Bible and A Shared Future for Humankind: Migration and Community

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L-R: Greg Clarke (Group CEO, Bible Society of Australia), Bishop John Chew (Honorary Consultant, UBS CP), Prof. Yan Kejia (Director of Institute of Religious Studies, SASS), Paul Woolley (Deputy Chief Executive, British Bible Society), Kua Wee Seng (Director, UBS China Partnership).

 

SHANGHAI, China – From 14th to 16th November, the 2018 Bible in China (BIC) seminar kicked off its annual seminar to the theme of “Bible and A Shared Future for Humankind” with a focus on “Migration and Community”.

This year’s BIC was into its eighth consecutive year running. Jointly organised by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), Centre for the Studies of Religion and Culture (CSRC) and SASS Think Tank Foundation, with the support of the United Bible Societies (UBS), the seminar theme touched on salient issues faced by the international community today.

“As the global community today is more inter-connected and inter-dependent, there is a greater need for countries to come together to construct a better future for all”, said Bishop John Chew, UBS China Partnership Honorary Consultant, at the opening of the seminar.

Alluding to President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the China International Import Expo [1] held earlier this month where the Chinese President emphasised that China “will always be an important promoter of global openness”, SASS Vice-President Mr Wang Zhen in his opening address, said that similarly SASS will continue to welcome international exchanges of scholars and experts over platforms such as this seminar.

Mr Paul Woolley, Deputy Chief Executive of British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS), remarked that he is grateful for the over 200 years of good relationship established between the Church in China and Bible Societies, where the latter is committed to this friendship based on mutual respect and trust. He added that China’s view on building a shared community is “one that is central in the Bible narrative. The Bible presents a glorious vision of human flourishing.”

Representing Shanghai Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture, Executive Director Ms Lu Peijun was glad that this seminar has brought together academics, researchers, religious leaders and government officials to discuss and showcase how Christianity can make a positive contribution to society.

The first presenter Dr Cristian Romocea, Senior Bible Advocate for BFBS, in his paper on “The Bible: A narrative of migration”, concluded that “the whole Christian tradition points to a God who migrates to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ so that we may someday migrate back to our heavenly Father.”

In his paper “Migration and Pilgrimage in Biblical perspective”, Prof Choong Chee Pang, UBS China Partnership Honorary Consultant, said that the core focus of Christianity is always to engage with mankind, both present and future. He also remarked that the focus on ‘Migration and Community’ was apt as there was a pressing need for the international community to address the current issue of refugee treatment in the face of large-scale human migration.

Participants visited a cultural center run by the YMCA/YWCA to reach out to resettled residents in the community with programs such as baking classes. Photo: UBSCP

 

Dr Wu Jianrong, General Secretary of National Council of YMCAs of China, shared on the various social services offered by Shanghai YMCA/YWCA to reach out to migrant workers and their children in Shanghai. In conjunction to his presentation, Mr Wu arranged for participants to visit a community cultural centre and a sports centre for resettled residents, and a school for children of migrant workers. Shanghai YMCA/ YWCA were invited by the local authorities to run the centres and a football club for the children of migrant workers.

According to an official survey, migrant workers in China numbered 281 million in 2016. Along with countries like India, China is facing an unprecedented level of poverty-induced rural-urban migration in the wake of its rapid urbanisation and economic development.

At the close of the seminar, Dr Greg Clarke, Group CEO of Bible Society of Australia, read from the Bible in the Book of Ephesians 4:1-6, saying that “this passage emphasises that the Christian church is instructed to be a model of unified people for a shared future… it (the church) should be an example of a community that is caring well for its own people, and as a result they are being encouraged to ‘seek the good of the city’ that they are also part of.”

About 60 seminarians and faculty members from three Chinese seminaries, Huadong (East China), Jiangsu and Shandong, were also invited to attend the seminar. During the dialogue sessions with the seminary students, some of them shared insightful reflections on the topic and what they had learnt from the seminar.

