THE predominantly Muslim fishing village of Ban Nai Rai is a model of inter-faith harmony – thanks to the work of Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation there.
The Foundation, the social and welfare unit of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) in Thailand, has helped to break down human barriers and foster trust and friendship between Methodist Christians and Muslims in the village.
One week after the tsunami struck the village on Dec 26, 2004, a group of Singaporean Methodists, with the help of Foundation officials, went to the aid of the villagers. The Singaporeans were the first group of foreigners to render help to them.
The Rev Prasert Pornkiratikul, Director of the Foundation, disclosed that there was a lot of mistrust initially when he and his team tried to enter the village to offer or render help of any kind.
He said: “As soon as they came to know that we are Christians they would stare at us with suspicion and would not welcome us. In fact, some of them would turn away from us and make it clear that they did not want us to be around.
“Over time, however, they realised how genuine we were in extending our friendship. Then, they saw our Christian love and concern in action. And then they began to accept us, and as time went on, we started to build friendships.
“As you saw today, for example, a villager who is a Muslim, gave us three crabs he had caught, and told us to cook them for dinner. That is how close we are today.”
The Rev Wirot Khwantong, President of the Gospel Church Foundation of Thailand, chipped in: “Today also, we saw how the Christians and Muslims helped each other to lift the fishing boats onto trucks and lorries after the presentation ceremony.
“Clearly, they have been touched by the love of God. It is wonderful to see Christians getting on well with Muslims here, “We can show our fellow Thais living in southern Thailand that people of different faiths can live side by side. This is a demonstration of God’s love for all mankind.”
Mr Hiran Jamnukarn, the villager who gave the three crabs to officials of the Foundation, said everyone in the village should cooperate and help one another just as they had received help from the Singaporeans.
“We are all fishermen and we live in a small village. We are very grateful to our friends from Singapore for giving us the fishing boats. We must share our resources and help one another.”