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SHANGHAI, China – Paris climate talks. Smog in Beijing. These were some of the top trending topics in cyberspace recently. What does the Bible say about the environment and what is the mandate and responsibility given to humans? These were some of the pertinent questions presenters and participants discussed at the fifth Bible in China Seminar held in Shanghai from 18-21 Nov 2015. The event was jointly organized by Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and Centre for the Studies of Religion and Culture (CSRC) and Shanghai Association of Ethics (SAE), with the support of United Bible Societies.

L-R: Yan Kejia, Director of Institute of Religious Studies (SASS), Wang Xinhua, Deputy Director - General Shanghai Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission and Wang Zhen, Vice President of SASS at the opening ceremony of the seminar.

Gathered at the annual seminar were close to 50 academicians, researchers, government officials, church leaders, and representatives from the Taoist and Buddhist associations from China as well as presenters from Australia, Singapore, UK and US. Twenty-eight papers were presented where not only the Christian perspective on the environment was given, but also the Taoist and Buddhist points of view.

Perspectives on the Environmental Crisis

One of the first presenters, Ellen Davis, Professor and Interim Dean of Duke University (Divinity School) shared on “Wisdom Knows Its Place”. In light of the environmental and ecological crises confronting the world, she highlighted the need for “humility as essential to wisdom in understanding the relationship between humans and the environment”, and “properly valuing the richness of every place”.

Ellen Davis, Professor and Interim Dean of Duke University (Divinity School)

Neil Ormerond, Professor of Theology of Australian Catholic University based his paper “Laudato Si and Christian attitudes to the environment” on the recent encyclical by Pope Francis, emphasizing the call for a radical personal, cultural and social change in addressing environmental concerns.

Peter Harris, co-founder and President of A Rocha International, an environment conservation organization, presented a paper on “Biblical Perspectives on Why Nature Matters” where he shared that the mission of Christ is the redemption of the whole of creation, drawing from Romans 8.

Ding Changyun, President of the Daoism Association, presented on “The Ecological Ethics of the Daoism and Environmental Protection in Contemporary Society”, stressing on the importance of harmonious co-existence between humans and nature.

At one of the sessions chaired by Prof Choong Chee Pang (UBS China Partnership Honorary Academic Consultant), Kua Wee Seng, presented a paper on behalf of Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman of Singapore’s Public Utilities Board. The paper –  ”Climate Change and Urban Water Management” was based on the accomplishment of Singapore in this area. Mr Tan who led the decades-long effort also shared in the paper his Christian perspective and conviction in managing water resource according to God’s design in creation.

Another significant presentation was made by Lord Stephen Green, Chairman of Natural History Museum (of UK)  entitled “Mystery of the Universe”. He shared on the Biblical account of creation and the Bible’s perspective on history that gives hope and motivates action in the face of global environmental crisis. His presentation was followed by a response from Dr. Greg Clarke, CEO of Bible Society of Australia.

L-R: Dr Greg Clarke, Lord Stephen Green, Mr Kua Wee Seng, Prof Choong Chee Pang

It was in the wake of news reports on environmental crisis – from the haze in Indonesia, typhoons in the Philippines, to smog in Beijing – that the seminar was held. “I think this seminar is timely in giving a platform for people passionate about environmental issues to share what they are doing, as an encouragement and inspiration to one another,” Jock Foo, UBS China Partnership project manager shared. “Complementing this year’s theme, we organised a field trip to a recycling plant for the participants which was educational and refreshing to all of us.”

Cristian Romocea, Senior Bible Advocate of British and Foreign Bible Society, at his closing speech said, “The purpose of this seminar is to have meaningful exchange of ideas, cultural and religious perspectives which will enrich our worldviews, traditions and research. It is of mutual benefit to approach topics and issues of social and cultural relevance.”

Thanksgivings

Lawrence Ko, Director of Singapore Centre for Global Missions who has led teams to plant trees in the deserts of Inner Monogolia, said that he was thankful for the opportunity to interact and network with the China scholars and leaders. Therese Omerod, President of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, appreciated the opportunity for intercultural learning and the exchange with like-minded people especially Christian environmentalists.

For the organisers, it was an achievement to hold the Bible in China Seminar annually over the past five years, involving presenters and participants from the academia, the Church and the government, from China and overseas. Kua Wee Seng, UBS China Partnership Director, shared, “We are thankful to the SASS, CSRC and SAE for organizing and hosting another successful Seminar this year. We thank God for the opportunity to interact with Chinese scholars and leaders on the different current issues and to show the relevance of the Bible and the positive contribution of Christianity in these areas, both in China and elsewhere in the world. For our sixth Seminar in November 2016, we will be looking at the important theme of “The Bible and Values” as China seeks to promote core values in their society.”

 

Story: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Angela Teo
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