Share the future
Newsletter 61 Autumn / Winter 2010 ■
Church and community work Community building through folk dance ■ Xi’an Catholic Social Service Centre ■ Biblical basis for FCC
BUILDING AND RE-BUILDING
COMMUNITIES ‘Building and Rebuilding Communities’ was the theme of our FCC Conference in June this year when our guest speakers from China were Paul Wang Baocheng, the director of the China Christian Council’s Social Service Department and Chris Gong Sheng of the Amity Foundation. With energy and enthusiasm each conveyed a strong dedication to the tasks in their respective organisations. Wang Baocheng spoke about how the different qualities and
needs of churches in China’s east, central, and western regions can be a resource to one another in community building. Gong Sheng concentrated on community re-building, in particular how Amity had encouraged the development of community spirit, alongside the practical reconstruction following the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008. Our other main speaker, FCC member Charles Woodd, who leads a team in the UK
Department of Communities and Local Government, together with workshop leaders, broadened our discussions. A one-woman performance by Lisa Wright of ‘Mildred and Francesca in the Gobi Desert’ about the redoubtable missionaries Mildred Cable and Francesca French, added to our overall experience! In this issue we have included articles based on the presentations by the conference speakers, together with other reports related to the theme.
Church and Community in China Based on a presentation by Paul Wang Baocheng
THE CHINA CHRISTIAN COUNCIL estimates there are approximately 23 million baptised Protestant Christians in China today who worship in 55,000 registered churches and meeting points throughout the country. Its 20 theological seminaries nationwide have produced approximately 3,700 ordained clergy who guide congregations with the help of 5,000 elders, 27,000 evangelists and 150,000 lay leaders. Woyun village celebrates reconstruction.
Staff and residents at a church-run old people's home.
Diaconal work Prior to 1949, diaconal work in China was aimed at meeting the needs of the poorest people in China. But it wasn’t until 1979, when churches in China began re-opening and being newly constructed on a constant basis, that diaconal work started once again. In 1998 through a programme of theological renewal, the China Christian Council began encouraging Christians to theologically explore how to better spread the gospel and promote Christian ethics and morality. This exploration, which coincided with China’s economic liberalisation, also helped create new groundwork for Christian communities to bring diaconal work to the fore.
The Social Service Department In 2003, the China Christian Council established its Social Service Department (CCCSSD) whose mission is to actively motivate churches to move their faith from within the walls of the church to the society at large in actions that glorify God and serve the people. One of the main goals of the CCCSSD is to support and coordinate diaconal resource sharing among churches within China. For example, what does Christian stewardship mean in a society where coastal provinces have flourished while communities inland have benefited far 2
less from China’s economic miracle? The CCCSSD has also strengthened ties with overseas Christians which has led to resource sharing and the construction of a communications platform between China and overseas. Over the last seven years the CCCSSD has raised 50 million yuan (£4.5 million) for diaconal work and social service projects. In tandem with both domestic and overseas organisations it has received ‘material donations’ such as 9,000 wheelchairs from the Free Wheelchair Mission and 12 medical vans for the CCCSSD’s mobile medical clinic programme.
The most common type is oneto-one care which includes visiting church members who are ill, visiting disadvantaged people on special days like Spring Festival, and sponsoring poor students to continue schooling. Some churches and Christian Councils have moved into direct care through the establishment of homes for the elderly, medical clinics, kindergartens and programmes for autistic children. Still other churches have found ways of engaging in diaconal work through supporting or establishing free medical teams for poor people, relief work, HIV/ AIDS awareness and providing legal assistance to migrant workers. Future diaconal work could be in the areas of the environment and also helping church members understand that Christian stewardship includes charitable giving.
Projects areas In the last several years, the CCCSSD has been directly involved with dozens of projects and has taught local churches to assess needs and implement them in sustainable and accountable ways. ■
Basic health care. This kind of diaconal work includes supplying basic medical equipment like stethoscopes, blood pressure kits, training future medical staff, providing funds to cover free medical service, providing mobile medical services which travel to rural communities, and providing wheelchairs to those in need, through an overseas partner. It also involves the training of HIV/AIDS teachers in control and prevention methods and support for HIV/AIDS-affected orphans.
