Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Emma Sullivan Should Apologize

Not sure if you have seen the news story, but the other day an 18-year-old high school student by the name of Emma Sullivan became an overnight celebrity when she tweeted the following regarding her state's governor, Sam Brownback:



"Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot"


Brownback Apologizes To Teen TweeterAs I write this post, Sullivan's following on Twitter has surged to more than 12,000.  Significantly more than mine, of course.  And even quite a bit more than Gov. Brownback (Kansas) himself (about 3,000).  Sullivan uploaded the tweet, it seems, while she was in the audience listening to the Governor deliver a speech.  Sullivan was a part of a program known as "Youth in Government" which is apparently designed to give students interested in government and politics hands-on learning experiences.  


As the story goes, the Governor's staff found the tweet while monitoring the web for mentions, news stories, and discussion about Brownback.  This, of course, is the first point at which critics are firing away at the governor.  Writes Ian Millhiser, "If nothing else, one would think a state governor’s office has better things to do than troll the internet looking for young dissenting voices they can intimidate." But that's just a very silly thing to say.  Trolling the internet is what a lot of us do.  It is simple enough to set Google Alerts for a name or use an app to follow specific topics on Twitter.  I do that myself and that's without a staff.  Of course elected officials engage in this, they must.  Heck, I must and I'm just a lowly missiologist.


Next, the Governor's staff contacted those responsible for organizing the Youth in Government field trip and let them know about what one of their students had posted online.  This is apparently what Governor Brownback has now publicly apologized for.   He has stated, “My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms. I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who  participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future. I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum.  Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.”


I suppose that was what Brownback had to do.  However, if I had been organizing such a program as "Youth in Government", I would hope that those students who participated in it would conduct themselves with much more "civility and decorum" than what Sullivan displayed.  I'm sorry, but saying that an elected official "sucks" does not exactly rise to the level of mature and thoughtful criticism.  Since, Sullivan's school principle apparently responded to the news by reprimanding her, people have been rushing to cry foul regarding the student's freedom of speech.  But freedom of speech isn't the issue at all.  Had Sullivan tweeted an actual critique of Brownback's policies, this would have never been a story.  For example, she might have said, "Gov. Brownback's defunding of education sucks." Had she done so, I have a feeling she'd still be hovering around 60 followers.


The point is that Sullivan made a comment that manifested deep ignorance and immaturity along with an inability to articulate her dissent respectfully.  And when adults do that, when we put our feet in our mouths, we apologize for it.  This isn't about freedom of speech or government censorship.  It is about mature and respectful engagement with other members of a civilized society.  We say something stupid.  It gets out.  We apologize and try not to be such an idiot in the future.  Self-censorship is a mark of humility and maturity -- an essential mark of good leadership.  Crassness may suddenly jar an audience and stir a flash-in-the-pan following, but it isn't worthy of long-term attention.  It isn't capable of dealing with the realities of the troubled world in which we live.  


Well, Sullivan apparently isn't aware of this.  When asked during a CNN interview if she would like to apologize to Gov. Brownback or perhaps have a chance to have a direct conversation with him, Sullivan replied, "I wouldn't mind maybe voicing my opinions to him. I'm not a politician myself so I can't sit down and tell him, 'This is what you need to do for this, this, this and  this, you know, different policies or what he needs to do to help our education system'.  But I wouldn't apologize for the tweet itself because, like I said, that was aimed toward my audience. That wasn't aimed towards him.  I wasn't talking directly to him. It was to my high school friends."


Ahh yes, the myth of a personal Twitter feed rehashed.  Perhaps Sullivan should be made aware of the Twitter feature that allows one to lock his/her tweets.  It is a kind of cancer of the new wireless society that we live in that people feel that they can post whatever they want online for all the world to see and if anyone ever calls them on it simply duck behind a line like, "Hey that was between me and my friends."  People, look, it doesn't work that way.  Public posts are open for public critique.  If you can't handle it, don't post it.


Bottom line, Emma Sullivan should apologize because her tweet was disrespectful and actually mocks the complicated reality of the times we live in.  With her tweet, she has effectively become the unofficial representative of Kansas's "Youth in Government" program.  In which, I would guess that there may be at least a few other students, who would rather their political insights and opinions not be reduced crass comments about whether given political figures either suck or blow.

Let me end with a couple questions:

1. What will Emma Sullivan's following on Twitter peak at?  Where will it be by January 1st?

2. Has anyone actually investigated whether or not Sullivan's tweet was true?  She claims that she told Gov. Brownback that he sucked "in person".  Did she?  I haven't found any story addressing that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Does the U.S. have "Sinister Motivations" for Resettling Bhutanese Refugees?

