SHANGHAI, China - From November 14th to 16th, the 2018 Bible in China (BIC) seminar kicked off its annual event 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), the Centre for the Studies of Religion and Culture (CSRC) and the SASS Think Tank Foundation, with the support of the United Bible Societies (UBS), the seminar’s theme touched on the 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 held earlier this month where the Chinese President emphasized 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 via 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 the 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 the Shanghai Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture, Executive Director Ms. Lu Peijun was glad that this seminar had 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", Professor 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.
Dr. Wu Jianrong, General Secretary of the National Council of YMCAs of China, shared on the various social services offered by the 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, a sports centre for resettled residents, and a school for children of migrant workers. The Shanghai YMCA/ YWCA were invited by the local authorities to run the centres as well as 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-to-urban migration in the wake of its rapid urbanisation and economic development.
At the close of the seminar, Dr. Greg Clarke, Group CEO of the Bible Society of Australia, read from the Bible in the Book of Ephesians 4:1-6, saying that "this passage emphasizes 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 learned 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 the Shanghai Christian Council, reflected on his participation in all the Bible in China seminars over the years.
Reflecting on how his understanding of the Bible had grown in tandem with his participation in the annual seminars over the years, the newly-elected Chairman of the 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 Trinity Theological College in 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 had 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 Professor 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 when we hope to look at the contribution of Christianity towards the nations under the Belt and Road Initiative."
Originally from: UBS China Partnership
CCD reprinted with permission.