As a fund with Christian foundations, the Amity Foundation pushes churches to participate in social service work all the time. It also communicates and cooperates with other religions. In order to promote religious welfare and develop the organizations in creating specialties. Last November, it has announced that the first provincial religious welfare training base in China – the Jiangsu Province Religious Welfare Training Base in – was to be founded and established an administrative committee hoping to establish a professional, interconnected and open platform to promote religious charity development.
Jiangsu Province Religious Social Welfare Base Associate Director Ling Chuangxiang and workers from the Gospel Times shared the base’s background and what it was doing.
Associate Director Ling shared that an American religious historian known as Andrews said once “religion is the mother of welfare.” Chinese Buddhists started to do charity work at a very early time, giving porridge to their parishioners. Many foreign social service charities and health care providers such as hospitals, nursing homes and kindergarten alongside many others were all founded by churches. However, the Chinese started this trend a little later. It was a charity founded by Christians which always inspired churches to do social service activities from the beginning until now and now it has founded a church social service section and offer additional training.
Aside from Christians, Amity Foundation has communication links, cooperation partnerships and training with other religions. About 7 or 8 years ago, Amity took part in training with five other religions in combatting AIDS in Henan. The people who joined the training assisted Amity in its efforts and they had more effect to the campaign in the area. Similar to the Buddhist monks, these believers who took part in the training have assisted efforts in helping others.
Amity also has a rural poverty alleviation and technology training work in Western China. For instance, in Gansu and Qinghai, the Buddhist welfare base have immense effects in Qinghai. Amity worked alongside the Buddhist groups in the area for agricultural technology training while they worked with Muslim imams in Gansu and Ningxia.
During these services, Amity first pushed Christians to participate in social service and cooperate with other religions. This enabled the expansion of the range of religious social services that can be offered. However, if Amity wanted to work systematically, they will need more support. So, Amity contacted the Jiangsu Province Bureau of Religion and the United Front Work Department officials and got their support.
In July 2014, Amity had their first Jiangsu province religion welfare training class, bringing together 5 major religions and relevant government departments. The class was good and Amity has proven for many years that they have the ability to do this type of work.
In order to do religious welfare training to work more systematically and orderly, Amity came up with the founding of a religious welfare training base which can commence big training sessions but also perform consulting work based on the religion’s need. Based on this aspects, people from the five religions involved in the program can cooperate with one another to develop projects and experiences. Amity also has a say in the base’s work.
On November 2015 when Amity celebrated its 30th anniversary, they announced that the Jiangsu Province Religious Welfare Training Base is founded and gotten relevant department awarding. In December of the same year, Amity organized a second training program, not only inviting religious persons, but also leaders of the provincial government and county bureau of religion, as well as the United Front Work Department. “Because of the relevant work being done and in need of support, there is a necessity to raise awareness because it would be difficult to do welfare work without it.” Said Associate Director Ling.
Besides this, on the second religious welfare training class, Amity took out some money and founded the ‘Amity Religious Welfare Prize’ to encourage the members of the five biggest religions who took part in the training to take out their project proposals and submit it to the group. Amity would evaluate these proposals and award money for them to develop these programs. Afterwards, the provincial religious group or charity with religious background would go to Nanjing to discuss their projects.
In the end of April 2016, the Jiangsu Province Religious Welfare Base Administrative Committee was founded. As a leader and decision-making body, it involved the five provincial major religions, the Bureau of Religion and the United Front Work Department directors to discuss the plans for the year and the specialized works they will conduct. In 2016, it has two major projects: investigating the current situation of Jiangsu province’s religious welfare and handle the county Bureau of Religion’s projects with the bureau. They are also tasked to look at the effects of the religious groups in applying these projects, how difficult it was and if it has improved religious welfare. After 2012’s slogan dealing with encouraging and rule, the investigation is related to inside and outside affairs. However, religious welfare training will continue to remain each year.
Amity is also helping out charities with religious background to improve on information sharing in order to push for relevant works little by little.
When it comes to religion, the expertise of doing social service needs to be promoted. Despite the small visibility of the support of faith, believers are enthusiastic about social service. Many years ago, Christian churches pay more attention to developing believers. But now, they realize the importance of social service. Amity’s social service department does a lot of work for Christians to promote their ability to do social service. The possibilities are endless such as supporting parents that are currently being supported by the church. Amity founded the net of church social service, instigate training for volunteers and founded institutional alliances with religious background for minority groups.
Director Ling said that the early trainings done by Amity mainly raise their consciousness to the gravity of the situation then improve on their expertise. On the one hand, the first training class of Amity teach why religion teaches followers to do social work. On the other hand, the second training class mainly teach parent supporting and network sharing to help people who wish to do social work. “Not everyone can do social service work. Those people who wish to do so are not professionals, but they can still help in a lower level. If religious people wish to do the same and help, they need to do better and become more specialized in how they can help.” Said Ling.