Special education. This includes work with persons with special needs and has included the creation of autism training centres and orphan support and construction of new orphanages.
Basic education. The CCCSSD has helped to rebuild collapsed schools and provide scholarships for school children as well as seminarians and clergy who embark on further education.
Work with the elderly. This includes the planning and implementation
Diaconal work in China Churches in China can be divided into three classifications regarding diaconal work: ■
churches in the more developed eastern parts of China have a high awareness of the need for social involvement, plenty of funds, but lower skills; churches in China’s heartland have a medium level of awareness, little funds and low skills;
and many churches in the western part of China have almost no awareness of social involvement, no funds and no skills. There are also three kinds of diaconal work: one-to-one, direct and general care.
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of homes for the elderly, training management, educating future nurses in gerontological care, and providing programmes that have allowed the elderly to remain in their homes while receiving basic care and support. ■
Rural poverty reduction. The CCCSSD works with rural villages on integrated development projects.
Emergency relief and rehabilitations. In times of natural disasters the CCCSSD coordinates relief supplies such as food, medical supplies and water purifying systems; it helps to physically rebuild destroyed homes and churches and; provides professionals to help with the emotional and spiritual needs of victims. The generous response of Chinese churches to the 7.1 Richter scale magnitude earthquake that rocked the Qinghai Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in May was in some ways the culmination of
the many years of educational work among Chinese churches regarding its responsibility in diaconal work. ■
Capacity building on diaconal work for grassroots churches. Committed to helping churches fulfil their mission potential, the CCC provides workshops and courses for local Christian Councils on how to assess needs, develop realistic project goals, raise funds, how to implement projects that are sustainable, and how to evaluate them adequately.
Challenges The challenges facing the diaconal work of the China Christian Council are many. Arguably the greatest of these is the lack of an effective communication platform for beneficiaries and donors. The needs are great and there are many realistic projects which may never come to fruition because of a general short fall of donors. The CCCSSD needs to find a mechanism to connect wealthy regions of China, such as in Wenzhou or other
Zhejiang cities, with sustainable projects. Also a greater need should be placed on capacity building. Churches may become interested in diaconal work, but they lack the ability to implement plans and to manage them in a professional and transparent manner. And there are still many churches in China that do not realise the importance of diaconal work, so basic theological education regarding diaconal work is also a priority.
Focus of future work It is this last challenge that the CCCSSD finds to be the main priority for the focus of its future work. The CCCSSD will improve the awareness and skills of diaconal work among churches throughout China. In identifying work with relevant social problems, the CCCSSD hopes that the church will gain full acceptance in Chinese society. Strengthening the connection between churches in the eastern and western parts of China, may provide a conduit for the sharing of resources.
Community building through folk dance DINGXI PREFECTURE, Gansu province, is an area whose remoteness and eco-environmental vulnerability means villagers face a life time of poverty. The problems facing many are manifold and cyclical. Clean drinking water is scarce and there is very little to be used for crops. As a result crop yields are low which means there is little to feed livestock. This hinders any kind of profits that can be made from raising livestock. Dirt roads wash away when rains do come making it hazardous to get what little cattle is raised to market. Limited success in raising and selling animal stock means young and middle aged male adults have left villages to become migrant workers, sometimes thousands of miles away. Women, children and the elderly must carry the burden of the agricultural and livestock production as well as home care. The perennial heavy work and lack of health education and affordable health care has especially affected women’s health. In addition women have become isolated within their own homes and communities, as they struggle with caring for
animals, crops, children, and aging in-laws, parents and grandparents. The Dingxi case study illustrates how important an integrated approach is to lifting communities out of poverty. The China Christian Council’s Social Service Department is working with the Gansu Christian Council to harvest rainwater for parched areas (underground cisterns), use animal wastes to create renewable fuel (biogas), improve transportation (infrastructure support); focus on women’s health care (health education and check-ups), and re-build community cohesion.
stilts. The event is a way in which women can come together, retain their culture, and gain a sense of self-esteem and confidence through learning the routines and doing performances. Yangge is also a tradition that women can pass down to their children. Sponsoring this kind of cultural activity is also a way that the Christian church can be seen as being a part of the community, not separate from it.