I've come across an article posted on Revolution in South Asia entitled "Bhutanese Refugees in the U.S.: Pawns of Imperial Interests".  The author is known only as "redpines".  The site is dedicated to the promotion of communist/Maoist movements throughout South Asia and, in this article, seeks to slander U.S. efforts to resettle refugees as having sinister motivations.  I find the article to be a deceptive piece of communist propaganda designed to discourage 3rd country resettlement and recruit more people to the Maoist cause in South Asia.  At the end of the day, this sort of talk is pretty harmful to people who remain in the camps.  They shouldn't be deceived into thinking that life in the U.S. or Canada or wherever will be easy all the time.  But it is also wrong to spread and prop-up falsehoods like the ones in this article.  Those remaining in the camps are being fed a steady stream of lies:  "America will make you into slaves", "black people will shoot you",  "everyone gets divorced in America", and more.  The resulting fear cripples far too many, leaving them stagnating in camps without hope or a future.  Below, I offer a repudiation of the article referenced above.  I have notified the author of my post and invited a response.  Let's see what happens.



Here is the article with my comments:


While in Nepal, I heard a lot of discussion about the situation of Bhutanese refugees who had been resettled in the US [Right away, the author seeks to establish his/herself as an expert having been to Nepal and having spoken to people.  Redpines derives his/her information from having spoken to presumably Maoist-leaning people who remain in the camps (or worse, Maoists from out of the camps who just like to talk about the refugee situation) about those who opted for 3rd country resettlement.  Redpines doesn't at all acknowlege that those remaining in the camps might have an ax to grind which renders them a bit biased.  The fact of the matter is that there is a minority element among the refugees who, in seeking to promote their cause of repatriation to Bhutan, threaten those who desire to resettle to another country with violence and death. This party is prone to speak ill about 3rd country resettlement and desires to spread as much negative PR as possible about living in the United States. If Redpines wants accurate information about refugees that have settled in the US, he/she should speak directly to them]. People were outraged at the fact that the US would only accept these refugees on the condition that they repay their airfare and other costs. [Redpines is being deceptive here.  First, the issuing of travel loans is the standard procedure for refugees entering the U.S. and not a special requirement for the Bhutanese. Second, it is a loan to cover travel expenses.  What are the "other costs" Redpines is referring to?  Thirdly, the interest-free loan is provided by the International Office of Migration to make it easier for refugees to leave the camps for their new home.  The loan is issued by the International Office of Migration which pays for the immediate expenses of travel to the United States (i.e. airline tickets). The U.S. State Department is involved as a donor, furnishing the capital to make the program possible.  IOM also provides travel loans to refugees resettling in Australia.  It is considered a means of assisting with resettlement.  In the case of Canada, refugees are issued interest-bearing loans for travel and an initial medical examination.  Redpines simply doesn't know the facts.] In an economy where real unemployment is more than 20% in some places, it is not clear how this resettlement plan is different from a state of indentured servitude. It is a grotesque example of the way the US immerses the world’s people in debt and subjugation–even within its borders . [This is just untrue.  Bhutanese refugees are not being immersed in debt by the United States.  The loan they are issued (which they voluntarily sign before leaving Nepal) is interest-free and issued by the International Office of Migration, not the United States government.  The loan begins to be repaid only after about 3 months following resettlement and may be adjusted/deferred during periods of financial hardship.  The term of the loan is usually 46 months.  I have worked with many, many families and have found that it does not result in too great a financial hardship.  On the contrary, it actually serves to allow the families to begin to establish credit soon after arriving in the U.S.  Under ordinary circumstances, we find that the Bhutanese refugees do not end up drowning in debt.  The U.S. government provides (directly and indirectly through grants to resettlement agencies) thousands of dollars worth of free medical care, food, cash, rental assistance, job training and placement, English classes, education, and more.  To be sure, the current economic situation has resulted in some layoffs and difficulties.  But it is difficult to conceive of how such a situation benefits the U.S.  or is in anyway parallel to indentured servitude. How is becoming a recipient of unemployment benefits during a layoff the same thing as indentured servitude?]