Ms Wu Jing from Jiangsu Seminary said that this seminar has given her a new understanding into the close relationship between religion and society. She saw how interconnected the Church and society should be and that the very essence of the Christian faith, which is love, commands all believers to reach out and serve the community.

Rev. Geng Weizhong, Chairman of Shanghai Christian Council, reflecting on his participation in all the Bible in China seminars over the years.

Reflecting on how his understanding of the Bible grew in tandem with his participation in the annual seminars over the years, the newly-elected Chairman of Shanghai Christian Council, Rev Geng Weizhong expressed his gratitude to the seminar organizers and presenters.  He also expressed gratitude to UBS for sponsoring his Master of Theology studies, majoring in Biblical exegesis and translation, at the Trinity Theological College, Singapore.

When asked to give his comments on this year’s seminar, UBS China Partnership Director, Mr Kua Wee Seng said: “We thank God for the seminar where 30 papers were presented by different scholars and leaders on the specific theme of ‘migration and community’. We have a rich time of mutual learning and reflection on the challenges of migration, both within China and across different countries, and we were reminded by Scriptures and case studies of our collective and individual responsibilities towards migrants and ‘strangers in our midst’.

We wish to thank Prof Yan Kejia and his team from SASS and CSRC for their hard work in organizing and running the seminar. We look forward to the next seminar in November 2019 where we hope to look at the contribution of Christianity towards the nations under the Belt and Road Initiative.”

 

Story: Pamela Choo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: UBS CP
2018 © United Bible Societies China Partnership

See photos of the seminar here.

Selected quotes from some of the papers presented at the seminar:

With the advent of urbanization and the emergence of many immigrants, the population structure or distribution of the Chinese Church in urban and rural areas has changed fundamentally, and the number of urban parishioners in most areas has exceeded that of rural population. This change requires the Church in China to change the direction and focus of the evangelization, that is, the direction and emphasis of the evangelization should be urgently transferred and adjusted from the rural parish area to the new urban area.” Father Zhang Shijiang (Director, Faith Institute for Cultural Studies, Hebei Province)

The organizers of today’s conference put forward that the topic of “migration” and “community construction” should be emphatically discussed at the conference. The importance of these topics is self-evident to all countries and regions in the world. They are closely related to the progress of world economy, culture and civilization and the construction of a community with shared future for mankind.” Iman Jin Hongwei (Vice President, China Islamic Association; President, Shanghai Islamic Association)

The Christian vision of heaven envisages a future perfect state which includes multiple nations living in harmonious proximity. Both the Old Testament and New Testament eschatologies are multiracial and multinational. This eschatology should have a major impact on ethical and political reflection regarding the stranger from a Christian viewpoint.”  Dr Brian Rosner (Principal, Ridley College, Australia) and Dr Greg Clarke (Group CEO, Bible Society of Australia)

With its call for people to be neighbourly and to promote equality, Christianity could resonate well with China’s version of communism and be a uniting influence in the next chapter of its narrative, drawing people together at home and across nations as well as enabling China to be better understood as it develops relationships with countries all around the globe.” Mrs. H-J Colston-Inge (Joint CEO, Chopsticks Club, UK)

The Church needs to be present at the street level and visibly engaged with both the rich as well as the poor, especially those marginalized by economics, education and ethnicity, viz., the last, the lost, and the least. Migrants in the diverse urban diaspora can be reached, invited and welcomed into the Church as a home for the Prodigals in need of restoration, Pilgrims in the quest for transcendence and Priests in their obedience to love and bless others.” Mr. Lawrence Ko (Director, Asian Journeys Ltd)

Themes of Previous Bible In China seminar

2011 – The Bible in China
2012 – The Bible and Harmonious Society
2013 – The Bible and Social Service
2014 – The Bible and Culture
2015 – The Bible and Environment
2016 – The Bible and Values
2017 – The Bible and Sinicization of Christianity

 

[1] Chinese President Xi’s keynote speech entitled “Building an Innovative and Inclusive Open World Economy” (Xinhua News Agency).