Re-building community spirit is also vital. After discovering with the villagers what kinds of community-building events were appropriate, the project incorporated learning the traditional folk dance called yangge. Historically yangge has been a particularly important communal event in rural communities throughout China. Yangge is a collection of folk songs, stories and folk opera, unique to the area, which are combined with costume, music, dance and acrobatic feats, in some cases using
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Disaster Management Response Based on a presentation by Chris Gong Sheng
efforts. Listening to the participants can reveal needs that may not be evident or apparent. In its work with the 300 families of Woyun village, Sichuan province, after the Wenchuan earthquake, while homes lay in ruins and constructing new earthquake proof ones was an obvious priority, another important need was to care for the crops already in the field at the time of the earthquake, as future livelihoods depended upon them. Sacks of organic fertilisers and steel portable granaries were soon part of Amity’s rehabilitation work in Woyun.
Chris Gong at the Woyun celebration.
China is one of the largest countries in the world with a fifth of the globe’s population. Even in a year where there are no cataclysmic natural disasters, over 200 million persons in China are affected by some kind natural event which causes loss of livelihood, shelter, food security, or even life. In that same year three million survivors will need to be relocated, 99 million acres of crops will have been damaged and 49 million acres of crops totally destroyed.
History The Amity Foundation began its nationwide relief and rehabilitation work in 1989. By the 2010 it had responded to floods, hailstorms, snow, earthquakes, draught and landslides in 19 provinces and autonomous regions. By far, the largest natural disaster to which Amity responded was the Wenchuan earthquake that hit Sichuan province on May 12, 2008. As a result of the initial earthquake and 21,351 after shocks, 69,197 persons lost their lives, 374,643 were injured, and 17,923 persons remain missing. It was one of the worst earthquakes China suffered in 4
the past 100 years. Amity staff were on the scene within hours. Over the years Amity has honed principles and approaches to disaster management. It actively works with the government and through local partners who are on the ground and who know the area and people. When assessing needs, a respect for the culture and customs of the area are important, as is gender equality and ensuring the rights of vulnerable people.
When major devastation hits, Amity and local partners draw up a master rehabilitation plan that is systematic and sustainable. This plan is multi-pronged. It includes ‘hardware’ associated with relief work like immediate food and medical supplies, repair to homes, churches and village halls, and constructing new sources of clean drinking water supplies, to name a few items. And Amity also recognises that the creation of ‘software’, such as community cohesiveness and a sense of community spirit are just as vital in rehabilitation work. In the case of the Wenchuan earthquake this included the development of a community-based culture. Since the disappearance of communes in the 1970s and with the phenomenon of rural mass migration for economic security, social cohesion in rural communities has been in rapid decline. China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2001 and the abolition of agricultural subsidies in 2007
People’s input When doing needs assessments, Amity employs a participatory approach with the recipients of aid and rehabilitation
Paul Wang and Chris Gong sightseeing in London.
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have meant that rural communities struggle alone.
Shared identity Amity knows that a shared experience, no matter how devastating it may be, can be a catalyst for community. Community, especially in times of distress, cultivates a sense of ownership and can be a source of empowerment. To regain the value of community sharing in both the sorrow of loss and joy of recovery, in Sichuan Amity worked with Woyun’s village committee to help it organise a midAutumn Festival evening, Spring couplet
contest, a group singing event, a family games contest and a Lantern Festival party. Working on these events together improved trust among village residents and created a sense of genuine sharing and caring all around.
