Bridging Sydney’s Churches and Southeast Asian Buddhists

A Thai-Chinese Australian works to help Christians better engage the invisible migrants in their midst.

This is the third article in the Engaging Buddhism series, which explores different facets of Buddhism and how Christians can engage with and minister to Buddhists.

Sydney is Australia’s second most populous city, with about 4.8 million people, and has one of the largest multicultural populations in the world—nearly half of its residents were born overseas. Based on the 2021 census, a little less than a quarter of the population is of Asian ancestry and 4 percent identify as Buddhists.

Yet Sydney churches don’t know how to connect with Buddhist-background immigrants in the city, especially those from Southeast Asia, according to Sage, a Thai-Chinese Australian woman ministering to the population. (Sage asked CT not to use her real name as it could impact her ministry.)

As someone with a foot in both worlds, Sage is working with Anglican churches in Sydney to bridge the divide and help them learn how to build trust within their communities and empower Buddhist-background believers. Her experience in this burgeoning ministry provides insights to Christians in the West who want to better engage Southeast Asian Buddhists. Below is a Q&A that has been edited and shortened for clarity.

Can you tell me about your background?

I’m part of two diasporas: I am of Chinese descent, and my mother is a Chinese-background Thai. I was born and raised in Australia by her and my Australian father. My father passed away early in my life, so I was really raised in Australia by someone in the Buddhist diaspora.

I wasn’t raised religiously Buddhist, but at the same time, I managed to inherit a lot of the worldview themes through my mom’s parenting. I think the biggest thing in classic Theravada Buddhism is the …

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