Asien strategi

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Areopagos’ purpose is to share the Gospel in a both multireligious and secular world. Part of our mission is to be present in Asia, and the following strategic reflections are intended to highlight the why, how and what of that presence. Why is Areopagos engaged in Asia? How are we engaged? And what will be our focus going forth?



Jesus transcended religious, social and cultural boundaries in his meetings with people. When the apostle Paul delivered his sermon at Areopagus in Athens, he took the listeners’ multireligious faiths and practices as a starting point (Acts 17). Areopagos’ founder, Karl Ludvig Reichelt, developed the same approach as a missionary to China in the beginning of the 20th century.

At first, Chinese religious practices felt foreign to Reichelt. However, he was also fascinated by and experienced a kinship with the Chinese monks. Years of study and local encounters led to a revision of Reichelt’s own religious practices. He began to incorporate elements of the monks’ devotional practices and, consequently, a new missional strategy unfolded. Reichelt became convinced that the church’s encounters with peoples of other religious conviction should be characterized by a communal search for truth, through study and companionship. Reichelt discovered that God was already present and had left traces of light and truth in Chinese faith and culture. This led him in 1922 to establish a Spirituality, Study- and Dialogue Center modeled after Buddhist monastic traditions, where Buddhist and Daoist Monks could encounter Christianity in an atmosphere of mutual respect and openness, in Nanjing.

To this day, Areopagos maintains that God is a part of the lives of all peoples, individuals, communities and cultures. God has never left anyone alone. Therefore, we can discover glimpses of light and truth in all cultural and personal narratives, left there by God to help us to find the Way, as God is not far from any of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.

For more than nine decades, on and off, through changing times, Tao Fong Shan (TFS, literally “The Mountain of the Christ Wind”) Christian Centre in Hong Kong has reflected Areopagos’ guiding vision as a mission and movement: In dialogue, studies, faith practices and diaconal ministry, God’s love is expressed and experienced through our work in Asia and Scandinavia. Although Areopagos’ work has been interrupted by civil war and unrest; living, praying and serving together has always been the guiding vision. From the very beginning, our dialogical approach challenged us to meet local needs and show compassion in practice.

The trail we walk has been blazed by those who have gone before us. It is an ongoing task for Areopagos to ensure that our engagement in Asia and Scandinavia is characterized by the following four markers at all times:

• A dialogical approach to people of other faiths, cultures and life stances

• A studious search for truth and knowledge

• A spirituality enriched by both Christian and Eastern traditions

• A diaconal responsibility responding to current local needs

Our dialogical approach is the basis for all our activities and for Areopagos’ overall code of conduct. This means that in every personal encounter or sharing of the Gospel through words and actions, we expect that God has already made himself known and can be recognized in a variety of human arts, expressions, cultures and traditions. This conviction calls us to be curios, receptive and humble towards our fellow humans; ready to both listen respectfully and to share our own understandings and beliefs. Dialogue is a reciprocal process, contingent on receptiveness to change and transformation, both in our dialogical partner and in ourselves.

Our studious search for truth and knowledge comes from the conviction that all truth belongs to God, and that no single person can discover the depth or width of God’s truth. We are sojourners in our search, and this instills in us a genuine interest in knowledge and truth revealed to us through studies and dialogue. Moreover, we encourage studies that bring forth contextual understanding, which may further our dialogical mission and approach. Areopagos’ holistic approach to knowledge is dependent on the reflective exchange between practice and theory.

Our spirituality is grounded in, but not limited to, the abundant heritage of the church’s liturgical life and faith practices, and of the spiritual pilgrims. Part of Areopagos’ heritage is engaging with faith practices from other religious traditions and life stances. Through historic and current encounters with Eastern spirituality, a more holistic and contemplative spirituality that has all but disappeared from Christianity in Scandinavia grows forth.

In such reciprocal exchanges, it is our mission to convey Christian faith practices corresponding to the spiritual needs of our time.