Technology-caused disasters As Amity’s disaster management work evolves, it is now looking at technologycaused disasters which would include relief work in situations like the collapse of mines or in areas of intense and uncontrolled pollution. With 70 percent
Ripples from a gift ISSUE 58 of the FCC Newsletter reported on support given to the Shuangjiang church-run kindergarten in Xiangxiang county, Hunan province, with funds sent through FCC and raised by Mary Sheaff, a veteran FCC member whose family had longstanding missionary links with the province. We reported then that the initial funding had supplied basic equipment such as beds and quilt and helped to train staff. This first donation had enabled the children to ‘laugh happily even in sleeping’, as we were told! During this last year, a further contribution was sent to the kindergarten from funds donated in memory of Mary, following her death. We now report on the additional equipment that has been purchased and the wider positive results from this more recent donation. The kindergarten, run by Shuangjiang church, has nearly 70 children in three classes and takes children from poor rural areas in four nearby townships. These children are being looked after by grandparents, whilst their parents have left for the cities as migrant workers. Some of the children are supported in part or even entirely by a fund set up by the kindergarten. Recent purchases made with the funds from FCC have included a photocopier, computer, NEWSLETTER 61
camera, projector and screen, and a tough plastic Meccano activity frame and slide for the playground. The effects of the project have been described in the report to FCC in this way: The project has brought about positive effects to the kids and teachers in the kindergarten, as well as the church community. First, as the Meccano has enriched the school life of the kids, their motivation for going to school has been promoted. It is very important to let the kids feel fun at school. Such items as video camera, printing and duplicating all-in-one machine and projector are also very practical. There are various kinds of activities to be held in the kindergarten, and teachers could take precious pictures and video clips. Teachers do not have to do hand-writing but could print! Time and energy could be saved to take care of the children. Teachers also expressed that their working efficiency had been greatly improved. Second, since the church and kindergarten could share the equipment, the church community could also benefit from the project. It is a good chance for them to tell church members the advantages of church-run social service. Throughout the project, the church will try its best to serve the society, and the
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of large cities and more than 50 percent of the population constantly haunted by floods, earthquakes, and meteorological or oceanic disasters, Amity has moved to explore disaster preparedness and disaster reduction.
Amity knows that a shared experience, no matter how devastating it may be, can be a catalyst for community
society will know more about the good deeds church has been doing. As always with Amity projects, the project has been implemented through cooperation by several partners. Amity took overall responsibility, while the Hunan Christian Council coordinated the arrangements and Shuangjiang church undertook the work on the ground. The acquisition of a computer has meant that teachers are more willing to search the internet for teaching materials and that, for example, they learnt about a local outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease, which enabled them to put prompt preventive measures into practice. After learning in April of the earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai province, the church organised a meeting with video clips of the disaster, so that children and their families could learn to care for those in need; after that, the church made a donation to Amity’s earthquake fund. In this way, the recent donation has had farreaching and unexpected effects within this local community!
Children at play at the Hunan kindergarten.
DI SAST Amity
RES Concerned man and child waiting for water.
The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck in Yushu county, Qinghai province, an area on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau 4,000 metres above sea level, left more than 2,000 persons dead and over 12,000 injured. More than 120,000 people, many ethnic Tibetans, were displaced and survivors were gathered into four temporary camps. The altitude, freezing temperatures and the difficult road journeys required to reach the victims, have complicated relief work. Amity, Jinde Charities and the Social Service Department of the China Christian Council (CCCSSD) were among those who responded quickly to the emergency; relief work has continued throughout the summer and autumn months. The oncoming harsh
Amity delivering medical supplies in Qinghai.
Sr Han teaching in a temporary primary school set up by Jinde Charities.
winter conditions will make work extremely difficult. Amity sent eight deliveries to the region, including to remote villages higher up in the mountains. Initially items such as quilts, drinking water and noodles were sent, while later consignments included 30 solar-power devices and medical supplies. In addition it has been offering counselling. Jinde Charities, working with personnel from the Xiâ€™an Catholic Social Centre, also brought in essential supplies, such as tents and bedding, flour and cooking oil. It also has focused on work with children in schools and orphanages and set up a medical station, also offering counselling services. The CCCSSD, working with the provincial and local Christian Councils set up an emergency medical tent and have taken in equipment for a primary school and orphanage, as well as supplying heating stoves ahead of the winter weather.
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R ST E
HAS PRESENTED MAJOR CHALLENGES to our partners in China in terms of natural disasters, notably the severe earthquake in Yushu County, Qinghai province in April and the devastating mudslides in Gansu province in August. Our partners have responded with compassion and efficiency. The skills and expertise gained through their experiences in Sichuan two years ago have been called upon again. Through your generous response to our FCC appeal, contributions have been made to the Amity Foundation, Jinde Charities and the China Christian Council’s Social Service Department towards their relief efforts and each has expressed sincere appreciation.