There may be sinister political reasons for the US deal to accept Bhutanese refugees. This embassy cable from 2007, exposed by Wikileaks, shows the US government’s concern over Maoist organizing in the Bhutanese refugee camps, as well as the potential for communists to gain power in Bhutan itself:
“…each confirmed that the Maoists could pose a significant threat. Rutland alleged that the BCP openly threatened to use the refugees in the Nepali camps to overthrow the monarchy and the new government.”
[Let's be clear.  Redpines is suggesting that the United States stepped up to offer resettlement opportunities to 60,000 Bhutanese in order to quench the Maoist-leaning elements present there.  The US did this because they were afraid that Maoists would take over the camps and, then somehow gain power in Bhutan.  Let's forget for a moment the fact that the Bhutanese refugees have no access to Bhutan and no real prospects of repatriation in the near future -- thus rendering some kind of refugee-led Maoist takeover of that country impossible.  The question remains, why would the United States, which remained essentially uninvolved during the Maoist revolution in Nepal that eventually led to the overthrow of the monarchy there, be concerned about a Maoist takeover of a few refugee camps in an already Maoist-led nation?  This doesn't make any sense to me.  And even if the US was trying to remove the supposedly Maoist-leaning refugees from the camps, why would they want to resettle such people within the borders of the United States?  Wouldn't that simply increase any perceived threat?  And, what is Norway's motivation?  Denmark's? These and other countries are also resettling refugees from Bhutan.  Is it an international conspiracy?]
Revolution in South Asia also reported in 2008 that two Maoist groups did emerge within the refugee camps. Whether or not there is a direct connection between the resettlement scheme and the potential for strong communist organizations in Bhutan, it seems impossible to believe that the US is involved in this situation for altruistic reasons [Impossible for whom?  For a communist propagandist who is incapable of objectively considering all the facts or interpreting them in a rational way?  Perhaps.  The fact remains that the United States is the international leader in the resettlement of refugees from all over the world.  Would Redpines have us believe that in every situation the US has some sinister scheme in mind? Or is it just in this case?]. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

South Asian Population Surge in the United States:

The U.S. Census is reporting that South Asians are growing faster than other Asian groups in the United States.  The story and the data were posted recently at Indiawest.  Since a number of my readers are engaged in work among South Asians, I thought you might find the data interesting.  I have added a few personal comments in highlights



South Asians led all Asian groups in the United States in the rate of population growth from 2000 to 2010, according to a new compilation of 2010 census data.
Bangladeshi Americans had the biggest percentage increase over the decade, skyrocketing 157%. The Pakistani population had the second highest population bump with a 100% rise. [The bulk of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are Muslim. It would appear then that the South Asian Muslim population is growing more quickly than the Hindu or Buddhist.] The Sri Lankan and Indian American populations increased 85% and 68%, respectively.
The next five highest percentage increases among Asian American population groups were: Taiwanese, 59%; Thai, 48%; Indonesian, 51%; Filipino, 44%; and Vietnamese, 42%.
The total number of Indian Americans in the U.S. in 2010, including Asian Indians of mixed race, was 3,183,063 [That is a number worth paying attention to.]. Indian American made up 18% of the Asian American population in 2010, up from 16% in 2000.
The 2010 count for other South Asian American groups (including mixed race) was: Pakistanis, 409,163; Bangladeshis, 147,300; Sri Lankans, 45,381, making the total South Asian American population of 3,781,907 in 2010.
Chinese Americans (not including Taiwanese, who are counted separately by the Census Bureau) remained the most populous Asian group in the U.S. with a population of 3,794,673. Filipinos were second at 3,416,840 and Vietnamese were fourth with a population of 1,737,433 in 2010. [Thus, Asian Indians are the 3rd largest Asian group in the nation and are growing at a faster clip than most others.  What are the implications for the Church?]
According to 2007 to 2009 data, Indian Americans led all Asian American groups in the country in median household income at $86,660. The next highest total was $77,596 for Taiwanese households.
Taiwanese and Indians also led in per capita income among Asian American groups, with $38,312 and $36,533, respectively, followed by Malaysians ($33,264) and Sri Lankans ($32,480).
The study, “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans in the United States, 2011,” was issued by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Asian American Justice Center.
Other data in the report showed the Bangladeshi community in America had one of the lowest rates among all Asian groups of mixed race population at 4%. Generally, South Asians intermarry with other races less frequently than other Asian groups.
Only 6% of Pakistanis, 8% of Asian Indians and 9% of Sri Lankans were counted in the 2010 census as being of mixed race.
The Asian group with the highest rate of mixed-race individuals was Japanese Americans at 35%. Only 3% of Hmong and Bhutanese were of mixed race.
According to the 2007-09 American Community Survey, naturalization rates are highest for Vietnamese at 73%, followed by Taiwanese at 67% and Filipinos at 64%. Among the South Asian groups, Pakistanis had the highest rate of naturalization at 57%, while just 50% of Bangladeshi Americans, 47% of Indian Americans and 43% of Sri Lankan Americans were naturalized.
The largest number of legal permanent residents, by country of birth in 2008, eligible to become citizens was from the Philippines at about 280,000, followed by 200,000 from India Americans and a similar number from Vietnam.
These totals could become significant in next year’s presidential election, as Asian American groups seek to register naturalized citizens and get them to the polls.
Sri Lankans had the highest foreign-born rate of all Asian groups at 76%, followed by Malaysians (73%), Bangladeshis (73%), Indians (70%), Taiwanese (68%), Pakistanis (65%), Koreans (65%), Indonesians (65%) and Vietnamese (64%).
The leading six Asian countries for immigrant visas issued from 2001-2010 were: Philippines, 350,694; China, 286,008; India, 267,403; Vietnam, 193,049; Bangladesh, 84,643; Pakistan, 69,202.
Of the immigrants from India granted permanent resident status in 2010, 45%, or 31,118 people, came the U.S. on employment-based visas; 32%, or 21,831, were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens; 21%, or 14,636, came under family-sponsored preferences; and 2% (1,324) were granted status as refugees or under asylum statutes.
Pakistan, by contrast, had 34%, or 6,247, under family-sponsored preferences; 16%, or 2,896, on employment-based visas; 47%, or 8,522, as immediate relatives on U.S. citizens, and 3%, or 507, refugees or asylum grantees.
The report estimated that in 2010 there were about one million undocumented immigrants from Asia in the U.S. About 280,000 were from the Philippines, 200,000 from India, 170,000 from Korea and 130,000 from China. India’s total was down from an estimate of over 275,000 in 2005. [Fascinating! This is an untold part of the "illegal immigration" story.]
According to the report, South Asians are more likely than the other Asian subgroups to speak a language other than English at home. Bangladeshis have the highest percentage at 92%, followed by Hmong (91%), Pakistanis (86%), Vietnamese (84%), Taiwanese (82%), Laotians (81%), Cambodians (81%) and Asian Indians (77%).
From 2005-09, Hindi speakers in the U.S. were estimated at 527,481, trailing only speakers of Chinese (2,380,453), Tagalog (1,441,799), Vietnamese (1,200,709) and Korean (1,041,030) among Asian languages.
Numbers of speakers of other South Asian languages were: Urdu, 326,310; Gujarati, 304,102; Punjabi, 209,835; Bengali, 188,452; Telugu, 171,015; Tamil, 132,573; Malayalam, 116,486; Marathi, 53,436; Kannada, 37,377; Nepali, 37,240 [This, is significantly higher now with the influx of Bhutanese-Nepali refugees.  Some of them are accounted for in the census, but not all. I would guess that the number of Nepali speakers may be actually twice this total.]; and Sinhalese, 22,336.
Only 22% of Indian Americans five years of age and older from 2007-09 were limited English proficient, compared to 46% for Bangladeshis and 28% for Pakistanis.
Taiwanese and Indian Americans led all Asian groups in higher educational attainment, with 73% to 68%, respectively, having a bachelor’s degree or higher. In third place were Malaysians at 57%.
The percentage of Indian Americans living in poverty was 8% in the 2007-09 time period. Poverty rates were highest for Hmong (26%), Bangladeshis (20%), Cambodians (18%) and Pakistanis (15%). Both Indians and Pakistanis in the U.S. had 9% of the seniors ages 64 or above living in poverty. In the Bangladeshi community that figure was 16%.
The survey also has Asian American data on unemployment, occupations, home ownership, health disparities, suicide rates and the uninsured. [I would very much like to see this information as well.]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On the Soccer Field, a Roster Full of Refugees - NYTimes.com

