Surrounded by India (to the west), China (to the north), Papua New Guinea (to the east), and Australia (to the south), Southeast Asia is an economically, culturally, and religiously diverse region that is home to approximately 10% of the global population. While Singapore is one of the world’s richest nations (per capita), countries like Cambodia and Laos rank near the bottom. Inhabitants speak nearly a thousand languages (with over 700 in Indonesia alone). Large numbers of Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus live in the region. Animism, folk religions, ancestor worship, and state-sponsored atheism are also prevalent. Roughly 40% of Southeast Asians follow Islam and Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Although Christians mostly live as minorities, they represent the majority in the Philippines and East Timor.
Within this pluralistic region, the Church has grown at a remarkable rate. According to Operation World, the greatest relative growth has occurred in Cambodia and Vietnam. Furthermore, the growth has largely occurred through the efforts of local indigenous leaders. Churches increasingly embody Asian structures, styles, and leadership. Asian scholars have helped to identify and develop Christian responses to unique cultural and societal issues. One example is Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up by Simon Chan, who teaches theology at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. ScholarLeaders supported Simon during his PhD studies at the University of Cambridge.
Pray for peace in Southeast Asia as terrorist attacks – particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines – have increased over the past few years.
Pray for the Church in nations where Christians face persecution. Both government-sponsored opposition (Myanmar) and the struggles of living as a small minority take a toll on believers. Pray for perseverance and strength in the midst of hardship.
Pray for the continued growth of the Church, both in numbers and in authentic discipleship. Pray for local pastors to receive the training they need in order to guide the growing Church in Southeast Asia.