by Robert L. Niklaus
Reports from around the world.
THE UNHAPPY POOR
Remember the old saw about the natives being happy until the missionary came along and spoiled it all?
George Gallup has a different idea about unhappiness in the world today. He says that people in less-developed nations are unhappy because they are poor, according to a poll taken.
"Perhaps the most striking (survey finding) is that the gulf which separates the advanced societies from the developing nations in respect to material well-being is just as wide in respect to psychological well-being," summarized the well-known pollster. "It was hoped that somewhere in the world a nation would be found whose people are poor but happy. We didn’t find such a place. "
Dr. Gallup and thirty-two international affiliates tried hard to find such a place. The Global Survey on Human Needs and Satisfactions is the first world-wide public-opinion poll ever taken. It took two and one – half years to complete, cost $300,000 and filled sixteen volumes of conclusions from responses by some 10,000 people. The survey purports to represent the views of twothirds of the world’s population living in sixty-three countries.
One of the unexpected but perhaps related findings of the survey is that sociability appears to be directly tied to material well-being. People in rich countries seem to have more close friends than do people in poor lands. The average number of close friends of an individual shifts from five in the developed nations to none in the poorest countries.
This finding on sociability is debatable, just as would be the assumption that economic hardship is the only cause of unhappiness in poor countries. But after Gallup’s poll on human needs and satisfactions, the detractors of missions ought to be a little less simplistic in their charges and the practitioners of mission have all the more reason to proclaim an alternate Source of joy in an unhappy world.
A NEW EPOCH
Challenger magazine of the Chinese Christian Mission called it the most significant event in almost two centuries of Chinese church history.
That event, the Chinese Congress on World Evangelization (CCOWE ’76), took place in Hong Kong, August 18-25. Sixteen hundred Chinese church leaders converged on "the Pearl of the Orient" from six continents. About 30 percent of the participants were women. Under the congress theme of "Vision and Mission" the delegates participated in plenary sessions, over forty workshops and a concluding rally in an open-air stadium.
CCOWE ’76 was a totally Chinese happening: initiative, planning, financing, programming and directing. Dr. Philip Teng was chairman of the congress. Among the speakers were Dr. John Pao, Rev. Stephen Chan and Rev. Thomas Wang. Only two speakers were non-Chinese: Dr. Joon Gon Kim, president of Korea’s Campus Crusade for Christ, and Dr. Stanley Mooneyham, president of World Vision International.
The Chinese church’s debt to missionaries, however, was not forgotten. One highlight of the congress was the presenting of a special Chinese Bible to the oldest missionary present. Miss Gladys Ward, who went to China in 1926, was called to the platform to receive the Bible as an expression of appreciation and respect to her and to all the Western missionaries who had brought the gospel to China and Chinese everywhere.
This all-Chinese happening received its initial impulse at the Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne in 1974. After one of the prayer sessions held regularly for Chinese delegates, Rev. Thomas Wang asked, "Could it be that out of the deep-rooted traditional individualism a chastened, outreaching and more selfless Chinese church is finally emerging?" He helped to answer that question when he later became CCOWE ’76 general director.
CCOWE ’76 demonstrated that the Chinese church still has some deep-rooted tensions within its fellowship. The sharpest difference centered on mainland China. One of the original purposes of the congress was to plan strategy for evangelizing the mainland.
But around the first of July, according to Dr. Ralph R. Covell, present at the congress, "the British government of the colony of Hong Kong presented a list of ten requirements that had to be met if the congress were. to open. Among these was one that stated that there were to be no sessions dealing with the mainland of China, that the subject was not to be mentioned and that China’s unevangelized millions were not to be prayed for."
It was too late to find another host country for ‘the congress, and no one wanted to cancel the convocation, so the CCOWE ’76 planning committee agreed to the government’s restrictions. As a result, over the strong protest of the 200-member Taiwan delegation and of some other delegates, any mention of mainland China was studiously avoided both from the pulpit and in the final congress covenant.
Most delegates concurred with the ban on discussion of the mainland. Rev. Stephen Hsu commented later, "The topic would draw all kinds of speculation from the unbelieving world and do little to help the suffering saints behind the bamboo curtain. " Another pastor pointed out that during two previous assemblies of the kind, Christians in China were imprisoned and freed only after the sessions ended.