Here's a an interesting story about the United Nations soccer league.  Didn't know it existed?  Neither did I.  But it really is a fun snapshot of diaspora.  Enjoy!


Shafiq Haidari, 28, who arrived from Afghanistan in July, plays on a team that includes numerous refugees and competes in a United Nations soccer league.On the Soccer Field, a Roster Full of Refugees - NYTimes.com: "The refugee team is fielded by the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental international relief organization that works with immigrants fleeing oppression. The refugee team has six players who have come in recent months from countries including Guinea, Mauritania and Sierra Leone."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hunger Strike in Nepali Refugee Camp

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what to make of this story.  For the past few days, I've been following, with some level of confusion, the development in Nepal's Beldangi 2 camp.  There a young Bhutanese-Nepali woman by the name of Durga Bista has spearheaded a hunger strike with about a dozen other women.  They have vowed to "fast unto death" unless their demands are met and are now a few days into the process.  Their demands?  They appear to be calling upon the Nation of Nepal to grant them "refugee status".

Now, what does that exactly mean?  That's where the confusion comes in.  Bista has said that the group is not asking to become Nepali citizens.  Rather they want to be granted refugee status.  Of course, in the United States, being granted refugee status means that you can legally live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis and begin a process towards obtaining citizenship.  In Nepal, I assume that this is somewhat different.  However, it seems clear enough that Bista and her companions want to be granted some kind of permanent, legal status -- to live and work in Nepal.  The best I can discern is that this group consists of those who reject 3rd country resettlement for whatever reason.  

