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Christian clergy not the only ones under pressure...

It would seem from this story that it is not only clergy in the Christian churches who are feeling the pressure these days. The Bangkok Post carried a report yesterday saying that the Buddhist clergy in Thailand faced a tough year in 2002 and this year face an uphill task to "restore their former political clout and public credibility".

When thousands of monks, nuns and lay Buddhists took to the streets last year to demand the setting up of the Buddhism Ministry, the clergy took a big gamble -- and they lost. The defeat showed the weakening of one of the country's most powerful institutions in the country.

It was unlike the old days when the wishes of the Ecclesiastical Council on monastic affairs were respected by the secular governments. The clergy's double defeat -- first on the amendment of the Sangha Bill, and then on the setting up of the Buddhism Ministry -- dealt a severe blow to the cleric elders' political clout.

According to revered monk/scholar Phra Dhammapitaka, the clergy has become weak because of the weak cleric education system which fails to train monks spiritually while at the same time failing to make them understand the roots of modern problems and how Buddhism can cope with them. He noted that any efforts to change the cleric structure that focusses primarily on the power structure -- and not on the Buddha's teachings on spiritual self-training -- cannot do much to effect change.

For the clergy, 2003 promises to be another tough year to regain their political clout as well as public credibility. For the public, however, it will be more of the same because the cleric system remains as unaccountable as before.

Bangkok Post

3 Jan 2003