Sunday, 29 March 2009

'one billion souls to save' - Times on China

We hear so much about persecution in the Church in China. The Times have an article with a different story.

March 28, 2009

One billion souls to save

Christianity in China is booming. With 100 million believers, far more than the 74 million-member communist party, Jesus is a force to be reckoned with in the People’s Republic. We talk to the new faithful who love China – but love God more

read the article in the Times Online

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Shalom House Migrant worker centre SEOUL


'Migrant workers are our neighbours who we must embrace as our friends'

Shalom House is a part of the Namyangju Anglican church of Korea. Since the 1990s migrant workers from at least 15 countries have gone to Korea in search of their dream in Namyangju area around 1500 workers 

Run buy Colombo Kim,  in his tweed jacket he looked every bit a private eye. He certainly has a heart for justice and has been imprisoned as a result of protesting on behalf of migrants.  
This extensive centre ministers to Filipinos, Nepalese, Pakistanis, Indian and many others.They run Computer classes,   Korea language,   Fitness Gym, Hobby centre,  medical clinic, dental clinic,   physical therapy,  shelter for men plus another for  women and children.  Also a drop in centre selling clothes (fixed price 1000 Wan – less than a dollar) a library and resource centre with artefacts from Nepal Indonesia and Philippines as a cultural museum. 

I was particularly struck by the church where they ring the bell when the police come looking for illegal immigrants - resounding solidarity.

It would be a great place for a short term worker teaching English and also possibilities for English speaking clergy Accommodation and food can be provided

Afterwards we visited a Lent group in the home of the Shalom driver.   We sat on the floor in their flat and Rev Paul Koh conducted a simple service and then we ate food - many dishes in honour of the centre and its committed clergy and staff. A wonderful family atmosphere. And great food! 

Friday, 27 March 2009

Sungkonghoe Anglican University Seoul

I was able to visit the Anglican Sungkonghoe University in Seoul on this trip to Korea. As ever the hospitality was overwhelming. 

Originally founded in 1914 as St Michael's theological school,  it was closed in 1940 due to students' refusal to accept and follow Japanese religious customs. It reopened in 1982 and developed into a university in 1987. Maybe it was the opposition to the Japanese regime that underlined the University’s commitment to civil rights and world peace:
‘we cultivate Christian Humanity in students that enables them to practice a spirit of openness, sharing and service. We encourage students to be independent and open-minded….to share with others ….to serve others first’

I was impressed with the wide range of courses on offer: 
Langauges - English, Japanese, Chinese;   Social welfare; Theology; media and communication; Glocal (global and local) IT; college of Asian Civil Society; democracy and social movement institute - 

And also the resources centres available online: 

In addition there are a number of related institutes:  
Institute of Church Music, 
Center for Culture and Information Studies 
Institute for Study of theology;    
Management and Distribution Research Institute;    
The university has a library of 150,000 volumes, with 2000 undergraduates and 500 post graduates research students from Asia (including 100 theology students). 

The University has a good reputation for developing indigeous Asia thinking and has pioneered a lot of innovative work in Asia. One such emphasis is on leadership development in Asia-Pacific students from Korea Japan and China.  In addition windows have been 'opened' on India Philippines, China and Russia.

I was attending a presentation on vision of Asia Mission and Theology centre. Particularly impressive has been the new development  Masters in Asian NGO management (MAINS) in 2007 including  theology and sociology a development of their NGO studies course. It was also interesting to hear that a number of staff had stayed at CMS's Crowther Hall and studied at the University of Birmingham.

Sunghkonghoe University is also part of CUAC -  Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion.   I was also interested to see they are linked to other CUAC unverities, including 2 other East Asian universities I have visited:   St Johns University in Taiwan  and Poole Gaukin University in Osaka Japan 

Korean Hospitality is out of this world..... 

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Soul of Asia

This was my forth trip to Seoul and its growing on me. I picked up a small booklet produced by lonely planet at the Korean air check in Counter. It’s called ‘Seoul Asia’s hidden treasure’

It is full of tourist hype
‘Way back in the 20th century, Seoul was a bustling Metropolis looking to make its mark on the world stage. With unbridled energy, spirited passion and a sense of identity forged by its own Asian mystique and 21st century dreams of peace and prosperity, Seoul can now claim place as one of the world’s great cities. It’s nothing like you expected and everything you hoped for.’