Anyway, the former camp secretary of Beldangi 2 lives here in Wheaton (he's one of my Nepali brothers actually) so I'm going to do a bit of inquiry to see if I can get a better handle on what's going on.  Since some of you may be concerned, as I am, about these women, I will report back any insights I am able to glean.  Below is a video of Durga Bista explaining her group's demands.  It is in Nepali and I've already been unsuccessful in trying to translate it -- kati chito boleko!


AMENDMENT:  I've just come across another story.  It has actually just left me more confused however.  I can't figure out whether those fasting represent all the people in the camp or just a small portion of people who aren't fully considered as refugees for some reason.  The numbers don't work in the story.  For example, at one point the article refers to 37,000 people who are living a "miserable life" in the camps.  Later, however, we read that "55,000 refugees from Bhutan continue to dwell" in the camps.  Not sure what's going on with those numbers.  Plus the first paragraph says that they are demanding "refugee status and other facilities as enjoyed by by their fellow refugees" in Beldangi 2.  My question is, what are the special circumstances of these women that cause them to not enjoy the benefits of other refugees?  And, who exactly do they represent?

AMENDMENT 2:  Okay, now another story that does shed a bit of light, but just a bit.  Here we get this rather vague statement, "Some 3,749 Bhutanese refugees in five camps . . . have not received identity cards due to various technical reasons and they have been deprived of the government relief package".  The term "various technical reasons" sounds intentionally non-specific.  What technical reasons?  Incorrectly filled out paperwork?  Not really being from Bhutan?  There is sort of a wide range of possibilities.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Process of Raising Up and Appointing Spiritual Leaders

Spending time today thinking through the subject of raising up leaders. In particular, I'm taking notes and formulating ideas for a process of licensing and ordaining pastors/elders. Below are some links that I've found helpful and high-quality today. If you have your own thoughts, please do share in the comment section.

My own experience left a little something to be desired. When my first church licensed me to the ministry (on my 18th birthday), it was pretty simple. I was asked to preach my first sermon. Did that. Got a license. While I am certainly grateful for my old church's confidence in me, I'm still looking for something a bit more substantive.

1. Here a simple blog article by Kevin DeYoung that briefly describes some "Requisite Skills" for pastors.  I like this and, having done this now for nearly 15 years, agree with his points.

2. J. Hampton Keathley has written a more expansive article on the qualifications of elders and deacons at Bible.org.  Also good stuff here and pretty thorough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hallowing Thy Name in All Things: Possessio as the Aim of Contextualization

Thanks to a recent comment on another post by "Jim", I have come across an article by my friend, H.L. Richard. I am posting below a link to the article and strongly encourage any of you that are interested in contextualization issues to take a look. H.L. and I have spoken in my home about the concept of possessio as distinct from the earlier missiological concept of accomodatio. He was the first one to tell me about the Dutch missiologist Johan Herman Bavinck (although I already had 1 Cor. 3:21 bookmarked on my phone's Bible app with just such an application in mind). Anyway, I really love the article that H.L. has written and find myself heartily agreeing with it. Please do check it out. In case you don't have time just now, here is the Bavinck quote that H.L. provides:

Here note that the term “accommodation” is really not appropriate as a description of what actually ought to take place. It points to an adaptation to customs and practices essentially foreign to the gospel. Such an adaptation can scarcely lead to anything other than a syncretistic entity, a conglomeration of customs that can never form an essential unity....We would, therefore prefer to use the term possessio, to take in possession. The Christian life does not accommodate or adapt itself to heathen forms of life, but it takes the latter in possession and thereby makes them new....Within the framework of the non-Christian life, customs and practices serve idolatrous tendencies and drive a person away from God. The Christian life takes them in hand and turns them in an entirely different direction; they acquire an entirely different content. Even though in external form there is much that resembles past practices, in reality everything has become new. The old has in essence passed away and the new has come. Christ takes the life of a people in his hands, he renews and re-establishes the distorted and deteriorated; he fills each thing, each word, and each practice with a new meaning and gives it a new direction. Such is neither “adaptation,” nor accommodation; it is in essence the legitimate taking possession of something by him to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth. (Bavinck, Johan H., An Introduction to the Science of Missions, 1960.)

Anyway, terms like accommodation and adaptation are certainly related to the concept of contextualization (particularly the latter). However, they must not be understood as synonyms for it. Rather, contextualization for the Christ-follower is an intentional imitation of Christ's incarnation and, as Bavink and Richard has pointed out, is aimed at possessio -- of taking possession of all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and for His glory. I was reading from an old (non-missiological) book by Alan Redpath and find there a helpful insight. Redpath speaks of the "hallowing of God's name" in all things. He said that as a Christian worker "this concern will be uppermost in everything I do in my Master's name. Whatever service you or I may undertake, our first thought in it all will be, 'Is this for His glory?' Can I write 'Hallowed be Thy name' over that?" (Redpath, Alan, Victorious Praying, 1957.) While it wasn't in Redpath's mind, I believe that this ought to be a kind of operational question for the missionary and Christ-follower who examines some form, ritual, tradition, festival or other element from a given religio-cultural context. "Can I write 'Hallowed be Thy name' over that?" Not as it is perhaps, but as it could be once taken possession of and made to submit to Christ's Lordship. And it should certainly be our aim to write "Hallowed be Thy name" over as much as we possibly can!