Our diaconal responsibility includes the whole of creation. Diaconia is an inherent part of Christian mission. For Areopagos, it is crucial that we heed the ethical demands that we encounter in our dialogue partners. Only when we respond to the suffering, marginalization and injustice done to humans and creation, can our dialogical approach and spirituality be truthful. Our diaconal emphasis is to confirm human dignity by acts of compassion, by accompanying people in difficult situations, and by fighting for justice alongside the downtrodden. Our diaconal projects and partnerships will be shaped by the local context and need.


While Reichelt’s missional emphasis on dialogue, contextualization, and reciprocal inspiration might appear mainstream today, his approach was radical, innovative and rather controversial for his time. Since Areopagos’ founders first argued for the importance of doing mission in this manner, the theological and missional discourse has evolved considerably, and today Areopagos’ vision of dialogical mission, inspired by Jesus who became man in a specific historical culture and context, seems more relevant than ever.

The world has changed since Reichelt founded The Christian Mission to Buddhists in 1922. Today, people are more interconnected and interdependent than ever, but the world remains ridden by political instability and polarizing conflicts. The Sustainable Development Goals presented by the United Nations’ clearly illustrate how dependent humanity is on coming together in order to achieve solutions that our survival and co-existence depend on. To this end, Areopagos’ experience with facilitating and practicing dialogue, gathered for almost a century, is more broadly relevant than ever.

Our dialogical approach is characterized and inspired by three core values:

• Respect

• Reciprocity

• Responsibility

Every human being is created by God with inherent dignity that deserves to be respected in all our interactions. This respect acknowledges the value of each human being’s experiences, insights and identity, while still maintaining God in Christ as the source of life and the one who quenches our thirst.

In that spirit of respect for every person created as equal before God, we also seek reciprocity in our cooperation with both individuals and groups. We seek to be creative in our dialogical methods and initiatives, believing that creativity is best nurtured where we are genuinely interested and open towards each other. Whether project partnerships or in arts, pilgrimages, studies etc., these can all be forms of reciprocal interactions that enable constructive dialogue and expand our horizons of understanding.

Finally, we recognize and value our mutual responsibility when entering into a dialogue. We are responsible for speaking and acting truthfully, but we are also responsible for our expectations towards and interpretation of the other. Such a reciprocal responsibility should be articulated and agreed upon, in order to ensure a mutual understanding of this premise for our work.

Areopagos will strive to be respectful and responsible in dealing with our partners, both at the organizational and individual level. We also expect reciprocity from and between our partners, which we also will make explicit in contractual agreements and mutual commitments. Our vision is to develop partnerships that lead to mutual inspiration and improvement, strengthening of social rights, and long-term sustainability for all parties involved.

Our engagement in Asia is fully dependent on partnerships with local, national or international partners. Conducive to strong partnerships is a continual focus on cooperation and transparency. We seek to cooperate and network with organisations with activities and goals akin to our own, also beyond bilateral agreements and coinciding mission statements. Part of our networking intention is to facilitate exchanges between local and regional partners to further cooperation and innovation beyond the bilateral relations between Areopagos and our partners.

WAY FORWARD (2021-2025)

This strategy document, Areopagos in Asia, could also have been named Asia in Areopagos, because the relationship has been reciprocal since the beginning of our mission. Throughout Areopagos’ history, we have been enriched, challenged and changed by our encounters with Asian culture and religious life, and by our local partnerships. Today, we also see this inspiration from Eastern traditions in mainstream culture and spirituality in Scandinavia. This exchange between East and West contains a creative tension, which will continue to impact our practices in Scandinavia.

Part of the ongoing task of contextualization is to align our mission with important societal changes, be they political, economic or cultural. Such alignment must be accompanied by critical discernment of the development, based on Areopagos’ vision and values. The changing relationship between Hong Kong and China as well as the broader geopolitical situation around China are key contextual issues in this regard.

Our engagement in Asia has been, and will continue to be, structured around three interconnected themes that also have contributed to the pulse and rhythm of our work in Scandinavia:

• China in Scandinavia

The number of Chinese residents in Scandinavia is increasing. Areopagos will seek to facilitate arenas for cultural and religious exchange and develop relations with people in Scandinavia who have Chinese roots.

