Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Larry DeVries, Don Baker, and Dan Overmyer, Eds.: Asian Religions in British Columbia

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Larry DeVries, Don Baker, and Dan Overmyer, Eds.: Asian Religions in British Columbia

Article excerpt

Larry DeVries, Don Baker, and Dan Overmyer, eds. Asian Religions in British Columbia. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010. x + 310 pp. Notes. Suggested Readings, Index. Photographs. $85.00 hc; $32.95 sc.

Three editors and eleven other contributors have done yeoman service in surveying the myriad and complex Asian religious activity in British Columbia today. Apart from the editors' brief introduction and conclusion, the book is organized geographically by the region of origin--South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East and Central Asia. In each geographic section, individual essays examine broad categories of religions including Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. Generally this is done for specific ethnic groups. Thus, for example, there are essays on the "Making of Sikh Space" "Vietnamese Buddhist Organizations" and "Tibetan Religions" Within most faiths are many divisions; about 250 Asian religious groups have been identified in British Columbia.

A few contributors are members of the groups they describe; most are knowledgeable Religious Studies scholars but not adherents of the religion(s) they discuss. The essays are grounded in the relevant literature, but most also draw on the authors' interviews with religious leaders. Parts of some essays read almost like inventories of such institutions: churches, temples, monasteries, and organizations. Some details may seem tedious, but they will be valuable as records of these institutions, especially the smaller informal ones whose existence may be fleeting. Many essays include physical descriptions of buildings--whether a spectacular piece of architecture like the Temple of Divine Light of the Radha House group at Kootenay Bay, a recycled Christian church, or the unobtrusive private homes in which many small groups meet. Accounts of the services and other activities, including communal meals, are often included. So too are problems such as the need for trained clergy and the difficulty of replacing the immigrant generation as younger people lack the language skills to comprehend services or do not find relevance in religion.

Through cross references showing contrasts and comparisons between and among religious and ethnic groups, the editors have succeeded in their objective of illustrating the diversity of religious life, while showing what these religions have in common. Thus, for example, it is noted that Vietnamese Buddhism was influenced by China and India and has much in common with Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, but also has its own distinctive characteristics. In some cases, religious beliefs have trumped ethnic identity. Most Zoroastrians in British Columbia are either Parsis or Iranians. Despite differences in ritual and language, they have worked together, rather than forming separate associations. …

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