The booklet tries tackle what it calls 3 myths about Seoul 
(a) Its expensive 
(b) Language is a barrier   
(c) Seoul is just another Asian Mega city
In some way all 3 myths are true, and I have certainly thought them myself. It’s certainly a lot more expensive than many Asian cities, although as the book points out, affordable options are available and good food can be had on a tight budget. I find that like in many other Asian cities, a lot of people do speak some English, but getting around can be very confusing. And there are many places where English is not spoken and yes, that is either an barrier or an opportunity. But if Seoul is really going to make it on the world stage then presumably it needs to embrace the Global Market language. Or is that my prejudice shining through? Seoul is BIG, (some 10 million) it is fast paced and there is a lot of concrete around. The buildings are huge and plentiful. Its also a very useful and vibrant commercial hub in East Asia

And there is so much that breaks out of the urban jungle, like flowers in the cracks -the courtesy and hospitality, the tradition and culture, and a sense of vitality and drive. And the food is so exotic and varied and interesting (except for sea cucumbers - Yuk!) But bulgogi (barbequed beef) and Soju (a sort of rice vodka) - Yummy! And a sense of gentile sophistication and artistic appreciation. Which is why, I suppose, the tourist board posers advertise Seoul as the ‘soul of Asia’.

Not far from the Anglican Cathedral (and the British embassy) where I was staying in a peaceful Convent. is Changdeokgung Palace with it daily changing of the guard. A colourful, musical extravaganza of traditional dress and ceremony. Pomp and circumstance. And within the palace peaceful gardens and traditional wooden buildings and slate roofs. I visited last time I was here and then I also visited the Chong Dong theatre and its cultural show with its astounding synchronized Korean drumming.

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One place I really love to walk is along the Cheonggyecheon Stream.     A revitalization effort by an enlightened city council, 6km of roadway was dismantled and the stream uncovered and then sculptured and developed into an urban ecological park. At one end in Cheonggye Plaza there is a Fountain Waterfall and after dark light show. Gardens, grasses, bridges, stepping stones, even an underground art gallery, the stream winds its way though the city amidst High rise buildings, but for the length of the walk you are transported into an tranquil green wonderland.

I think every city should have one

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Nao Roz Mubarrak 21st March

Happy Noroz. (First day of Spring)  21st March 
We are celebrating Persian New Year  by having a family meal of spicey Persian Lamb.  Yummi

Nowrūz ( نوروز /noʊruz/ ↔ [noʊɾuːz]; with various local pronunciations and spellings, meaning'New Day') is the traditional Iranian new year holiday. It is well known around the Persian speaking world, including Tajikistan  Azerbaijan, Kurdistan. 

It is  celebrated in Afghanistan by familes going on picnics (weather and war permitting) eating Kabuli Pilau and drinking 'Aft Mewa',   a drink made from seven fruits. (sometimes it is prepared so long in advance that it ferments!) 

Afghans love to sing and dance and celebrate (especially if there is food involved)

I am reminded of a story of Mullana Nasruddin when he was a guest at a banquet 

One day Nasruddin went to a banquet. As he was dressed rather shabbily, no one let him in. So he ran home, put on his best robe and fur coat and returned. Immediately, the host came over, greeted him and ushered him to the head of an elaborate banquet table. When the food was served, Nasruddin took some soup with spoon and pushed it to the his fur coat and said, - Eat my fur coat, eat! It's obvious that you're the real guest of honor today, not me!

     More Nasruddin storiesare available on Afghan  story lovers website

Thursday, 19 March 2009

"don't misunderestimate me"

I was inpsired by a recent twitter:   
Bishop Alan WilsonalantlwilsonRT:  never misunderestimate George Bush. As he said, "The trouble with the French is they have no word for Entrepreneur"...

These Bushisms are all from Wikipedia  


"They misunderestimated me." — Bentonville, Ark., November 6, 2000
"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." — Nashville, Tenn., September 17, 2002
"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." — LaCrosse, Wis., October 18, 2000
"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."— Saginaw, Mich., September 29, 2000
"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." —Poplar Bluff, Missouri, September 6, 2004

Foreign affairs

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." —Washington, D.C., August 5, 2004
"We were trying to say something differently, but nevertheless it conveyed a different message". -January 12, 2009 Press Conference (Time Magazine, January 26, 2009, p13).