Gansu mudslides affected locations, with the aim of giving each family rice, flour and a cooking stove, together with clothing and winter coats; 2,500 tracksuits and the same number of padded jackets were dispatched. In Yueyuan village few survived. One woman emerged with only a worn T-shirt covering her body and she and others immediately donned the new clothing from Amity! As the first phase of emergency relief draws to a close, the focus will shift to reconstruction projects.
On 7 August, torrential rain triggered a massive landslide in Zhouqu county, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province. The landslide, more than three miles long, claimed over 1,400 lives and several hundred have yet to be accounted for. A national day of mourning was held on 15 August. A team from Amity was quickly on the scene with local partner the Zhouqu Department of Health, and after careful assessment designed a ‘Family Anti-heat and Anti-epidemic’ relief package. Supplies that made up those packages included soap, towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes, disinfectant, wash basins, rubber gloves, essential oils and balms, and sticking plasters. Relief was given to 2,500 families from affected villages living in temporary settlement sites. During the remainder of August, Amity sent a total of seven batches of relief materials to various
Happy child receiving life-saving water.
A survivor of the Gansu mudslides dons new clothing supplied by Amity.
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From strength to strength FCC’s Summer English Language team In July, Friends of the Church in China facilitated the largest single contingent to participate in this year’s Summer English Language Programme (SEP) sponsored by the Amity Foundation. Out of a total of 47 volunteers, 10 were facilitated by the FCC, the only ecumenical organisation represented. The FCC team consisted of Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Pentecostal participation. Organised into two groups, SEP veteran volunteers Clare Nobbs and Jane Coates led teams which went to Liujiaxia county, Gansu province, and Binyang county, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, respectively. The SEP is an intensive four-week English language programme designed to give Chinese teachers of English a boost with speaking and listening skills.
Gansu team In Gansu, Clare found that while the spoken English of the Chinese teachers was lower than in other parts of China especially that of primary teachers, their enthusiasm compensated immensely!
After a morning of classroom lessons, the teachers poured themselves into activities that ranged from Scottish country dancing to learning about western modern art. Liujiaxia town has a population of 40,000 and sits along the Yellow River between beautiful mountains. The FCC team went to the Protestant church each Sunday and the first time there, the sermon was presented using a pre-recorded DVD. The second weekend, a lay leader gave a talk that covered Christianity from A to Z: the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, how Jesus had redeemed us, and the second coming!
Catholic European Colloquium on China The recent Catholic European Colloquium on China, the eighth in a longstanding series, was held in Freising, Germany during September. The theme was ‘Chinese Communities in Europe’ and in addition to a keynote address on this topic by Professor Gregor Benton of Cardiff University, a series of presentations mapped the situation across Europe. FCC’s Maggi Whyte gave the presentation from the UK and her report, ‘The Chinese community in Britain and Ireland and the response of the churches’, was one of the few contributions from an ecumenical perspective.
One of the most interesting aspects of the colloquium was learning about the newer Chinese communities in central and eastern Europe and Russia. Reports from Hungary, Romania, Poland and even Irkutsk were eye-openers! In addition, the colloquium’s programme included lectures and group meetings on key issues in Catholic relationships with China. Of the 100 participants, about 40 were Chinese Catholics, priests and women religious, who are currently studying or working in Europe.
Clare and Dionne introduce their teachers to a tea-dance!
Clare Nobbs led the Gansu team which included Pam Bridges, Dionne Gravesande, Christopher Nobbs, Susan Smith and Dianne Walthew.
Guangxi team Meanwhile in Binyang, Guangxi, Jane reported that the SEP programme gathered nearly 100 Chinese middle and high school teachers of English. The teachers were assigned to one of four groups according to language ability. Each of the FCC volunteers had the opportunity to teach all of the groups at some time during the month, as classes were rotated and sometimes doubled up. A highlight was the teaching sessions with Chinese colleagues. The informal afternoon workshops activities provided the FCC volunteers the opportunity to speak with the Chinese teachers in a more relaxed and natural way and to get to know them on a personal basis. The reverse was true for the Chinese teachers and some even invited the FCC team back to their home. The Guangxi team of four was Jane Coates (team leader), John McAleer, Conor McKinney and Dot Stone.