This setback did not deter the CCOWE delegates from taking action to work in closer harmony. They voted in a near unanimous decision to form a permanent organization called the Chinese Christian World Evangelism Co-ordination Service (CCWECS). The organization’s mandate is to serve Chinese churches all over the world, promote cooperation and church growth, and mobilize Chinese churches for worldwide evangelism. Rev. Thomas Wang, CCOWE general director, was elected to, the same post for CCWECS.
The biggest plus of the CCOWE ’76 was a new sense of perspective and unity. The delegates looked beyond Chinese horizons to cooperation with Chinese everywhere in the task of world evangelization. Asked what he thought the most significant achievement of the gathering, Dr. Philip Teng replied: "The deep sense of unity for world evangelization, including local evangelization, on a biblical basis.
Dr. Covell spoke as well of this new sense of oneness and purpose. "In the last analysis we must return to the emphasis on unity. Without a home base since 1949, the Chinese church has been scattered around the world with no sense of purpose and cohesiveness. Often Chinese Christians have turned in on themselves. Purity of doctrine has not been a big problem but factionalism, isolation, and geographical dispersion has plagued them. Now they are beginning to move together in mission. The form of their mission will be different from that in other countries and among other peoples, but it will not lack validity because of this."
Challenge magazine summed up the congress in one headline: "New Chinese epoch begins as CCOWE ’76 concludes. "
"Judging from its political situation at the moment, " suggests a report of the China Research Center (CRC), "it seems that China is going through a ‘gloomy period’ that has never happened before."
The death of Chairman Mao Tse-tung on September 9, 1976 was only the most recent and notable of a string of losses in the top echelon of leadership. Over an eighteen-month period, China lost its head of government, Chou En-lai; its equivalent head of state, Marshal Chu Teh; the ousted deputy premier, Teng Hsiaoping; and five of the nine members of the standing committee of the Politburo, the nation’s highest decision-making body.
The gloomy period is likely to continue until the real center of power is confirmed. "As to who is going to take charge of both military and political authorities, it is still difficult to surmise," according to the Hong Kong-based CRC. "Nevertheless, one thing may be certain – that is the inevitability of a new power struggle in the future, even if not in the immediate future."
This power struggle must certainly bring changes in the political and social situation of mainland China. Whether these changes will be helpful or harmful to the cause of the gospel will depend upon who emerges from the melee as undisputed leader.
At -present the victor seems to be Hua Kuo-feng. As premier, chairman of the Chinese Communist party and also chairman of the military commission – an unprecedented combination of posts in the government, party and army – he holds more power than any Chinese Communist leader ever had, including Mao.
Should the "moderates" under Hua consolidate their position, there may be more freedom in arts, science and education – and even religion – as there was before the Cultural Revolution.
Given "moderate" leadership, there could be changes in policy as well. The fifth FiveYear Plan has already been modified so that the economic position of the people will be improved.
"The thoughts of Mao will probably not be so prominent, " projects the CRC, "but it will be quite a while before any drastic changes take place. However, Communism, no matter which kind, is in opposition to the Christian faith. It is very difficult to expect that there will be complete religious freedom, official or unofficial, in mainland China."
Ironically, victory of the so-called "moderates" in Peking could spell trouble for the Christians on Taiwan.
One China-watcher foresees this scenario: The "moderates," firmly in power, will work toward a peaceful settlement. Taiwan will accept an offer from the mainland government to become an autonomous state of The Peoples Republic, with its own laws. In turn, it will break off relations with foreign governments and allow China to set foreign policy. Commerce will continue unchanged.
And foreign missionaries? And freedom of religion on Taiwan?
HARDER AND SOFTER
Delegates from forty-four countries at the first International Seerat Congress meeting in Karachi, Pakistan, approved a resolution calling for the closing down of Christian missionary radio stations and institutions. The Seerat Congress is a permanent institution of the Islamic revival movement supported by Muslim countries and organizations.
The resolution was prepared for the delegates by the Islamic World Congress. Governments of Muslim states are urged "to follow carefully the activities of foreign missionaries" and to take measures which will allow the "Peaceful withdrawal" of foreign Christian missionaries.
