Thursday, September 3, 2009

Welcome to Vientiane's MONK CHAT blog!

VIENTIANE’S Monk Chat is a community outreach program created by Tiffany Hacker, a U.S. Fulbright Scholar researching Buddhism in Laos together with the Sangha College at Vat Ongteu. After speaking to many monks and novices in the Vientiane area, we realized that many speak English well or have the ability to improve with some practice/interaction with native speakers. However, as we know there is often little opportunity for monks and novices to engage with native speakers due to the rigorous and disciplined nature of Sangha (monastic) education.

The Monk Chat program at Vat Ongteu provides a space in Laos where monks and foreigners can exchange in dialogue about their culture and religion. The goal of our program is three-fold:

1.) We hope for the monks to improve their English language skills through conversational practice;

2.) To provide a space where foreigners can engage in a unique form of Lao cultural tourism;

3.) We also aim to promote an educational inter-religious exchange between Buddhist monks and other local faith-based groups such as Christians, Muslims, Bahai and any others groups that would like to create a dialogue based on cultural understanding and an acceptance of religious diversity.

On Sunday, March 1, 2009 we launched our first Monk Chat session and it was a great success. Over 100 monks, novices and foreigners from over ten nations attended to engage in cross-cultural dialogue. Since then, the program averages 50 monks and novices and 35 foreigners monthly.

In August 2009, an Engaged Buddhism Leadership Development course was initiated through the Sangha College. Facilitated by Fulbright Scholar Marcia J. Harr Bailey, the course is being used as a tool to help make the Monk Chat sustainable and 100%
facilitated by Lao monks, novices, and lay people.

The Monk Chat program has already been integrated into the Sangha College’s English education curriculum. In the future the program will include invited guest speakers to speak in English to participating monks and novices about topics that affect Lao society.

The program also plans to expand to create partnerships with Lao organizations to utilize other human resources and expand knowledge and understanding of Lao culture and society.

Monk Chat sessions currently take place monthly on the first Sunday of every month @ 3pm. The Monk Chat is from 3pm-5pm.

Please join us!
We're in Vientiane at the Sangha College at Vat Ongteu, just a few blocks from Nam Phu (the fountain) and Joma Bakery Cafe on Rue Setthatirat.