"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." — Greater Nashua, N.H., January 27, 2000
"I understand small business growth. I was one." — New York Daily News, February 19, 2000

"Rarely is the questioned asked: How is our children learning?" — Florence, S.C., January 11, 2000
"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test." — Townsend, Tennessee, February 21, 2001

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

social networking audit

A new map of the Internet shows a core of tight connections (red) and an outer ring (purple) of looser connections.

I have just done a mini audit of the web2:0 technology, 'social networking' tools I am using (as part of a report on developements in Asia)  A few years back I wouldn't have understood half of the terms.  

This Blog ‘Wandering4loveofGod’ (50 posts so far in 2009) 
Facebook (422 friends) ‘CMS-Asia’ Group (84 members) SACYN (99), sacred:space (40) TWITTER (36 followers),  Plaxo (37 connections),  and now  'kindling – big fires start small'.  a CMS Network that I have just joined.
Then there are the Yahoo Groups: ‘faithconversations’(110), people_movement (73) ISAAC (55) CMSRegional (15) MAGI_Asia (2). All groups, or 'communities of practice', that I am helping to motivate. And that's just some of them.  They are very basic  - simple email forwarding systems. And some are more functional and popular than others.  

So far I've failed to upload  a video to YouTube (I've produced 2 of my own videos) and whist I have a Flickr account I've yet to upload pictures. (I've got so many - where to start!?) 'The virtual/spirit is willing but the physical/flesh is weak' 

I'm finding it all takes an inordinate amount of time.  I trust that it is all worth it. 
Any thoughts/ suggestions/ encouragements?
Is there anyone out there?? 

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


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Martin Thomas a colleague from CMS has been writing creative poetry (I think inspired by Gerard Kelly) and has created a website 

The_gardeners_apprentice_4His Gardener’s apprentice was the theme for our CMS Core Training at Windmill Farm. We even created a garden whilst we were there.  

LindisfarneHe has just been to Holy Island,  Lindisfarne on a retreat (I'm dead jealous) and has written another reflective poem on the experience. Well worth a read.

Gerard Kelly, by the way, has been doing some fascinating Twitturgies - a tweet for the soul - personal liturgies in 140 characters or less. I've signed up for them.  Here's a few recent ones  

Lead me God; to the place you have for me, at the pace you want for me. If I walk or run or wait in stillness, give me the tenacity to trust

If hope at times is hard to hold, you are still God. If dreams are dashed and desires delayed, you are still God. Still me, God, to know you

You hide the path you want for us under the path we walk. You bury wisdom in the places we pass. Give us, God, the determination to dig.

Tonight the tank is empty God. No reserve. No spark. Battery flat. But you are life and light, fuel and fulness. Plug me in, God: charge me

kindling - big fires start small

As we try to join up work around the CMS world, we are increasingly looking at social networking tools:  Facebook, Flikker, YouTube, Plaxo, MySpace, Blogging. These are among the many, many tools available to help us connect. 

I've been investing a  disproportionate amount of time and effort into all this, in the hope that we can encourage participation in the work of CMS in ASIA.
As well as this BLOG, we have set up various Yahoo Groups  (a bit old hat these days) some of which have been running for some time:  'faith conversations' (for dialogue about interfaith issues), 'people-movement' (for CMS people in mission),     

We also have  a Facebook for CMS-Asia.  I have just been connecting up my Twitter and the Blog through Twitterfeed,   which in turn links to my Facebook.
And now I've just joined the new experimental CMS community 'kindling - big fires start small'. Set up by Jeremy in the comms team, this group is hosted by Ning:create your own Social Network.   We'e even set up an ASIA CMS page as an experiment.   Our symbol is the starfish   based on the book the Starfish and the Spider

Why not come and join us and see where all this leads us....

Saturday, 14 March 2009

The Imam’s Daughter Hannah Shah

'The Imam’s Daughter' Hannah Shah  'The remarkable true story of a young girl’s escape from her harrowing past'

This is not a light read in that it describes the abuse that 'Hannah' (not her real name)  suffered at the hands of her father, the Imam of their small town mosque. And the quiet, submissive compliance of her mother. She describes life in the tight-knit community in the North of England, which seeks to parallel ‘home', based on  rural, village community-life in Pakistan. The rules in their ghetto are strict, life is constrained and Islam is interpreted (by her father) very rigidly. She feels like ‘a caged bird crying’, a 'captive butterfly' craving freedom. She describes her small world of 'home-school-mosque' where she was effectively a 'domestic slave'. And life in Britain with its interests and struggles and her normal desire to be accepted by friends and to get a decent education. 