Reflecting the growing affluence of Islam, the resolution also appeals to Islamic educational and welfare organizations to fill the vacuum created by the closing down of the Christian missions and institutions.
But while Islamic leaders harden their opposition to the gospel, their followers are more than ever growing receptive -to its message. Raymond H. Joyce, executive secretary of the Fellowship of Faith for Muslims, observes, "The Lord is using a number of earthshaking events to open the hearts of thousands of Muslims to the gospel that were not open before."
One of those earth-shaking events was the terrible thrashing of the Arabs by the Israelis in the 1967 Six-Day War. The defeat was as much psychological and theological as it was military, says Mr. Joyce. How could a mere two and one-half million Jews defeat one hundred million Muslims? Was Islam really the religion of God?
Another development which is making Muslims more open to the gospel is the affluence of the Arab oil countries. Many young people are going abroad to study. This contact with the outside world causes them to question the fanatical, blind faith they had in the Koran.
The Christian world, however, has done little to take advantage of this new receptivity. Mr. Waldron Scott, general secretary of the World Evangelical Fellowship, calculates that". . . Hindus, Muslims and Chinese – nearly two billion strong – are the object of only 5 percent of today’s Protestant missionary force."
One exception to this weak Protestant response to the openness of Muslims is the witness by radio. Basaam M. Madany, radio minister of the Back to God Hour broadcast over Radio Monte Carlo in Europe, says that "without exaggeration the biblical message is heard today in every part of the vast Arab world (120 million). Hundreds are writing to us every week and asking for the Christian literature offered at the end of each program." During eighteen years of radio ministry Mr. Madany has received 30,000 letters from every part of the Arab world.
Dr. Suhail Zarifa, of ELWA in Monrovia, Liberia, observes the same increasing openness: "We sense from listeners’ letters that there is a growing hunger for the Word of God." He reports that since the late 1960’s in Morocco alone, some 70,000 students have enrolled in Bible correspondence courses.
This response to the gospel by radio is prompting a counter-attack over the airwaves by Islam. Global Report of the World Evangelical Fellowship reports that plans are under way to construct a powerful international radio station at Mecca. "The Voice of Islam," as the Saudi Arabian station will be known, will attempt to counter evangelical broadcasts in Africa. Approximately twenty-five Islamic broadcasting organizations are taking part.
The Islamic broadcasters will not find it easy to destroy the gospel witness by radio as they once did by the sword. Historically, Islam was more successful in crushing Christianity than Communism is today. In less than 100 years during the seventh century, Muslims virtually wiped out the church in North Africa, about one-fourth of all Christians living at that time.
The pattern seems somewhat different today: while the Islamic commanders try harder to combat the gospel, the troops are deserting to the enemy.
Christian leaders in South Africa are criticizing with unprecedented boldness the government’s policy of apartheid. Anglican, Methodist and Catholic clergy called the racial violence of recent months "the judgment of God" upon the nation for its racial injustice.
Professor Tjaart van der Walt in a national telecast urged white Christians to go against their own people, if necessary, rather than to deny the Bible.
The unkindest cuts of all are coming from the Dutch Reformed Church, often accused of being the chief support of the ruling Nationalist party’s Policy of apartheid. From a meeting in the university town Of Potchefstroom in the Transvaal Province, came unaccustomed rumblings which South African newspapers described as "an Afrikaans intellectual revolt." Delegates to a conference sponsored by the Afrikaans Calvinistic Movement declared there would be more justice in South Africa if the country were run by "black Christians, " rather than by the present white government.
Protestors within the South African Dutch Reformed Church got some encouragement in August from the international Reformed Ecumenical Synod (RES) which held its quadrennial meeting in Cape Town. The RES passed three resolutions on the racial situation in South Africa and additional resolutions reaffirming its position favoring interracial worship and finding no biblical bar on interracial marriage.
A RES delegation conferred for two hours with Prime Minister B.J. Vorster. It was the first time a multiracial delegation from Reformed churches talked directly with the prime minister concerning racial problems.
If there is ever to be a resolution to the racial dilemma of South Africa, it will trace its origins to the building of bridges of communication. Churches inside and outside South Africa are attempting to do just that.
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