January 31, 2009

JESUS AND SPEEDOES:

Wrestling and faith in Mongolia: From a growth in Christianity to a revival of Buddhism, Religious Affairs correspondent Robert Pigott reports on how Mongolians are replacing the all-embracing belief system that vanished with the fall of communism. (Robert Pigott, 1/31/09, BBC)

In the polluted sprawl of Ulan Bator - a communist-era name meaning "red hero" - there are some 200 churches and an estimated 200 more in the mountains, steppes and desert beyond.

Their congregations include many young professional and business people, led in services of swaying and clapping by bands of drums and guitars.

One of their members, Puje Chinggis, says his story is typical.

A confident and calm young man, Puje is now head of Mongolia's only internationally accredited Bible College, in a neighbourhood of Ulan Bator crowded with long wooden barracks, once occupied by Soviet troops.

But in his youth he adopted communism and, like many others, believed a perfect society would be accomplished in his lifetime.

Puje says many of his disillusioned generation were won over by the practical benefits offered by Christian organisations.

These include charities such as the Mission Aviation Fellowship, which flies missionaries and aid workers over Mongolia's vast distances - it is difficult to travel on the gravel tracks below. [...]

With socialism gone, Mongolia is rebuilding a national identity on its own history and traditions.

Pre-eminent among these traditions is wrestling. On Mongolia's national day I witnessed this sweaty, ritualistic, trial of strength between men wearing boots and tight-fitting briefs.

After a display of flexing muscles, the wrestlers gripped each other in a tense stand-off before a sudden struggle resulted in one of them falling to the ground.

An appreciative crowd roared its approval, and as the national anthem was sung, the event seemed to recall the past greatness of the Mongolian nation.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2009 7:28 AM
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