It actually takes me back to a worship and missions project that I was involved with years ago in Paris, France. Those were the days when I was sang and played harmonica for a small-time Christian band. We spent a few weeks playing acoustic sets in various subway stations throughout the Paris, especially in the heavily North African parts of town. Of course we used the opportunities to distribute Bibles, Jesus films, and similar items but one of our driving motivations was simply to worship the Lord where he wasn't being worshiped. Yes, we were influenced by John Piper's famous adage, "Mission exists because worship doesn't." I find that same impulse with me today, driving me to take possession of those things, those traditions, practices, forms, and festivals over which I find no banner, "Hallowed be Thy name". I long to engage that thing, whatever it is. I long to bring the incarnate Lord Jesus to bear in, through, against that thing. I long to see that banner lifted up. Over a Nepali baby naming ceremony -- "Hallowed be Thy name". Over a traditional celebration of Dashain or Deepawali -- "Hallowed be Thy name". Over a language like Sanskrit -- "Hallowed be Thy name". Over all things and among all peoples -- "Hallowed be Thy name".

Okay, enough from me. Here is the link to H.L.'s wonderful article:

Mission Frontiers - All Things are Yours: "In a classic text on cross-cultural ministry Paul stated his policy of becoming all things to all men so that by all means he might save some (1 Cor. 9:22). This is sometimes treated as a specialist approach for experts in cross-cultural encounter, but the Bible presents it as a model for all ministry. It is exemplified in the incarnational pattern of Jesus who, due to the Father’s great love for the world, was sent as a true human being into a specific historical and cultural context to announce and effectuate salvation for the world."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ahimsa, Nirvana, the World's Oldest Religion and Erie, PA

In an article posted on GoErie.com, I like the fact that author Joel Tuzynski considers the city of Erie fortunate for being able to welcome refugee groups like the Bhutanese-Nepalis.  Like the Buffalo author, he wants his readers to embrace their newest neighbors.  This is good and such sentiment should be applauded.  Tuzynski, who directs the Multicultural Community Resources Center in Erie (which I have seen personally), also issues in the article a firm and heartfelt call for the citizenry of Erie to band together to fight against targeted violence against the Bhutanese.  Since I know what is going on in Erie, I join in this call.  


However, I don’t appreciate the way Tuzynski talks about the Hinduism of these refugees.  There are three quick points to make.  (1) Tuzynski claims that the Bhutanese-Nepalis adhere to the concept of “ahimsa” (non-violence/injury) and are thus, “by nature”, a peaceful people.  The problem with this claim is that most Bhutanese-Nepalis haven’t the foggiest idea what “ahimsa” means.  Those that do will normally interpret primarily (even exclusively) in terms of dietary rules (vegetarianism).  What is more, a closer look at their history reveals that they are not at all averse to the use of violence, war, or revolt.  Short of that, just watch practically any Nepali film (including the ones produced by Bhutanese-Nepalis) and see how non-violent they are.  The fact of the matter is that “ahimsa” plays a negligible role in the Hinduism of most Bhutanese.  On the contrary, the Bhagavad Gita is probably the most commonly read Hindu shastra among them – hardly a text that advocates non-violence.  


(2) Tuzynski refers to “nirvana” as the Hindu’s “highest state of existence” and says that the Bhutanese view life as the ongoing quest to achieve nirvana.  While the idea of nirvana is present in Hinduism and spoken of in the Gita, Tuzynski seems to be conflating the Buddhist with the Hindu worldview.  Nirvana is a term that is essentially unknown to most Bhutanese-Nepalis.  They will instead speak of salvation using a term like “mukti” or perhaps “moksha” (which are somewhat synonymous with nirvana).  They more commonly talk of going to “baikoontha” or “swargya” (heaven) but even more than this are interested in the spirit world and trying to avoid upsetting ancestral spirits or becoming a ghost (preta).  Tuzynski fails to appreciate the folk Hinduism that is really what dominates the worldviews of the Bhutanese and instead mistakenly paints a false picture.  


