Why Christians need to learn about the religion Asian immigrants brought to the US.
This is the first article in the Engaging Buddhism series, which will explore different facets of Buddhism and how Christians can engage with and minister to Buddhists.
Churches dot Linwood, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. Yet drive down a quiet road past Holy Spirit Church of Columbus and Christ Centered Apostolic Church and you’ll find an unexpected sight: a brightly colored Buddhist shrine with ornate gold accents and a pointed roof typical of Laotian architecture.
Twin red dragons guard the pathway to the shine, surrounded by reflections ponds. In the same compound is the Watlao Buddhamamakaram Buddhist temple, built in 2009 by Laotian immigrants. Inside, monks in saffron robes pray in front of golden statues of Buddha.
This Buddhist temple is a visible marker of the changing landscape of the United States. Since the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act ended national origin quotas, the number of immigrants from Buddhist-background countries has grown drastically.
Today, Asians are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, making up 7 percent of the US population, or 22 million people. Arriving to pursue higher education or job opportunities or to escape wars and turmoil, Asians will continue moving to the US, and demographers project the community will grow to 46 million by 2060.
This trajectory means US churches and Christians will more likely encounter neighbors who are Buddhist or from a Buddhist-influenced culture, as the religion significantly influences more than a billion people worldwide. Around 500 million people practice Buddhism, most of whom live on the Asian continent. China has the largest number of Buddhists (with about 245 million adherents), while seven countries …