In China, Areopagos continues to facilitate meeting places for Scandinavians and Chinese. Artists, volunteers, theologians and other researchers, as well as businesspeople and others, travel to China for valuable input and inspiration. When Areopagos arranges such exchanges, it is essential that the acquired experience also benefits Areopagos in Scandinavia upon return.

• Project partnering in Asia

We will continue to partner with institutions and organizations in China and Hong Kong, and our projects will continue to be funded by a combination of private donations, contributions from foundations and other sources. When reviewing potential projects and partners, it is important to balance our commitment to the local context and needs with our overall vision for Areopagos in Asia.

Going forward, Areopagos intends to maintain collaboration with our current partners. Our treasured relationship with TFS deserves special mention in this regard. The Cooperation Agreement of 2010 and the Memorandums of Understanding of 2019 preserve the formal alliance with our partners at TFS. But even more importantly, the Mountain Where the Christ Wind Blows holds the key to understanding our common history, as well as our identity and mission going forward. Therefore, Areopagos will to the best of our ability continue to contribute to the important vision that unites and guides the various initiatives at TFS.

Also worth mentioning is our special relationship with TCG Nordica in Kunming. Areopagos is one of the founding partners, sharing the vision and faith in how art can create dialogue and reflection on human worth and create meeting points and bridges between cultures. This is in accordance with Areopagos’ vision.

• Scandinavia in China
Tao Fong Shan

Further, we will explore new possibilities for projects and partnerships in line with our vision and values. China and Hong Kong have a unique role in Areopagos’ work as part of our historical identity. Therefore, when considering potential projects, we will give priority to those located in China or Hong Kong. However, geography alone will not be decisive, but the totality of how a project aligns with the review criteria below. In order to further strengthen Areopagos’ relationship with Eastern Asia, we aim to expand our project portfolio in the coming period. Existing partners and networks can provide important insight to the review process from first assessments to finalized partnerships.

In all project reviews, irrespective of the Areopagos-office in charge of a given initiative, the following criteria should be taken into account:

• Correlation with Areopagos’ scope of activities; dialogue, religious studies and faith practices

• Diaconal work that meets local needs and relates to Areopagos’ vision and capabilities

• Strengthening of local churches

• Contribution to reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

• Funding possibilities

Finally, Areopagos will utilize digital platforms and communication in a way that will influence our international engagement going forward. This means exploring how inspiration and experiences, such as art exhibitions, dialogue conferences, faith practices, or concerts, may be shared across borders and create a more equal exchange. In this way, we can expand our reach and impact. Also, the digital platforms present an opportunity to keep in touch with our partners on a more regular basis and in a more environmental-friendly way.


In several of his writings, Reichelt refers to the “Johannine” approach to mission. Briefly put, this approach is based on a conviction of God’s general revelation to all mankind, which according to Reichelt is prominent in several of the New Testament writings, e.g., in the Gospel of John.1 Glimpses of truth and light radiate with great beauty and sincerity even in the darkest parts of our world, Reichelt argues2, and therefore we can expect to find points of contact with God in various religions and cultures.

Inherent in Areopagos’ dialogical vision is an unrest that keeps us searching for ways to better align our mission and engagement with the current time and context, searching for those glimpses of truth and light. And though times are changing, the melody of our tune is still the same as it was for Reichelt, and so our strategic efforts must likewise be carried by prayer and devotion. Thus, we want to make Reichelt’s prayer our own, as we pray for Areopagos in Asia:

May all our negotiations, every thought and word, be tuned into the Johannine melody, so that Christ as God’s eternal logos, as the way, light, truth and life will radiate and lead us on. Amen.³

1 E.g. Reichelt, Karl Ludvig (1947): Fromhetstyper og helligdommer i Øst-Asia, bind 1, chapter II, pp 29ff.

2 Ibid., p 45.

3 Reichelt, Karl Ludvig (1926): Guds kall til oss i Buddhistmisjonen, pp 5f.

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