Get involved For more information about the SEP and how to apply as a volunteer with the FCC team—you do not need teaching qualifications—visit the FCC website, www.thefcc.org.
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The Xi’an Catholic Social Service Centre Based on information from Fr Stephen Chen Ruixue
In 1999, Bishop Anthony Li Duan of the Xi’an Diocese appointed Fr Stephen Chen Ruixue to set up an official social service office to serve marginalised and impoverished people in north west China. To this end, the Xi’an Catholic Social Services (CSSC) in Shaanxi province promotes the dignity of all people and sees the earth as a place of sacredness. The CSSC upholds the Catholic tradition of service to the community, strives for reasonable improvements in the living conditions of the poor, provides a caring and humble heart of service, increases self-development, and promotes harmonious social development in western China. Working with local, national and international organisations the CSSC has projects in heath, education, infrastructure, emergency relief, sustainable agriculture, volunteer advocacy, and church support. It even produces liturgical wine! All CSSC projects are carried out using participatory methodology so that stakeholders’ views, needs, culture and customs are respected. The aspiration of every project is to strengthen local knowledge and skills so that the project becomes sustainable.
Projects The CSSC Rural Health Outreach has raised awareness of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases by targeting ten villages every year. The project trains rural health workers and provides free physical examinations and simple treatment using the talents of 30 religious sisters and 30 medical volunteers. In the countryside superstition still prevails that a child born with a harelip could bring bad luck to its family. Also, the one child per family policy means many parents want their one child to be perfect. The CSSC’s Rural Heath Outreach teams spread the news that harelip deformities can be easily NEWSLETTER 61
corrected while at the same time tries expose dangerous superstitions. The CSSC sponsors about 20 children per year from poor families to have facial surgeries. Believing that education is one of the most fundamental building blocks to lifting people out of poverty, the CSSC has helped thousands of rural students from economically deprived families with school fees. It has also provided teacher training, helped to repair school buildings, and furnished 79 primary and secondary schools with basic equipment. In addition, it has established more than 100 mini-libraries in Catholic parishes and Protestant communities all over Shaanxi province. But, assisting with school fees or with teacher training is not much help if children can not physically get to school because of poor infrastructure. The CSSC has worked with 20
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mountainous rural villages in bridge and road construction and has helped bring electricity to remote areas.
Respecting creation The CSSC has also introduced farmers to organic methods that have nurtured and replenished tired soil and led to creating viable farming communities once again. It has conducted agricultural courses in soil structure and fruit pest control and provides microfinance to help farmers, especially women, find economically viable outlets for crops and livestock. The Xi’an Catholic Social Service Centre is also dedicated to helping young adults and students engage with social issues by providing volunteer opportunities and acts as an umbrella for an array of church organisations such as the St Joseph’s Orphanage, the Xinyue Special Education School for persons with special needs, the Xi’an Bo’an Kindergarten for children with special needs, and the Red Maple Home which cares for persons with HIV/ AIDS as well as engages in programmes of prevention awareness. The CSSC also provides scholarships for women religious, seminarians and priests, supports local Catholic Church projects such as the 80 medical clinics and 15 Catholic kindergartens in the Xi’an Diocese.