She finds this elusive freedom only after running away, aged 16, from a forced marriage. She eventually finds acceptance through a teacher  that befriends her,   and then through her teacher's church where she discovers faith in Christ.  She then decides to be baptised and discovers what being 'murtadd', or apostate, really means in the eyes of her community. And she is hunted by people intent on killing her. A so-called ‘honour killing.’  

Eventually she comes to terms with the years of abuse, is married for love and eventually agreed to tell her story publically. She also speaks at churches about Islam explaining that all Muslims are not as extreme in their interpretation as her father. His form of Islam is she believes ‘unQu’ranic’. And it was only reading the Quran in English, that helped her to see this, rather than the Arabic she had memorised, but failed to understand.

I found it compelling, mainly because I have met ‘Hannah’ and could hear 'her voice' as I was reading it. That certainly adds to the authenticity and the deep sense of disquiet at reading of the horrible abuse she suffered. But also the sense of joy at knowing of her current happiness and freedom.

Baroness Cox of  Christian Solidarity Worldwide describes the book as 'Brilliant and compelling...raises issues which are worthy of serious consideration and discussion'

I remembered reading an article about Hannah a number of years ago  British imam's daughter under police protection after converting to Christianity  by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent of The Times  (December 5, 2007)

A British imam's daughter is living in fear of her life under police protection after she received death threats from her family for converting to Christianity.

The young woman, aged 32, whose father is a Muslim imam in the north of England, has moved house 45 times to escape detection by her family since she became a Christian 15 years ago.

Hannah, who uses a pseudonym to hide her identity, told The Times how she became a Christian after she ran away from home at 16 to escape an arranged marriage.

The threats against her became more serious a month ago, prompting police to offer her protection in case of an attempt on her life.

She was speaking on the eve of the launch of a new charity in London today to promote greater religious awareness. Muslims in Britain who wish to convert to Christianity are living in fear of their lives because of Islamic apostasy laws, a senior Church of England bishop will warn at the invitation-only launch in west London.

The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, will claim "freedom to believe" is under threat in Britain because of Islamic hostility to conversion.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Sacred Pathways

I've just completed an online assessment based on the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas

the online questionaire helps you identify your spiritual pathway to God, based on 9 spiritual temperaments: 

and Naturalists

You then get a profile which helps you identify your type. Which I presume will help you feel at home with your way of worshipping God. Rather than trying to be something you aren't.

According to my profile I am  Sensate - Loving God with the Senses:
Sensate Christians want to be lost in the awe, beauty, and splendor of God. They are drawn particularly to the liturgical, the majestic, the grand. They want to be filled with sights, sounds, and smells that overwhelm them. The five senses are God's most effective inroad to their hearts.

Plus quite a bit of a caregiver (loving God through loving others) and naturalist (loving God out of doors) 

Why not give the questionaire a try.   We are exploring this as a theme at our next sacred:space on 4th April in christchurch, woking. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Joy Luck club and Cherry Blossom Taiwan

I received a letter from Pam a CMS Mission partner in Japan about her recent visit to Taiwan

The last weekend in February I left Japan to go to Taiwan for a long weekend to visit Catherine, a CMS Mission Partner in Taipei. Osaka and Taiwan are sister dioceses. I had no idea what Catherine was planning for those 4 days but I had the most amazing time and a brief but real introduction to the Taiwanese church. Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese for over 40 years and at the end of the second World War they just left. Anglican Churches had just been for the Japanese and so there was no Anglican Church until the Americans reestablished them and Taiwan became a Missionary Diocese of the Episcopal Church, which it still is. Most of it is younger and more vibrant than the Anglican Church here.

I meet Mama Tan (a relation of Amy Tan - Joy Luck Club) who is now 87. She came to Taiwan at the age of 24 to marry and she never saw her parents again. Her father was imprisoned twice in Communist China for his Taiwan connection. The 2nd time he died there. She showed us a file of some of her father’s papers including the accusations against him that people had been “forced” to write. Her family, three sons and a daughter are all Christians and have a T-shirt Company. Catherine lives on the campus of St John’s University. The Chapel is also the Parish Church and has a full programme for students as well as church people. Mother Tan had shown me the book “Living is Mission” that the house groups (Sunday afternoon one a month) were going to study. They were supposed to read the 1st Chapter, She had already read the whole book. 

