The last week of my program has been spent in the city of Bangkok, Thailand. The city has a population of 10 to 14 million depending on who you talk to on any given day. It’s a city on the go and a city on the rise. Walking in the streets, in the markets or in the business areas you can hear any number of languages and see people from all over the world. I have met with professors and diplomats over the past week who have spoken of issues with conflicts, migration and refugees and I know these things exist. However, there is at least one section of Bangkok which doesn’t seem to have these issues.
I had the honor to meet with local historian Therapat Chaungpischit to learn about cultural diversity in Bangkok and Thonburi. We visited the area of Bangkok known as Old Town where Buddhist Temples and Muslim Mosques co-exist peacefully and have for hundreds of years. Still in Old Town, just a few streets over, is the Santa Cruz Church, built on a plot of land given to the Portuguese in 1767 by King Taksin. The church is unassuming, peaceful and fits right in with the blended neighborhood.
Walking through the streets and alleys you feel like you’ve stepped into a new world as Thai women prepare a meal just a few steps from Muslin men have gathered to exchange the news of the day. Two little boys dressed in Spider-Man costumes chatter to one another as they race each other on their bicycles around a Mosque.
Mr. Chaungpischit nods, waves or talks to everyone in Old Town. He has helped get grant funds to refurbish a Mosque, built a community center that includes a school and knows the history of the Buddhists, Muslims and Thai of Old Town.
In a town like Bangkok that literally swirls with the blending of people of many countries and many faiths, peace can be found in the oldest part of the city- Old Town.