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Archbishop’s Conversion From Buddhism

by | Sun, Nov 26 2023

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The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Kanishka Raffel has testified how he became a Christian. He was raised as a Buddhist when his Sri Lankan family immigrated to Australia just over 50 years ago.

He writes in Eternity News: “My mother’s family were Buddhist and so my two sisters and I were raised as Buddhists in Australia, which was unusual then. I think Australia’s first Buddhist temple opened in 1975 in Stanmore. It was a Thai Buddhist temple and Thai Buddhism is very similar to Sri Lankan Buddhism, so that was where the Sri Lankan community would go.”

“In my third year at university, I thought I should devote myself a little to the study of my religion. So, I started privately reading Buddhist literature. I visited the temple. I developed my meditation practice. But in God’s kindness, I’d had Christian friends at high school and at university.”

He continues in Eternity News that he was drawn to Christ while on holiday with those university friends who were believers. The Archbishop told how he joined them at a beach mission when they began praying and talking to God and confessed it was a “real eye-opener.”

“Then I said to one of my friends: What’s being a Christian all about? And he said being a Christian meant he’d “lost control of his life to Jesus Christ”. Remember, I had devoted the year to serious study of Buddhism and was trying to develop, especially through meditation, control of my emotions and my ambitions and my desires, in order to be released from them. And here was my friend, who I respected, who said he’d lost control of his life to somebody who lived 2000 years ago! It was an answer that surprised me, to say the least!”

“He gave me the Gospels of Mark and John, so when I was back at home after our holiday, in my bedroom, I thought I ought to keep my word to my friend. So, I got John’s Gospel out and began to read it. And as I did – wonderfully – God, in his kindness, convicted me, first of all, that I wasn’t reading a fairytale, but that I was reading history. And he allowed me to see the vitality, the beauty, the majesty of Jesus Christ – a person who had friends and enemies, who had compassion and a mission, who was a man of emotions, but also seemingly always in control.”

“The Lord drew my attention to a particular phrase that John uses. He relates a story, and then he’ll say in John 7:43 At this, the people were divided. God really drew my attention to this phrase and turned it around on me, so that I began to ask myself: Well, you’re not on the side of Jesus. Why not?” he explained in his testimony in Eternity News.

“As I read through the gospel once again, my attention became focused on John 6:44. Jesus says: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and I will raise them up on the last day. Although this verse raises questions about God’s sovereign election, what provoked me was the idea of “the last day”. Buddhism taught me to expect that it would take hundreds of lifetimes, through many deaths and rebirths, before I could hope to achieve enlightenment. The Buddha himself took over 500 rebirths. If that was true, then the idea of a “last day” was problematic.”

“But then, I began to wonder what Jesus could have meant when he said: No one can come to Me unless the Father … draws them to Me. How would the Father draw someone to Jesus? How could this happen? Then I noticed the very next verse. John 6:45 says: It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me.” It occurred to me that as I had been reading the gospel, the Father had been teaching me about Jesus! If I had indeed heard the Father and learned from him then the necessary thing was to come to Jesus. I was being drawn to Jesus, and in God’s kindness, I came.”

“Eventually, I couldn’t think of any good reason for not being on Jesus’ side. In a way that I couldn’t have explained, I just felt somehow that Jesus was for me. And I thought: Well, I need to be for Him too. And so, in God’s kindness, he saved me.”

Kanishka Raffel’s official profile in sydneyanglicans.net lists an impressive academic record including: BA Hons Sydney (1987), LLB Sydney (1989), BD Hons Moore College (1996), Dip Min Moore College (1996), and MA (Theology) Moore College (2010). He was ordained deacon in 1996 in Sydney and priest in 1996 in Canberra-Goulburn serving at St. Matthew’s, Wanniassa until 1999 before heading west to Perth where he served as Rector of St. Matthew’s in Shenton Park until 2015.

In 2016 he commenced as Dean of Sydney, ministering to the regular congregations of St. Andrews Cathedral and serving the broader church and society through various civic and ceremonial functions. sydneyanglicans.net reports: “He was known for his eloquent and Biblical sermons and warm evangelism. He oversaw the much-needed renovation of the Chapter House of the Cathedral and initiated new outreach activities such as the Cathedral City Care Rough Sleepers ministry to those sleeping rough.”

It added: “He has a good reputation for clear gospel presentations and winsome addresses at civic ceremonies involving national and international dignitaries. In addition to television and radio appearances, he has written public prayers for use in times of tragedy and hardship.”

Before becoming Archbishop in 2021 Kanishka Raffel was involved in wider Australian church life, including the General Synod Standing Committee, the Council of The Gospel Coalition Australia, the Board of GAFCON Australia, and as trustee to both the Anglican Relief and Development Fund Australia and Trinity Theological College, Perth.

Photo: Anglican Media Sydney