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A Regional Report for the AMCF Seoul Council

Southeast Asia

Ruben F. Ciron, PhD

 

 

Southeast Asia (MAY 2009)

Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.

Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: the Asian mainland, and island arcs and archipelagoes to the east and southeast. The mainland section consists of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia (or to be more precise, Peninsular Malaysia); the population of which are primarily Tibeto-Burman peoples, Tai peoples and Austroasiatic peoples; the dominant religion is Buddhism, followed by Islam, and Christianity. The maritime section consists of Brunei, East Timor,[1] Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. Some definitions include Taiwan at the north. Austronesian peoples predominate in this region; the dominant religion is Islam, followed by Christianity.

Area                                 4,523,000 km2

Population                       568,300,000

Density                            126 people per km2

Countries                         12

Territories                       13

GDP                                  $900 billion (exchange rate)

                                        $2.8 trillion (purchasing power parity)

GDP per capita                $1,584 (exchange rate)

                                        $4,927 (purchasing power parity)

Languages                       Afro-Asiatic: Arabic

                                        Austro-Asiatic: Khmer, Vietnamese, Nicobarese

Austronesian: Buginese, Malay, Tetum, Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Bikol, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Javanese, Saudanese, Madura

Dravidian: Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu

Indo-European: English, Portuguese, Spanish, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi

Sino-Tibetan: Burmese, Mandarin, Cantonese, min, Taiwanese (Min Nan), Lan-nang

Kradai: Thai, Lao

And many others

Time Zones                      UTC +5:30 (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) to UTC +9:00 (Indonesia)

Capital Cities                   Bandar Seri Begawan

                                        Bangkok

                                        Dili

                                        Hanoi

                                        Jakarta

                                        Kuala Lumpur

                                        Manila

                                        Naypyidaw

                                        Phnom Penh

                                        Singapore

                                        Vientiene

Largest Cities                   Jakarta

                                        Manila

                                        Bangkok

                                        Ho Chi Minh City

                                        Yangon

                                        Singapore

                                        Kuala Lumpur

                                        Bandung

                                        Surabaya

                                        Medan

                                        Cebu

                                        Hanoi

                                        Palembang

                                        Semarang

                                        Phnom Penh

Southeast Asia has an area of approx. 4,000,000 km² (1.6 million square miles). As of 2004, more than 593 million people lived in the region, more than a fifth of them (125 million) on the Indonesian island of Java, the most densely populated large island in the world. The distribution of the religions and people is diverse in Southeast Asia and varies by country. Some 30 million overseas Chinese also live in Southeast Asia, most prominently in Christmas Island, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, and also, as the Hoa, in Vietnam.

 

According to a recent Stanford genetic study, the Southeast Asian population is far from being homogeneous. Although primarily descendants of Austronesian, Tai, and Mon-Khmer-speaking immigrants who migrated from Southern China during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, there are overlays of Arab, Chinese, Indian, Polynesian and Melanesian genes.

There are also large pockets of intermarriage between indigenous Southeast Asians and those of Chinese descent. They form a substantial part of everyday life in countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Indonesia and Malaysia also has a few mixed Southeast Asian-Chinese populations.

Thai Theravada Buddhists in Chiang Mai, Thailand

On the mainland the Khmer peoples of Cambodia remain as ancestors of earlier Pareoean peoples. Similarly, remnants of the Mon group are found in parts of Myanmar and Thailand; the ethnic mixture there has been produced by overlaying Tibeto-Burman and Tai, Lao, and Shan peoples. The contemporary Vietnamese population originated from the Red River area in the north and may be a mixture of Tai and Malay peoples. Added to these major ethnic groups are such less numerous peoples as the Karens, Chins, and Nagas in Myanmar, who have affinities with other Asiatic peoples. Insular Southeast Asia contains a mixture of descendants of Proto-Malay (Nesiot) and Pareoean peoples who were influenced by Malayo-Polynesian and other groups. In addition, Arabic, Indian, and Chinese influences have affected the ethnic pattern of the islands.

In modern times the Burmans account for more than two-thirds of the ethnic stock of Myanmar, while ethnic Thais and Vietnamese account for about four-fifths of the respective populations of those countries. Indonesia is clearly dominated by the Javanese and Sundanese ethnic groups, while Malaysia is more evenly split between the Malays and the Chinese. Within the Philippines, the Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, and Bicol groups are significant.

 


A.    Countries in the Region

There are twelve (12) countries in the region including Taiwan in the north.

(Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, East Timor and Taiwan)

             Out of those twelve (12) countries only Brunei and Laos do not have MCF. East Timor and Vietnam are in the process of organizing picking up and needing assistance.

B.    Faith Mix (Church Mix in Region)

Countries in Southeast Asia practice many different religions. Mainland SEA countries, which are, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam practice predominantly Buddhism. Singapore is also predominantly Buddhist. Ancestor worship and Confucianism is also widely practised in Vietnam and Singapore. In the Malay Archipelago, people living in Malaysia, western Indonesia and Brunei practice mainly Islam. Christianity is predominant in the Philippines, eastern Indonesia and East Timor. The Philippines has the largest Roman Catholic population followed very distantly by Vietnam. East Timor is also predominantly Roman Catholic due to a history of Portuguese rule.