(3) Tuzynski falls for the PR and repeats the notion that Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion.  There are some many problems with such a statement that it is difficult to know where to begin.  For one, the idea that Hinduism is a single and cohesive religious system is preposterous.  It is an umbrella that is more parallel to a term like “Western Civilization” than “Christianity”.  The reality is that scores of distinct religious groups exist within the cultural complex called “Hindu” (including, by the way, some Christians).  One must also point out that the term Hinduism has only been around for a couple centuries and the term Hindu isn’t much older than that.  The concept of “religion” is foreign to South Asian worldviews and arises, as a category distinct especially from government, from a particularly Western context.  To suggest that South Asians even spoke of “religion” in this way until recent days is anachronistic.  What is more, most Nepalis don’t really speak of “religion” in this way.  The term they use in Nepali is the Sanskrit word “dharma” which is hardly equivalent to what Westerners mean by “religion”.  What we are left with is a statement like, “It would seem that the Rg Veda is very old – of comparable age to the Jewish Torah,” but this is hardly the same thing as saying that “Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion” especially considering that the Vedas play at best a nominal role in the lives of most Hindus and are rejected altogether by many others.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Buffalo Without Borders and Refugee Comfort Zones

Came across an article promoting a refugee cultural event in Buffalo, NY called “Buffalo Without Borders”.  The article appeared recently in Buffalo Rising a kind of online city guide.  First, I applaud the author for trying to encourage the general populace of that city to get out and get to know a bit more about their newest neighbors – the thousands of refugees that call that cold city home.  I’ve been to Buffalo several times and can attest that there has been a significant refugee population there for a long time.  But, there was one line in the article that I think ought to be challenged a bit.  The author writes: “This past summer was the first time that I saw some of the Burmese population starting to explore Elmwood Avenue, and that was a welcome sign that meant that they were beginning to explore outside of their comfort zones.”  I take issue with the notion that people who have been forcibly and violently removed from their country, have lived for years in refugee camps, and have been rather unwillingly resettled in some of the worst, crime-ridden neighborhoods of freezing Buffalo, NY are just “beginning to explore outside their comfort zones”.  What comfort zones?  Their bed-bug infested apartments?  The public aid office?  The crummy job only the lucky ones get to work?  Beyond this, Burmese refugees have been in Buffalo since at least 2007.  The notion that they haven’t visited downtown Buffalo yet is incredulous.  The significance of the author’s statement lies in the fact that this past summer was the first time he noticed them there.  It wasn’t the first time they were there. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More than 55K Bhutanese resettled- What to expect now

Well, we are now well past the halfway mark in the resettlement process of Bhutanese-Nepali refugees to "third countries". For those of you that are working among these people groups in the United States, the relevance of this is that you should not expect much more primary population growth of the Bhutanese communities that are in your cities. We are now well into the secondary resettlement phase during which refugees leave cities of initial resettlement and move to secondary cities. I suspect that the current economic situation and resulting high number of layoffs will actually serve to increase this secondary movement as rumors of better jobs and services prompt refugees to risk moving from their initial resettlement points.

Other impetuses for secondary resettlement include the desire to reunite with family members, marriages, and the desire to escape poor conditions such as high crime rates or cold weather. Here in the Wheaton, Illinois area, we have been mostly on the receiving end of secondary resettlement but we've thus far experienced very little of it. We have seen a few of our young women marry and move to other cities and at least one case of an individual moving elsewhere for work.

The reality of secondary resettlement underscores the importance of forming national networks to serve the needs of these people and engage in Kingdom work among them. If you are interested in being a part of such a network, do let me know via the comment section or email. No official network has been formed as of yet, but there are a couple useful tools that we can connect you with in this regard.

Below is the full text of a Himalayan News Service article announcing the number of those resettled from the Nepal camps:

The Himalayan Times : 50‚000 Bhutanese resettled - Detail News : Nepal News Portal: "HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE DAMAK: Around half of the one lakh Bhutanese refugees that were residing in Nepal have been resettled in various countries under the third-country resettlement programme.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 55,728 refugees have reached eight different countries under the programme, which was launched in 2008. According to UNHCR, most of the refugees have settled in the US.

The International Organisation for Migration has been involved in the refugee resettlement. Some refugees in the camps have been demanding repatriation. However, their number is believed to be very low. Goldhap camp has been merged with the one in Beldangi after only a few refugees remained in the camps. Timai camp will also be merged, said UNHCR."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Externalized Pathology and Internalized Identity « Flexner Book Club Blog

Below, I link to an article by Jessica Lee that relates to refugees and mental health. I think this is a huge issue and I applaud Lee for the challenge that she is issuing to health care providers who find themselves treating refugees. I certainly believe she is on the right track. Typical Western psychological diagnoses probably miss the mark in refugee cases. Lee suggests insights derived from Freud which effectively pushes back against a overly simplistic diagnosis such as anxiety or depression. However, Freudian analyses should be expected to likewise fall short as they too arise from a specifically Western cultural context. Western sociologists and psychologists will have a hard time fully grasping what’s going on with refugees as long as they don’t wrestle well with the specific anthropological and diasporological dynamics relevant to their cases. For example, Lee's article doesn’t make mention of survival and dependency issues and the male-emasculating effects of camp life. There is no mention of the influence of folk Hinduism, high-context communication, or social collectivism on Bihan’s situation. So again, I think she is on to something and I applaud it. Health professionals must be challenged to go deeper and think more critically about these cases if wellness is truly desired. Of course, as is often the case (wink, wink), getting a missiologist to weigh in on things can just really help everyone all around.