Catherine’s group of young people meets every week and usually studies in English. They have some Japanese speakers so I was asked to give my testimony in Japanese and they translated into Chinese. It was great fun. The last morning an older man who is just finishing at Theological College and his wife drove us up into the mountains to see cherry blossom and then in a valley fields of arum lily being grown. Then they drove me to the airport. Many new friends, beautiful scenery. delicious Chinese food. It was a very blessed time and only two and a half hours from Osaka by plane!!!.

 Taiwan flower festival: Taiwan cherry blossom

The Guardian has a beautiful photo article on Cherry Blossom festival in Taiwan 
Yangminshan flower festival (February 20-March 22)

Friday, 6 March 2009

A question of balance? Interfaith engagement

A question of balance?

There has been a lot of internet traffic over how Christians engage with Muslims, about what model dominates, and how we deal with difference. 

The Barnabas Fund have written to supporters requesting prayer in the face of persecution. I have a deep respect for their advocacy role and support for Christians under pressure in majority Muslim context. Patrick Sookdeo is a leading voice.

My Photo

‘Distinctly Welcoming’ by Richard Sudworth is suggesting a gentler, more relational approach. I know Richard and also have a deep respect for his approach, with the emphasis on hospitality and openness.

There tends to be a polarisation between the conciliatory and the confrontational approaches, the irenic and the polemic. And the debate has certainly been polarised.

There have been numerous statements:  Ben White's article on Fulcrum,   Barnabas response  and a response from Fulcrum and even a statement by CMS. 

The ‘Fear Factor’ in relation to Islam can be debilitating and a powerful antidote to real relational engagement with Muslims. In the computing world we have learn the term ‘WYSIWYG’ = ‘what you see is what you get’. How we perceive reality becomes that reality. The stories we tell, become the stories we live. 

We are encouraged to love our enemies and those who persecute. Perfect love casts out all fear. The Hawks and the Doves always seem to argue with each other, not only in Politics.  Such polarisation is unhelpful. We need to being doing both/and - Both supporting the victims and extending a hand of peace to Muslims.

Maybe there also needs to be some more discussion on how Christians engage with each other !

It reminds me of a story by Nasruddin.    He was asked why it s that in the morning some people go off in one direction and other people go off in other directions. He thought for a moment and then replied ‘If everybody went in the same direction the earth would lose its balance’


Thursday, 5 March 2009

Khuda kay Lie: In the name of God

A fascinating Pakistani movie which deals with the issues of terrorism and what type of Islam Pakistan wants to nurture. It is the story of 2 musician brothers - the elder goes to the States to study music;   the other, younger brother under the influence of a Talib, gives up his music for the sake of Islam. 

Two scenes stick in my mind - the US based (non terrorist) brother is accused of terrorism and is taken in by homeland security - post 9/11 - for questioning. During his imprisonment he writes 'I love USA' all over the walls.  Under great pressure and duress, he eventually adds the 2 letters 'MA' to that statement and the whole meaning changes. And he suffers the consequences. 

In the meantime the terrorist brother, who has joined the Taliban, is on trial for abducting a  British citizen.  In court the defence calls a respected Pakistani Mulanna, who argues a  very powerful case against the fundamentalist Taliban interpretation of Islam, which is all about the outward appearance. He is for an Islam of the heart.  And appeals to the moderate voices in Pakistan.  It has a powerful reformative effect on the younger brother.

Well worth watching just for that scene alone.         

The film has been quite  a sensation in Pakistan as this Pakistani review of the film shows
First things first -- and there are a lot of firsts in this movie. As half the world knows by now, this is Shoaib Mansoor's first cinematic venture. Most of the cast, including all the lead actors except Shaan, also make there silver-screen debut with this film. The film is also the first truly honest issue-based film from Pakistan, and now, is also one of the highest grossing ones in Pakistan. ...... in a nutshell, its about two musician brothers who go off on a different tangent through the course of their lives, one joining an extremist movement and the other pursuing college education in the States. Shaan and Fawad Khan, of course, enact the characters of the two brothers. Iman Ali plays the British cousin forced into a marriage she doesn't want.

The best thing about the film is its seamless flow and the REALLY natural settings and dialogues. The upper middle class setting of the brothers' household is something that a lot of Pakistanis would be able to relate to. I definitely could, and the film also correctly portrays the moderate leanings of the majority of the population in that country. The film shifts continuously between US, Lahore and the rather backward areas in Afghanistan, and the individual vignettes are so engrossing that you don't want them to end...