The religious composition for each country is as follows. Some values are taken from the CIA World Factbook:

Andaman and Nicobar Islands,India

Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Animism, Islam, Sikhism

Brunei

Islam (67%), Buddhism (13%), Christianity (10%), others (indigenous beliefs, etc) (10%)

Cambodia

Theravada Buddhism (95%), Islam, Christianity, Animism other (5%)

Christmas Island

Buddhism (36%), Islam (25%), Christianity (18%), Taoism (15%), others (6%)

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Sunni Islam (80%), others (20%)

East Timor

Roman Catholicism (90%), Islam (5%), Protestant (3%), others (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc) (2%)

Indonesia

Islam (86.1%), Protestant (5.7%), Roman Catholicism (3%), Hinduism (1.8%), others including Buddhism, or unspecified (3.4%)[9]

Laos

Theravada Buddhism (65%) with Animism (32.9%), Christianity (1.3%), others (0.8%)

Malaysia

Islam (60.4%), Mahayana Buddhism (19.2%), Christianity (9.1%), Hinduism (6.1%), Animism (5.2%)

Myanmar

Theravada Buddhism (89%), Islam (4%), Christianity (4%), Animism (1%), others (2%)

Philippines

Roman Catholicism (81%), Islam (5%), Evangelical (2.8%), Iglesia ni Cristo (2.2%), Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayan) (2%), other Christian (4.5%), others (Animism, Buddhism, Judaism, nonreligious, etc) (2.5%)

Singapore

Buddhism (42.5%), Islam (15%), Taoism (8%), Roman Catholicism (4.5%), Hinduism (4%), nonreligious (15%), Christian (10%), others (1%)

South China Sea Islands

Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism, nonreligious

Thailand

Theravada Buddhism (94.6%), Islam (4.6%), others (1%)

Vietnam

Mahayana Buddhism (78%), Roman Catholicism (7%), Theravada Buddhism (5%), Cao Dai (2%), Protestant (1%), others (Animism, Hoa Hao, Islam, nonreligious, etc) (7%)

 

Religions and peoples are diverse in Southeast Asia and not one country is homogeneous. In the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, Hinduism is dominant on islands such as Bali. Christianity also predominates in Philippines, New Guinea and Timor. Pockets of Hindu population can also be found around Southeast Asia in Singapore, Malaysia etc. Garuda (Sanskrit: Garua), the phoenix who is the mount (vahanam) of Vishnu, is a national symbol in both Thailand and Indonesia; in the Philippines, gold images of Garuda have been found on Palawan; gold images of other Hindu gods and goddesses have also been found on Mindanao. Balinese Hinduism is somewhat different from Hinduism practiced elsewhere, as Animism and local culture is incorporated into it. Christians can also be found throughout Southeast Asia; they are in the majority in East Timor and the Philippines, Asia's largest Christian nation. In addition, there are also older tribal religious practices in remote areas of Sarawak in East Malaysia and Papua in eastern Indonesia. In Myanmar, Sakka (Indra) is revered as a nat. In Vietnam, Mahayana Buddhism is practiced, which is influenced by native animism but with strong emphasis on Ancestor Worship.

 

Brunei Darussalam, (pronounced /bruːˈnaɪ/ in English) officially the State of Brunei, Abode of Peace (Malay: Negara Brunei Darussalam, Jawi: بروني دارالسلام), is a country located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South China Sea it is completely surrounded by the state of Sarawak, Malaysia, and in fact it is separated into two parts by Limbang, which is part of Sarawak.

 

Upon independence, East Timor became one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia (along with the Philippines), although nearby parts of Indonesia also have Catholic majorities, including West Timor and Flores. The population predominantly identifies as Roman Catholic (97%), though local animist traditions have a persistent and strong influence on the culture. Religious minorities include Muslims (1%) (including former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri) and Protestants (1%) (including Taur Matan Ruak, Commander of the Falintil-FDTL). Smaller Hindu (0.5%), Buddhist (0.1%) and traditional animist minorities make up the remainder.[42][43][44] Church membership grew considerably under Indonesian rule, as Indonesia's state ideology Pancasila does not recognize traditional beliefs and requires all citizens to believe in God. Although the struggle was not about religion, as a deep-rooted local institution the Church not only symbolized East Timor's distinction from predominantly Muslim Indonesia, but also played a significant role in the resistance movement, as personified by Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.[45] The constitution acknowledges the Church's role among the East Timorese people although it also stipulates a secular state that guarantees freedom of religion to everyone.

Religion

Perentage

Roman Catholic

97%

Protestant

1%

Muslim

1%

Hindu

0.50%

Buddhist

0.10%

Traditional Animists

0.40%

 


The dominant religion, a form of Theravada Buddhism (95%), was suppressed by the Khmer Rouge but has since experienced a revival. Islam (3%) and Christianity (2%) are also practiced.