Externalized Pathology and Internalized Identity « Flexner Book Club Blog: "Externalized Pathology and Internalized Identity
by Jessica Lee
I work with refugees in Philadelphia. Butler’s chapter Melancholy Gender/Refused Identification makes me reconceptualize my clients’ struggles in the resettlement process. Butler expands on Freud’s idea of melancholia into a discussion of melancholic incorporation, arguing that identity results from disavowed grief. She states, “the lost object is, in that sense, made coextensive with the ego itself” (p. 247). Many of the refugees I encounter exhibit melancholia—where they are “unwilling to avow and hence grieve” the loss of their homeland. For these refugees, perhaps melancholia is what enables them to internalize their national identity."

A primer on plight of Bhutanese refugees - News

Here's a brief and helpful little article to introduce you in 10 minutes to the Bhutanese Refugee situation.

A primer on plight of Bhutanese refugees - News:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Road to Manila: Lausanne Diasporas, One Year After Cape Town 2010 | The Lausanne Global Conversation

My friend, Joy Tira, has posted an exciting article on the Lausanne Global Conversation updated the Church on diaspora mission happenings during the past 12 months. Joy leads the newly formed Global Diasporas Network which was commissioned by the Lausanne Movement at Cape Town 2010 and on which I serve as "Diaspora Missions Catalyst". I hope you will take some time to read this and that it will stimulate you and your church to embrace more fully what God is doing among diasporas.

Road to Manila: Lausanne Diasporas, One Year After Cape Town 2010 | The Lausanne Global Conversation: "It’s been almost a year since my last post during the height of Lausanne III or Cape Town 2010, in Cape Town South Africa. Since then, I have been on the move and have not been blogging lately, but Lausanne Diasporas (LD) is alive and well. It is kicking into the new millennium.
Before I re-launch into the blogosphere, let me give you a brief rundown of Lausanne Diaspora’s activity in the past 12 months.
Recall that the “Diaspora Agenda” (i.e. evangelizing, discipling, and mobilizing the people on the move) was presented and articulated during the October 20th multiplex and plenary session. It is evident that the Global Church, as represented by the World Evangelical Alliance and Lausanne Movement, has embraced the “Diaspora Agenda” as presented and articulated in the Seoul Declaration on Diaspora Missiology. Also read through the Cape Town Commitment statement on “reaching out to scattered people” in section IIC.5 below:
"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Collection of Parables of Lord Sri Jesus

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Evangelical and Frontier Mission Book Now Available!!!

Hey everyone! I've been on a bit of a hiatus from blogging.  Well, today I wanted to break my silence by letting you know that you can now purchase the book Evangelical and Frontier Mission: Perspectives on Global Progress of the Gospel (for which I am a contributing author) from the Regnum website.  I haven't actually received my own copy yet, so I can't speak for the rest of the book.  However, I will say that I had a great time writing a big chapter on Cape Town 2010 in which I assess the impact and anticipate the legacy of that 3rd Lausanne Congress.  I truly wish that every Christian leader would read that chapter and be moved to embrace a much larger vision of God's Church.

Now, what else can you expect from this book?  Well, I know that my chapter is sandwiched between chapters by Enoch Wan and the late Ralph Winter.  Not bad company in a missiological text.  There are also chapters by Rene Padilla, Bob Priest, Scott Moreau, and others.  So, besides the fact that I'm one of the authors, this is the kind of book that I would actually want to buy at full price -- and there are precious few of those in existence.  Here are the "tails" --



Evangelical and Frontier Mission
Perspectives on the Global Progress of the Gospel
A. Scott Moreau and Beth Snodderly

Buy online from OCMS. 
Paperback: £28.79Our Price: £21.27.

BUY FROM REGNUM NOW!!!

The centennial celebrations of the Edinburgh 1910 conference offered Christians of all stripes multiple opportunities to reflect on the past century of mission. Over the course of the twentieth century one of the stories of the church that has moved towards center stage is the growth of evangelicalism around the world. While certainly until the late 1980s this went largely unnoticed among the academic elite of the world, even so by then the vast majority of the missionaries serving to and from every corner of the globe were be framed in some way by this evangelical surge. As we reflect on the past century, then, the stories of the evangelical world church deserve to be heard.