04/09/2009, 00.00
THAILAND
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Thailand, 283 converts to receive baptism at Easter

by Weena Kowitwanij
Following the example of their friends and relatives, they have decided to take catechism classes and offer Christ "the sufferings and miseries of everyday life." AsiaNews has gathered the testimony of three believers.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - In Thailand, every year more than 200 people convert to Catholicism and receive baptism on Easter Sunday. "This year there will be 283 new converts, mostly from Buddhism, says Tassanee Maturos-suwan, the head of catechesis for the Catholic Commission for Catechetical Education. "Some are married with Catholic spouses. Others are persuaded to join church activities."

The woman explains that some of them follow the example of "friends who go to church," and study the foundations of the Catholic faith for a long time before being baptized. Others have experienced the presence of God "in everyday life," and have entrusted themselves to Christ "when they felt so miserable and could not solve their problems." The following are three experiences of new converts, who will receive baptism at the Easter vigil:

Natda Reabroicharoen is a 28-year-old woman, a Protestant, who decided to embrace Catholicism following the example of a friend. "Though we almost have the same faith," Natda tells AsiaNews, "I feel very happy with my new life, new heart and new vision. Today I am still faced with difficulty and hardship but I am more happy because with the touch of God’s love my vision has changed." The woman recounts that during the Lenten season, she repeatedly visited the orphans housed by the diocesan center of Chantaburi: 140 in all, from newborns to university students. "We tell them how easy it is to make our friends happy with just a smile or explaining the younger to do their homework, cleaning the dishes together or sharing what they have among friends."

Pranee Chansopon is a single mother with a 17-year-old son, Nopwit. Both of them were devout Buddhists: they had embraced the teachings of the "enlightened one" to "put an end to their sufferings" in the past. "After some months I thought my mind was not calm, so I left the religious life (being a nun) to live a normal life. One day my son’s friend, who is a Catholic at St. Francis Xavier church, told my son that 'his God is mercy and can make him happy'." Mother and son began to go to Mass together, in spite of the fact that they were Buddhist. The woman recounts how her life has changed, becoming "more friendly" toward people, and working "for the good of others." "It took years before I decided to apply for catechism class with my son to learn more about becoming Catholic. The Word of God always has the right answer to my question, and this is why I am looking forward to baptism, because I believe that only with baptism will my sin be forgiven."

From the church of St. Peter in Samphar, about 60 kilometers from Bangkok, comes the testimony of Kitiya Plabuthong, a 20-year-old university student. “I am the only daughter of my parents. I am acquainted with the Catholic liturgy because I attended St. Peter school in Samphran during my secondary school. I have had faith in Our Lady since I was young because I used to pray for her help in many things such as to pass exams, and it seems that she has answered my prayers." Her parents are Buddhists, so she preferred to wait until she was an adult to convert. "When I asked for permission, my parents agreed. I told them that I feel more at home being a Catholic and I feel Mother Mary is helping me in every important situation in my life. I have strong faith in Mary, and this is why I chose St. Mary as my Christian name for my baptism."

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