Civil war and its aftermath have had a marked effect on the Cambodian population. The median age is 20.6 years, with more than 50% of the population younger than 25. At 0.95 males/female, Cambodia has the most female-biased sex ratio in the Greater Mekong Subregion. In the Cambodian population over 65, the female to male ratio is 1.6:1.  UNICEF has designated Cambodia the third most mined country in the world, attributing over 60,000 civilian deaths and thousands more maimed or injured since 1970 to the unexploded land mines left behind in rural areas. The majority of the victims are children herding animals or playing in the fields. Adults that survive landmines often require amputation of one or more limbs and have to resort to begging for survival.  In 2006, the number of landmine casualties in Cambodia took a sharp decrease of more than 50% compared to 2005, with the number of landmine victims down from 800 in 2005 to less than 400 in 2006. The reduced casualty rate continued in 2007, with 208 casualties (38 killed and 170 injured).

Religion

Perentage

Buddhism

95%

Islam

3%

Christianity

2%

 

Malaysia is a multi-religious society and Islam is the official religion. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures, approximately 60.4 percent of the population practiced Islam; 19.2 percent Buddhism; 9.1 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 2.6 percent traditional Chinese religions. The remaining was accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism and other faiths while 1.1% either reported as having no religion or did not provide any information. Historically, a community of adherents to Judaism had resided in Malaysia. The Jewish community in Malaysia today is estimated to number less than 100.

All ethnic Malays are considered Muslim (100%) as defined by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia.[65] Additional statistics from the 2000 Census indicate that ethnic Chinese are predominantly Buddhist (75.9%), with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (10.6%) and Christianity (9.6%). The majority of ethnic Indians follow Hinduism (84.5%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (7.7%) and Muslims (3.8%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputra community (50.1%) with an additional 36.3% identifying as Muslims and 7.3% identifying as adherents to what is officially classified as folk religion.

Although the Malaysian constitution theoretically guarantees religious freedom, in practice the situation is restricted. Additionally, all non-Muslims who marry a Muslim must renounce their religion and convert to Islam. Meanwhile, non-Muslims experience restrictions in activities such as construction of religious buildings and the celebration of certain religious events in some states.[66][67] Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts when it comes to matters concerning their religion. The jurisdiction of Syariah court is limited only to Muslims over matters of Faith and Obligations as a Muslim, which includes marriage, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offenses are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts. Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts (including the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia) in principle cannot overrule any decision made by the Syariah Courts; and presently are reluctant to preside over cases involving Islam in any nature or question or challenge the authority of the Syariah courts. This has caused notable problems, particularly involving civil cases between Muslims and non-Muslims, in which civil courts have ordered non-Muslims to seek recourse from the Syariah Courts.

Religion plays a major role in life in Indonesia. It is stated in the first principle of the state ideology, Pancasila: "belief in the one and only God". A number of different religions are practiced in Indonesia and their collective influence on the country's political, economical and cultural life is significant.[1] As of 2007, the population was estimated as 234,693,997.[2] Based on the 2000 census, approximately 86.1% were Muslims, 5.7% Protestant, 3% are Catholic, 1.8% Hindu, 3.4% other or unspecified .

The Indonesian Constitution states "every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his/her choice" and "guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief".[3] The government, however, officially only recognises six religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

With many different religions practised in Indonesia, conflicts between believers are often unavoidable. Moreover, Indonesia's political leadership has played an important role in the relations between groups, both positively and negatively, including the Dutch East Indies' Transmigration Program, which has caused a number of conflicts in the eastern region of the country.

Religion

Perentage

Muslim

81.1%

Protestant

5.7%

Catholic

3%

Hindu

1.8%

unspecified

3.4%

 

Many religions are practiced in Burma and religious edifices and religious orders have been in existence for many years and religious festivals can be held on a grand scale. The Christian and Muslim populations do, however, face religious persecution and it is hard, if not impossible, for non-Buddhists to join the army or get government jobs, the main route to success in the country. Such persecution and targeting of civilians is particularly notable in Eastern Burma, where over 3000 villages have been destroyed in the past ten years.

Eighty-nine percent of the population embraces Buddhism (mostly Theravada), but other religions can be practiced freely. Four percent of the population practices Christianity; 4 percent, Islam; 1 percent, traditional animistic beliefs; and 2 percent follow other religions, including Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions and the Bahá'í religion.[148][149][150] However, according to a U.S. State Department’s 2006 international religious freedom report, official statistics underestimate the non-Buddhist population which could be as high as 30%. Muslim leaders estimated that approximately 20 percent of the population was Muslim.

Religion

Perentage

Buddhism (Theravada)

89%

Christianity

4%

Islam

4%

Traditional Animist

1%

Other Religions

2%

 

Of the people of Laos 67% are Buddhist 1.5% are Christian, and 31.5% are other or unspecified according to the 2005 census.

 

Religions of Vietnam

religion

 

 

percentage

 

Buddhism

 

85%

Christianity

 

8%

Caodaism

 

3%

Others

 

4%

 

For much of Vietnamese history, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have strongly influenced the religious and cultural life of the people. About 85% of Vietnamese identify with Buddhism, though not all practice on a regular basis. About 8% of the population are Christians (about six million Roman Catholics and fewer than one million Protestants, according to the census of 2007). Christianity was introduced first by the Portuguese and the Dutch traders in the 16th and 17th centuries, then further propagated by French missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, and to a lesser extent, by American Protestant missionaries during the presence of American forces during the 1960s and early 1970s. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church. Two thirds of Vietnam's Protestants are ethnic minorities.

