Faith Leaders Urge Followers To Pray For Soccer Team Imprisoned in Tham Luang Nang Non Flooded Cave System
The world has been watching with trepidation. For nearly two weeks, an international rescue effort has been looking for twelve Thai youth soccer players and their coach who were lost in a flooded cave system in Northern Thailand. While divers were exploring, religious leaders were outside encouraging a different form of support.
Buddhist monks have been surrounding the rescue site and giving prayers and offerings for the team’s safety. Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist. Over 90 percent of the country practices the Theravada school of Buddhism. The Supreme Patriarch, the head of Buddhist clergy, has asked the country to join in prayers.
Buddhism is not the only religion involved. Thailand has a unique blend of spiritualism and ancestor worship interwoven in the cultural framework of the country. Citizens believe all national sites are possessed by spirits that need appeasing through prayer and offerings. Tham Luang Nang Non is thought to be watched over by the spirit of a princess who killed herself when her lover was murdered. Shrines have been set up to burn incense and offer food and beer to the spirits, asking for their help in saving the lives of the children and their coach.
Even significantly less represented religions have arrived, sometimes from hundreds of miles, to offer spiritual support. Christians have come down on buses to sing hymns and Muslims dedicated Friday prayers to the missing team. One man offered to speak to the dragon spirit living in the ground to have the boys released.
Over 1,000 rescuers are working to figure out how to get the children out of the flooded cave’s tunnels and passages. The children may have to swim out, but no one on the soccer team can swim. Experts warn this may be a risky procedure, even if it is the best option.