Last but not least… Since 2004 the Xi’an Catholic Social Service Centre has engaged in creating quality communion wine used in dioceses throughout China. The wine is called Bishop’s Choice and is ‘100 percent natural with grapes from Shaanxi, produced in Xi’an with Italian technology’. 9
biblical basis for
the Friends of the Church in China The Revd Dr Walter Houston
‘I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.’ Romans 1.8 Paul had never been to Rome and never met the Christians there. Yet he is able to thank God for them, because of the reports that he had heard of their faith. We can say in the same way that we thank God for the Christians in China. Their faith and their stupendous numerical growth is the talk of the Christian world. What Paul has heard of the Christians in Rome impels him first to pray for them: ‘God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all
times’ (vv. 9-10a). And then to want to visit them: ‘and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you’ (v. 10b). Why does he want to visit them? To pass the time of day? To see the sights of Rome? No, ‘I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong’ (v. 11). But, then he corrects himself, ‘that is, that you and I might be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith’ (v. 12). In these five verses we have in a nutshell the essentials of the relationship between Christians in different parts of the world: ■
gratitude for each other
prayer for each other
readiness to give and to receive spiritual gifts. The Friends of the Church in China exists in order to enable Christians in these islands to thank God for the faith of the Christians of China, to pray for them, and to develop the sort of deep relationship with them which enables mutual sharing. The sharing may be of material as well as spiritual benefits. Later in his letter Paul tells the Roman Christians that those in Greece have made a collection to help the poor of the Jerusalem church, and before he
We all share with each other our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears, and the visions and convictions given us by the Holy Spirit 10
visits them, he must take this money to Jerusalem (he was only to make his visit to Rome in the end as a prisoner): ‘I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings’ (Romans 15.25-27). Paul also writes at length about this collection in 2 Corinthians 8-9. This caring for each other over great distances in the early Church is a model for how we care for each other in the Church today. We support the Chinese Christians in their material weakness and their delicate relationship with the state; they encourage us in our spiritual weakness by their strong faith and untiring zeal to serve; and we all share with each other our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears, and the visions and convictions given us by the Holy Spirit. The Revd Dr Walter Houston is Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Biblical Studies, University of Manchester. He also serves as treasurer for the FCC. This statement was endorsed by the FCC Committee, September 2010.
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FOCUS ON …
Qinghai facts QINGHAI PROVINCE
has a sparse population of only 5.39 million, 20 percent are ethnic Tibetan ■
takes its name from Qinghai Lake, China’s largest inland saltwater lake ■
is a high plateau, with more than half the province between 4,000 and 5,000 metres above sea level
Amity’s environmental work For many years, well before its involvement in the relief work following the April 2010 earthquake in Yushu county, the Amity Foundation has had a number of projects in Qinghai province. As well as medical work which has included the training of village doctors and performing of cataract operations, Amity focused on integrated rural development projects with environmental protection in mind. Environmental degradation is a real issue on the Qinghai plateau, where the need for fuel in harsh winter temperatures that plummet to minus 30ºC has meant that people have stripped vegetation for firewood. It is estimated that 60 percent of vegetation has been eliminated in the last twenty years, leaving hillsides barren and open to encroaching desert sands. Hours may be spent every day, mainly by women, collecting firewood for fuel. Amity’s introduction of biogas stoves tackles several related issues. It protects the environment, saves hours spent gathering firewood, and has eliminated the toxic fumes that used to come from the old-style stoves. In addition, animal waste is disposed of without polluting local water supplies and instead is used to keep the stoves running. Solar panels have been introduced and with the plentiful sunshine on the high plateau can be used to boil kettles and generate and store enough electricity to run a light bulb for a week or even charge up mobile phones! All these innovations have brought unexpected advantages to local lifestyles. NEWSLETTER 61
Two religions, one goal This heartening story of post-earthquake interfaith cooperation in Qinghai came from the China Christian Council’s Paul Wang Baocheng, reprinted here with permission and little edit.
Tibetan Buddhism is the dominant religion in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Region. In the April earthquake, local temples and other buildings collapsed. Hearing this terrible news, the China Christian Council immediately coordinated with the Qinghai Christian Council to conduct relief work. At the beginning of our relief work, monks had no place to live because all the buildings were destroyed. Our church saw this need and helped them to live in tents. When we learnt that they did not have food to eat, we delivered rice and flour to them along with other people affected by earthquake. Considering the coming winter, we also sent stoves, quilts and clothes. They were very grateful for our support in such a trying period of time.