Vietnam has great reservation towards Roman Catholicism. This mistrust originated during the French colonial time when some Catholics collaborated with the French colonists as espionage agents and militiamen to suppress the Vietnamese independence movement.[citation needed] Furthermore, the Church's teaching in Vietnam regarding communism made it an unwelcome counterforce to communist rule. Relationship with the Vatican, however, has improved in recent years. Membership of Sunni and Bashi Islam, a small minority faith, is primarily practiced by the ethnic Cham minority, though there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents in the southwest. The communist government has from time to time been criticized for its religious restrictions although it has categorically denied that such restrictions exist today.

The vast majority of Vietnamese people of Asian religions practice Ancestor Worship.

From the articles of Religions by country, Religion in Vietnam and Demographics of Vietnam; 85% is nominal/secular Buddhists including predominant 83% East Asian Buddhist or "Triple religion" (80% of people are worship the mixture of Mahayana Buddhism mainly, Taoism, Confucianism with Ancestor Worship; 2% Hòa Ho with 1% of some new Vietnamese-Buddhist sects as T Ân Hiếu Nghĩa, Pure Land Buddhist, etc) and 2% Theravada Buddhism, mainly among Khmer people but the census of Government showed that only over 10 million people have taken refuge in the Three Jewels[37][38]; 8% Christians (7% Catholics and 1% Protestants); 3% Caodaism; 2.5% Tribal animism; less than 70 thousand Muslims (mainly Cham people);[39] small Hindu communities (over 50 thousand people) and a small number of Baha'is and Jews.

 

According to the last census (2000) 94.7% of the total population are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand at 4.6%]. Thailand's southernmost provinces - Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and part of Songkhla Chumphon have dominant Muslim populations, consisting of both ethnic Thai and Malay. Most often Muslims live in separate communities from non-Muslims. The southern tip of Thailand is mostly ethnic Malays. Christians, mainly Catholics, represent 0.75% of the population. A tiny but influential community of Sikhs in Thailand and some Hindus also live in the country's cities, and are heavily engaged in retail commerce. There is also a small Jewish community in Thailand, dating back to the 17th century. Since 2001, Muslim activists, generally described by the Thai government as terrorists or separatists, have rallied against the central government because of alleged corruption and ethnic bias on the part of officials.

 

The Philippines is one of two countries in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region with Roman Catholic majorities, the other being East Timor. The Philippines is separated into different archdioceses, and dioceses. About 90% of Filipinos identify themselves as Christians, with 81% belonging to the Roman Catholic Church and 5% composing of Protestant denominations, and 4% comprising of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Iglesia Ni Cristo, Philippine Independent Church, Seventh Day Adventist, United Church of Christ, among others.

Religion in the Philippines

Religion

 

 

Percent

 

Christianity

 

90%

Islam

 

5%

Buddhism

 

2%

Hinduism

 

1%

Others

 

2%

 

The Philippines is also well-known for its Baroque churches. They are a part of the long list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These churches include the San Agustín Church in Intramuros, Manila; Paoay Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Santa María) Church in Santa María, Ilocos Sur; and the Santo Tomás de Villanueva Church in Iloilo, and the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu.

Approximately 5% of Filipinos are Muslims.[68]They primarily settle in parts of Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu archipelago, but are now found in most urban areas of the Philippines. Most lowland Muslim Filipinos practice Islam, although the practices of some Mindanao's highland Muslim populations reflect a mixture with Animism. There are also a number of minority religious groups such as Buddhists, Bahá'í, Hindus, Sikhs, and animists. Along with other non-Christians, non-Muslims, and those with no religion, they collectively comprise 2% of the population.[63]

 

Singapore is a multi-religious country. According to Statistics Singapore, around 51% of resident Singaporeans (excluding significant numbers of visitors and migrant workers) practice Buddhism and Taoism. About 15%, mostly Chinese, Eurasians, and Indians, practice Christianity - a broad classification including Catholicism, Protestantism and other denominations. Muslims constitute 14%, of whom Malays account for the majority with a substantial number of Indian Muslims and Chinese Muslims. Smaller minorities practice Sikhism, Hinduism and others, according to the 2000 census.[76]

Some religious materials and practices are banned in Singapore. The Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, are prohibited from distributing religious materials[77] and are sometimes jailed for their conscientious refusals to serve in the Singaporean military.[78]

About 15% of the population declared no religious affiliation.

Religion in Singapore

religion

 

 

percent

 

Buddhism

 

42.5%

No religion

 

14.8%

Christianity

 

14.6%

Islam

 

13.9%

Taoism

 

8.5%

Hinduism

 

4%

Others

 

1.6%

 

 

Over 93% of Taiwanese are adherents of a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; 4.5% are adherents of Christianity, which includes Protestants, Catholics, Latter-Day Saints, and other non-denominational Christian groups; and 2.5% are adherents of other religions, such as Islam. Taiwanese aborigines comprise a notable subgroup among professing Christians: "...over 64 percent identify as Christian... Church buildings are the most obvious markers of Aboriginal villages, distinguishing them from Taiwanese or Hakka villages."[38]

Confucianism is a philosophy that deals with secular moral ethics, and serves as the foundation of both Chinese and Taiwanese culture. The majority of Taiwanese people usually combine the secular moral teachings of Confucianism with whatever religions they are affiliated with.

