Northeast Thailand andadjoining Laos.