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is one of China’s five major pasture lands, with soil erosion, water shortage and deforestation key issues ■
has at least 3,100 Catholics in the Xining Diocese and 39,000 Protestant Christians overall
Through further contact, we also came to understand a bit of Tibetan Buddhism. We became good friends with each other, and they showed great interest in our work and wanted to join our rehabilitation work. Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism are two religions, but we have one common desire to help vulnerable people. In July, the CCC sent a second batch of relief materials to Yushu. Some monks came to us and helped us to unload the material and to distribute it among the needy people according to their grassroots information. In the distribution ceremony, the delegates of temples came to us and expressed their thanks with letters and banners. After the distribution process was completed, they expressed their appreciation again. With this mutual understanding, we think there will be more space for two religions to work together.
Working together to unload supplies.
Students in London’s Chinatown.
information, or interested in being added to this contact list, please contact Maggi Whyte (see FCC contacts) or Lawrence Braschi at Lawrence. Braschi@ctbi.org.uk. We hope to make resources available and prepare materials for ‘chaplaincy briefings’ on this topic and a pilot briefing is planned in the London area, hopefully to be followed by others across the country. Watch out for the next FCC Newsletter, which will be devoted to this theme!
A beginning, not an end! Chinese Students’ Initiative FCC and the China Desk, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, are working jointly to draw together those who are involved, or wish to be, in responding to the needs of the nearly 100,000 Chinese students now studying in UK. We co-hosted a Round Table meeting in April in which chaplains and representatives of Chinese congregations, students from China, plus church and other organisations participated. Several short presentations addressed issues including cultural background, an analysis of the different kinds of students now coming to UK, personal student experiences and information on counselling and mentoring schemes. An informal network was set up initially to exchange ideas and resources, which we hope will gather momentum. Anyone wishing for more
The FCC’s three-year development project, to raise FCC’s profile, enhance FCC’s activities, and develop strategies for the future, has now come to an end, as Maggi Whyte’s contract as Development Project Consultant has finished. However, this is just the beginning of a whole new period for FCC! Key commitments include strengthening China contacts, exploring ‘partnering’ possibilities, consolidating an approach to universities and colleges, and a short-term language study experience for a staff member of the Amity Foundation in Spring 2011. A summary report of the achievements over the three years and the various areas to be explored further will be presented to the Annual General Meeting; it can also be obtained from Maggi (see FCC contacts). We need the imaginative ideas and the practical assistance of all our members in order to respond creatively to a new era with China relationships!
PowerPoints available The FCC has four PowerPoint presentations for use locally if anyone wishes. These include Paul Wang Baocheng’s introduction, ‘Church and community, the work of the China Christian Council’s Social Service Department’; and Chris Gong Sheng’s ‘Amity disaster management’, which has an extra focus on Amity’s work with the Yushu earthquake in Qinghai. Fr Stephen Chen’s introduction to the Xi’an Catholic Social Service Centre is also available. In addition, there is a condensed version of Maggi Whyte’s text, ‘The Chinese community in the UK’ which has self-explanatory slides for anyone wishes to tackle this subject matter! Please contact Maggi about any of these PPts (see FCC contacts).
FCC contacts CHAIR Canon Simon Brown VICE CHAIR Stephen Sidebotham TREASURER Walter Houston MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY Ann Bagnall
(for all membership matters and changes of address) 74 Redford Loan, Edinburgh, EH13 0AT CTBI CHINA DESK Lawrence Braschi Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, 39 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1BX Email: Lawrence.Braschi@ctbi.org.uk Tel: 020 7901 4890 FCC WEBSITE www.thefcc.org EDITORIAL TEAM Diane Allen, Maggi Whyte
(firstname.lastname@example.org) DESIGN Wingfinger Graphics
Happy anniversary Amity Foundation! The Amity Foundation marked its 25th anniversary by inviting local and international partners to celebrate its work, 1–8 November 2010. Participants signed up for one of four project visits in different provinces and also celebrated the 80 millionth Bible to roll
off the presses of the Amity Printing Company. FCC’s representatives to the celebrations in Nanjing were its chair, Simon Brown, and Clare Nobbs who coordinates FCC’s Summer English Language team with Amity.
The FCC Newsletter is published twice a year and sent to all members. Membership costs £15 per year (£10 unwaged). For further details, and information about the organisation, please contact the Membership Secretary (address above). Register Charity no 1004221
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