One especially important goddess for Taiwanese people is Matsu, who symbolizes the seafaring spirit of Taiwan's ancestors from Fujian and Guangdong.

 


C.    Political and Cultural Issues

Brunei, the remnant of a very powerful sultanate, regained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984.

The culture of Brunei is predominantly Malay (reflecting its ethnicity), with heavy influences from Islam, but is seen as more conservative than Malaysia.

Brunei also has a large number of foreign workers, including Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers, labourers from Thailand, Indonesia and the Indian subcontinent (particularly India and Bangladesh), and American and British professionals working in industry and education.

The sale and public consumption of alcohol is banned. Foreigners and non-Muslims are allowed to bring in 12 cans of beer and 2 bottles of other alcohol (e.g., wine or spirits; no distinction is made for alcohol content). This limit used to apply to every entry; in 2007, however, this was changed to one limit every 48 hours. After the introduction of prohibition in the early 1990s, all pubs and nightclubs were forced to close.

 

East Timor was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until Portugal's decolonization of the country. In late 1975 East Timor declared its independence but was invaded and occupied by Indonesia later that year, and declared that country's 27th province the following year. In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the twenty-first century on May 20, 2002. East Timor is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being the Philippines.

The culture of East Timor reflects numerous influences, including Portuguese, Roman Catholic, and Malayisia, on the indigenous Austronesian and Melanesian cultures of Timor. Legend has it that a giant crocodile was transformed into the island of Timor, or Crocodile Island, as it is often called. East Timorese culture is heavily influenced by Austronesian legends, although the Catholic influence is also strong.

Illiteracy is still widespread, but there is a strong tradition of poetry. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, for example, is a distinguished poet. As for architecture, some Portuguese-style buildings can be found, along with the traditional totem houses of the eastern region. These are known as uma lulik (sacred houses) in Tetum, and lee teinu (houses with legs) in Fataluku. Craftsmanship is also widespread, as is the weaving of traditional scarves or tais.

 

A citizen of Cambodia is usually identified as "Cambodian" or "Khmer," though the latter strictly refers to ethnic Khmers. Most Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists of Khmer extraction, but the country also has a substantial number of predominantly Muslim Cham, as well as ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese and small animist hill tribes.

The country borders Thailand to its west and northwest, Laos to its northeast, and Vietnam to its east and southeast. In the south it faces the Gulf of Thailand. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong river (colloquial Khmer: Tonle Thom or "the great river") and the Tonlé Sap ("the fresh water lake"), an important source of fish.

The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austroasiatic language group. French, once the language of government in Indochina, is still spoken by some older Cambodians. French is also the language of instruction in some schools and universities that are funded by the government of France. Cambodian French, a remnant of the country's colonial past, is a dialect found in Cambodia and is sometimes used in government. However, in recent decades, many younger Cambodians and those in the business-class have favoured learning English. In the major cities and tourist centers, English is widely spoken and taught at a large number of schools due to the overwhelming number of tourists from English-speaking countries. Even in the most rural outposts, however, most young people speak at least some English, as it is often taught by monks at the local pagodas where many children are educated.

 

The Republic of Indonesia (pronounced /ˌɪndoʊˈniːziə/ or /ˌɪndəˈniːʒə/) (Indonesian: Republik Indonesia), is a transcontinental country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Comprising 17,508 islands, it is the world's largest archipelagic state. With an estimated population of around 237 million people,[3] it is the world's fourth most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority nation; however, no reference is made to Islam in the Indonesian constitution. Indonesia is a republic, with an elected legislature and president. The nation's capital city is Jakarta. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Malaysia. Other neighboring countries include Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, and the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Indonesian archipelago has been an important trade region since at least the seventh century, when the Srivijaya Kingdom traded with China and India. Local rulers gradually adopted Indian cultural, religious and political models from the early centuries CE, and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Muslim traders brought Islam, and European powers fought one another to monopolize trade in the Spice Islands of Maluku during the Age of Discovery. Following three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism, Indonesia secured its independence after World War II. Indonesia's history has since been turbulent, with challenges posed by natural disasters, corruption, separatism, a democratization process, and periods of rapid economic change.

Across its many islands, Indonesia consists of distinct ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. The Javanese are the largest and most politically dominant ethnic group. As a unitary state and a nation, Indonesia has developed a shared identity defined by a national language, ethnic diversity, religious pluralism within a majority Muslim population, and a history of colonialism and rebellion against it. Indonesia's national motto, "Bhinneka tunggal ika" ("Unity in Diversity" literally, "many, yet one"), articulates the diversity that shapes the country. However, sectarian tensions and separatism have led to violent confrontations that have undermined political and economic stability. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support the world's second highest level of biodiversity. The country is richly endowed with natural resources, yet poverty is a defining feature of contemporary Indonesia.

 

Laos,  officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in southeast Asia, bordered by Burma (Myanmar) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. Laos traces its history to the Kingdom of Lan Xang or Land of a Million Elephants, which existed from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century.

After a period as a French protectorate, it gained independence in 1949. A long civil war ended officially when the communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975, but the protesting between factions continued for several years.

