No, that’s not a misleading headline! In my reading the other day I came across a fascinating story of a movement of people into Europe 400 years ago from the east who are Buddhists.
In 1630 the region of Russia just north of the Caucasus mountains above Georgia was sparsely inhabited when a movement of Mongol peoples moved west into this area in search of expanded grazing pastures for the nomadic lifestyle. They drove out the indigenous inhabitants and created the Kalmyke Khanate. Over the next century they established an uneasy relationship with the expanding Russian empire, who made use of this non-Muslim buffer zone in the south of their territory. Their numbers grew to around 300,000 during this era.
In the mid 1700’s this uneasy alliance came to an end when Catherine the Great subjugated the Kalmykian people. Many left and headed back to Mongolia where they starved or were integrated into the Chinese sphere of influence. Some stayed and survived the brutal communist suppression of religion in the early 20th century.
Kalmykia is in the top right of the map below.
Today there are 140,000 European Kalmykian Buddhists.They follow the Tibetan version of Buddhism that is strongly influenced by Mongolian shamanism and they have a strong relationship with the Dali Lama. Their main city, Elista, now houses Europe’s largest Buddhist temple (below).
Christians are few in this community, and are seen as cultural traitors. The New Testament has been available since 2002 and there are a few, very effective evangelists working in the region from an East Asian, ex-Buddhist background. Pray for God to move among these people and set them free through his supernatural power, deliverance from satanic bondage and love.