 

Malaysia is a federation that consists of thirteen states and three federal territories in Southeast Asia with a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,355 sq mi). The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. The population stands at over 27 million. The country is separated into two regions—Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo—by the South China Sea. Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. The country is located near the equator and experiences a tropical climate. Malaysia's head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the government is headed by a Prime Minister. The government is closely modeled after the Westminster Parliamentary System.

Malaysia as a unified state did not exist until 1963. Previously, a set of colonies were established by the United Kingdom from the late-18th century, and the western half of modern Malaysia was composed of several separate kingdoms. This group of colonies was known as British Malaya until its dissolution in 1946, when it was reorganised as the Malayan Union. Due to widespread opposition, it was reorganised again as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and later gained independence on 31 August 1957. Singapore, Sarawak, British North Borneo and the Federation of Malaya joined to form Malaysia on 16 September 1963. The early years of the new union were marred by an armed conflict with Indonesia and the expulsion of Singapore on 9 August 1965. The Southeast Asian nation experienced an economic boom and underwent rapid development during the late-20th century. Rapid growth during the 1980s and 1990s, averaging 8% from 1991 to 1997, has transformed Malaysia into a newly industrialised country. Because Malaysia is one of three countries that control the Strait of Malacca, international trade plays a large role in its economy. At one time, it was the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world. Manufacturing has a large influence in the country's economy. Malaysia has a biodiverse range of flora and fauna, and is also considered one of the 17 most Megadiverse countries in the world.

Malays form the majority of the population of Malaysia. There are sizable Chinese and Indian communities as well. Islam is the largest as well as the official religion of the federation. The Malay language is the official language.

Malaysia is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations. As a former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is also a member of the Developing 8 Countries.

 

 

 

Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar, is the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia, or Indochina. The country is bordered by the People's Republic of China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, and the Bay of Bengal to the southwest with the Gulf of Martaban and Andaman Sea defining its southern periphery. One-third of Burma's total perimeter, 1,930 kilometers (1,199 mi), forms an uninterrupted coastline.

The country's culture, heavily influenced by neighbours, is based on Theravada Buddhism intertwined with local elements. Burma's diverse population has played a major role in defining its politics, history and demographics in modern times, and the country continues to struggle to mend its ethnic tensions. The military has dominated government since General Ne Win led a coup in 1962 that toppled the civilian government of U Nu. The Burmese Way to Socialism drove the formerly prosperous country into deep poverty. Burma remains under the tight control of the military-led State Peace and Development Council.

A diverse range of indigenous cultures exist in Burma, the majority culture is primarily Buddhist and Bamar. Bamar culture has been influenced by the cultures of neighbouring countries. This is manifested in its language, cuisine, music, dance and theatre. The arts, particularly literature, have historically been influenced by the local form of Theravada Buddhism. Considered the national epic of Burma, the Yama Zatdaw, an adaptation of Ramayana, has been influenced greatly by Thai, Mon, and Indian versions of the play. Buddhism is practiced along with nat worship which involves elaborate rituals to propitiate one from a pantheon of 37 nats.

Mohinga, rice noodles in fish soup, is widely considered to be Burma's national dish.

In a traditional village, the monastery is the centre of cultural life. Monks are venerated and supported by the lay people. A novitiation ceremony called shinbyu is the most important coming of age events for a boy when he enters the monastery for a short period of time. All boys of Buddhist family need to be a novice (beginner for Buddhism) before the age of twenty and to be a monk after the age of twenty. It is compulsory for all boys of Buddhism. The duration can be as little as one week. Girls have ear-piercing ceremonies ( ) at the same time. Burmese culture is most evident in villages where local festivals are held throughout the year, the most important being the pagoda festival. Many villages have a guardian nat, and superstition and taboos are commonplace.

British colonial rule also introduced Western elements of culture to Burma. Burma's educational system is modelled after that of the United Kingdom. Colonial architectural influences are most evident in major cities such as Yangon. Many ethnic minorities, particularly the Karen in the southeast, and the Kachin and Chin who populate the north and northwest, practice Christianity.. According to CIA Wold Factbook, the Burman population is 68%, and the Ethnic groups comprise of 32%. However, the exiled leaders and organizations claims that Ethnic population is 40% which is implicitly contrasted with CIA report (official U.S report).

 

The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is a country in Southeast Asia with Manila as its capital city. It comprises 7,107 islands in the western Pacific Ocean.

The Philippines is the world's 12th most populous country with a population of about 90 million people. Its national economy is the 46th largest in the world with an estimated 2008 gross domestic product (GDP) of over US$ 327.2 billion (PPP). There are more than 11 million overseas Filipinos worldwide, about 11% of the total population of the Philippines.

A former colony of Spain and the United States, the Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia-Pacific, the other being East Timor. There are also a number of minority religious groups, including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands. Ecologically, the Philippines is one of the most diverse countries in the world.

 

 

Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island microstate located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 707.1 km2 (273.0 sq mi), Singapore is one of three remaining true Sovereign city-states in the world (along with Monaco and Vatican City). It is the smallest nation in Southeast Asia.

Before European settlement, the island now known as Singapore was the site of a Malay fishing village at the mouth of the Singapore River. Several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people also lived along the nearby coast, rivers and on smaller islands. In 1819 the British East India Company, led by Sir Stamford Raffles, established a trading post on the island, which was used as a port along the spice route. Singapore became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire, and the hub of British power in Southeast Asia. The city was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, which Winston Churchill called "Britain's greatest defeat". Singapore reverted to British rule immediately after the war, in 1945. Eighteen years later (1963) the city, having achieved independence from Britain, merged with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, less than two years later it seceded from the federation and became an independent republic on 9 August 1965. Singapore joined the United Nations on 21 September that same year. It is also a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Since independence, Singapore's standard of living has risen dramatically. Foreign direct investment and a state-led drive to industrialisation based on plans drawn up by the Dutch economist Albert Winsemius have created a modern economy focused on industry, education and urban planning. Singapore is the 5th wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita. This small nation has foreign exchange reserves of more than US$177 billion.

The population of Singapore is approximately 4.84 million. Singapore is highly cosmopolitan and diverse with Chinese people forming an ethnic majority with large populations of Malay, Indian and other people. English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese are the official languages.

The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore established the nation's political system as a representative democracy, while the country is recognised as a parliamentary republic. The People's Action Party (PAP) dominates the political process and has won control of Parliament in every election since self-government in 1959.

 

The Kingdom of Thailand is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Laos and Myanmar, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar. By the maritime boundary, the country is bordered to the southeast by Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, to the southwest by Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea.

The capital and largest city of Thailand is Bangkok. It is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. Bangkok is known in Thai as "Krung Thep Mahanakorn," or, more colloquially, "Krung Thep", meaning "City of Angels".

Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country in terms of total area, roughly equal in size to Spain, with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 20th most-populous country, with approximately 63 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thais, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay,[3] the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers, and various hill tribes. The country's official language is Thai.

Thailand is one of the most devoutly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by more than 95% of all Thais. The cultures and traditions in Thailand are significantly influenced by those of India, China and many western countries.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, as the ruling monarch. The King has reigned for more than half a century, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch and the longest reigning current monarch in the world. The King is recognized as the Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, the Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and Defender of the Faith. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been ruled by a European power. However, during the Second World War, and while claiming neutrality, Thailand was occupied by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan who built the infamous 'Death Railway' using captured Allied Prisoners of War and slave Asian labourers.

 

Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east. With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.

The people of Vietnam regained independence and broke away from China in 938 AD after their victory at the Battle of Bch Đng River (938). Successive dynasties flourished along with geographic and political expansion deeper into Southeast Asia, until it was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. Fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War, ending with a Communist victory in 1975.

Emerging from this prolonged military engagement, the war-ravaged nation was politically isolated. The government’s centrally planned economic decisions hindered post-war reconstruction and its treatment of the losing side engendered more resentment than reconciliation. In 1986, it instituted economic and political reforms and began a path towards international reintegration. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth had been among the highest in the world in the past decade. These efforts culminated in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007 and its successful bid to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2008.

 

A.    Strength of MCF’s

God has abundantly blessed the MCFs in Southeast Asia especially the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand.  Today, there are more believers in the military that five (5) years ago.  In the Philippines almost all the military units has been reached by the MCF-Philippines Military Values Education (MILVED) Team spearheaded by Commo ERNESTO L. SACRO, PCGA, the MCF-Phil National President; Commo Adriano Munar Jr, AFP is the present President  of the Navy Chapter and BGen Randy Oscar S. Dauz, AFP (ret), is the MCF-Phil, National Vice-President.  The MILVED Team for the last four (4) years has saturated the military and police nation-wide with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A transformed military that is united in Christ Jesus is what we need.  Personal spiritual transformation should be a must to every member of the military o\for it will address some country’s major problems in graft and corruption, illegal drugs use and sale, human trafficking service and other family related problems.

The MCF-Phil MILVED Team has developed  acceptable and suitable modules on vales education for military and police personnel to become more God-centered, nation-focused, service oriented and strong and harmonious family-based relationship.

·         Brotherhood among MCF members in Asia has become stronger such as between the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.

·         Many Christian groups now are willing and interested in doing ministry to the military and police, conducting Bible studies, follow-ups and visitations.

 

B.    Weakness of MCF’s

“Fear” in spreading the Gospel of Truth.  This can   only be overcome by our Lord’s language of love (the love of Christ).

Senior Christian Officers are hesitant in openly sharing God’s Word for fear that they may be promoted or given good position.  More so f his/her commander has different religion.

Another weakness is in raising fund to support MCF projects and activities.  Praise and thanks be to God for using benevolent men and women who went out of their way to support missionary trips and the procurement of Bibles.

C.    Opportunities – God’s “Open Doors”

Indeed, there is a need to start (for military academy without MCF) and strengthen MCF Ministry in the military and police academies where we can equip and develop committed spiritual leaders. Today there are some current leaders and influential community/political leaders in Southeast Asian countries who are graduates of military or police academies like: Gen. Prum Pheng of Cambodia, Thaksin of Thailand, Yudhono of the Indonesia and Ramos of the Philippines who played active roles in government, political and private sector.

Also senior active Christian military/police officers who are currently occupying key positions have great influence in the areas where their commands/units are operating.  Christian values and the gospel of Jesus Christ could be shared to the people in these areas like what is actually happening in the Philippines.

For more than five (5) years now, active and retired Christian military officers (MCF members) from Cambodia and Thailand are coming to the Philippines to learn from their MCFs counterparts and likewise to strengthen the bond of brotherhood. Likewise several trips were undertaken in the past  to Cambodia and Thailand by MCF-Phil members headed by Commo. Ernesto L. Sacro, PCGA.  They conducted Christian Leadership and Chaplaincy training to active seniors and retired military/police officers there while in other Southeast Asian countries, this kind of training is not allowed.  Chaplaincy training courses were conducted wherein twelve (12) active and retired military/police officers finished in Thailand and another eight (8) active/retired officers in Cambodia.

D.    Threat/risks

Financial Crisis – Southeast Asian Leaders are to seek ways of insulating their export driven economies from the global financial meltdown when they hold summit in Thailand at the end of February 2009.

Several countries in the region of more than half a billion people are facing recession and growing unemployment as demand from trading partners plummets.  The real economies of Southeast Asian countries have been hit after exports to developed markets fell dramatically and incoming investments slowed.  Current ASEAN chair Thailand – the region’s second biggest economy – was the most recent country to post depressing economic data. Trade-dependent Singapore, ASEAN’s wealthiest member per capita and its financial hub, is meanwhile facing its worst recession since independence.  Indonesia, ASEAN’s largest economy, has also started the pinch, with growth slowing in the fourth quarter of 2008 and in Malaysia, falling exports  could force the government to revise growth forecast for 2009.  The region has been called by Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo to look for new solutions, including cooperating on tourism.

Corruption and inefficiency in the Philippine’s judicial system (from a US State Department report) have undermined human rights in the country and caused “widespread skepticism of due process.”

 

The current Philippine government has been hounded by allegations of corruption and election rigging.  Due to these allegations of moral decay in the country that the present administration has had to suppress several attempted coups in the past.  Hence, there is really a need for “Moral Regeneration” especially in the AFP, as the country’s guardian of liberty and democracy.  There must be transformation through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and this must be from the top echelon to the lowest sparing no one.  The MCF members must model and continue to lecture to all AFP personnel godly values through the MILVED AND SPIRITUAL ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM.

 

 

Three key priorities (Visions) for VP action in next 5 years

  1. Enhance the fulfillment of the Great Commission to Military Forces in Southeast Asia especially in Vietnam, Brunei, Laos and have a strong MCF in these countries and encourage exchange visitations among Southeast Asia MCF Members.
  2. Train, develop and send committed military servant leaders (retired or active) to where there is a need to help in the spiritual growth of MCF members.
  3. Share their training seminars MCF-Phils Military Values Education Modules to Southeast Asia countries and countries in other interested regions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Military Christian Fellowship (MCF) - Phillipines

 

Accomplishments for March, April and May 2009, and plans to the end of 2009

 

A.   The submitted MCF-Philippines plan for 2008-2009 is being implemented by the CEO and President with the support of the Board of Directors of MCF-Philippines.

MCF-Philippines in its Introduction/Oath taking of the Head of the different functional committees last 24 May 2009 strengthened their working committees. The Oath taking was administered by Lt. Gen Pedrito S Cadungog AFP (ret.), the chairman of the Board of Directors.

Their Moral Renewal Program (or Military Values Education/MILVED) in all Military Camps is a continuing program. This has been strengthened by Administrative Order 255 from the Office of the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – directing all Department Secretaries and Agencies Heads, to conduct Moral Renewal in their Departments and Agencies.

The MILVED five (5) modules of MCF-Philippines has been lectures to abort 90% of the major units in the AFP (From the Divisions down to the Brigades and Battalions in the Army; Unified Commands and Naval Forces (Navy); Divisions, Wings, groups and squadrons in the Air Force). Years 2007, 2008 and 2009 are the years of harvest in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

We are so blessed for recently the newly installed AFP Chief of Staff is a Christian and his lady is very active with the MCF-Ladies Ministries.

The next quarter (July-Sept) is focused on Fund Raising by Sponsoring a Golf Tournament. The funds that will be raised will hopefully be the seed money in their desire to also host a gathering of AMCF Southeast Asia in the Philippines, may be in 2012 or 2013.

For the rest of the year 2009, the Major Thrust is to have an MCF-affiliate in every Major Military Camp coupled with the raising, equipping and training of Christian Military Leaders to be able to handle discipleship programs and Bible Studies.

 

 
     

 


24 1 3

1  Functional - Regional Conflict     Greshel 2009-10-12 3026
2  Ministry in China     Dunlap 2009-10-12 3395
3  VP(Mwaniki)     Mwaniki 2009-09-11 2957
4  VP(MA'AYH)     MAAYAH 2009-09-11 2972
 VP(BenCiron)     BenCiron 2009-09-04 3146
6  VP(Gnoumou)     Gnoumou 2009-08-27 2890
7  VP(Larrazabal)     Larrazabal 2009-08-17 2883
8  VP(Louwrens)     Louwrens 2009-08-12 2986
9  VP(Parker)     Parker 2009-08-12 3095
10  VP(Torbjorn)     Torbjorn 2009-08-12 3009
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