Archive for January, 2011

Baptists and ‘Thick’ Human Rights: Let Us Not Abandon Our Baby

Monday, January 31st, 2011

January’s over!.. Way too fast, really (reflected in the absence of blog entries for the last two weeks), but there we are. IBTS is in the middle of its doctoral colloquia, M-level intensives, and – as of tonight – at the beginning of a conference named ‘Living to Tell: A Gospel Informed Perspective on Human Rights, Justice and Peace.’ The conference has been organised by Thomas Helwys Centre for the Study of Religious Freedom, the Institute of Systematic Study of Contextual Theologies, and the Institute for Mission and Evangelism – and, if you’re still not impressed by long titles, also serving as a platform for launching the Centre for Just Peacemaking Studies – but more on that in some other entry.

The opening lecture was offered by Dr Glen Stassen, whose 75th birthday this Conference is celebrating. Glen is known to those interested in and committed to issues of human rights and just peacemaking, and tonight he was highlighting the Baptist contribution to the development of human rights which, he said,  still so often goes unacknowledged or under appreciated: “So many just skip from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, as if the 17th century never happened.” His urge was for us baptists to remember and uphold our own heritage: “Let us not abandon our baby.”  For that, our understanding of human rights must be deepened, or ‘thickened’, so that its origins in the Good News of Jesus are evident.

Glancing over the room and seeing all these dear friends and guests who turned up for the lecture, I could not help but start thinking of the many and various ways they are – or will be – faced with the struggle for peace and human rights, at times on an everyday basis.  That struggle will not be just for themselves, but for others too (perhaps even for others primarily?..). May we remember the wisdom of the parable of Jesus to allow the wheat and the weeds grow together. The Master of the field will sort them out and take care of the harvest.

– Lina

Winter…

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

is still here, although the melt of the last few days has greatly reduced the amounts of snow around the campus. Vladko, our Campus Steward, is hoping the melt won’t end till all the snow’s gone (so that it’s safe to walk around when it gets colder again). Some others, however, are remembering the snowy days with nostalgia. Diana, our CAT student from Lithuania, has captured some of the snowy beauties on her camera:

Lingua Franca

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Friends from Burma singing during Agape

 Lingua franca “an additionally acquired language system which serves as a common means of communication for speakers of different first languages.” 

In the period of one week I have had three experiences with a lingua franca. Perhaps the most meaningful was yesterday at the Agape Meal of our Sarka Valley Community Church.  A group of over 30 Burmese refugees recently settled here in the Czech Republic attended church today.  Since most Burmese Christians are from a Baptist background, they were joining us today in order to be with a group of fellow believers.  The service was joyous as we experienced the wonder of worshiping God together!  A young Burmese woman who regularly attends SVCC interpreted the service into Burmese.  However, she told us that in this small group there were people who spoke five (5) different languages and that Burma has over 100 different language groups.  So even with her interpreting, some of the group could not understand.  It seemed to matter very little as we all were drawn together in music and prayers. Later as we ate our meal and talked I asked if anyone among the group spoke Chinese since Burma borders China.

Photo of Burma in the 1940's from pictures my dad made there as he drove to China across the Burma Road

I knew this well since in the 1940’s my dad was with the first group of American soldiers who drove from India across Burma and then up the Burma Road into Kunming, China to join in the air war effort against Japan. 

I had stood on the Kunming end of that road myself in 1986 and looked into Burma.  The interpreter pointed to one young man and said, “I think he might.”  I walked over to him and asked, “Ni hui bu hui shou putong hua?”  He gave me an odd look, I repeated my question and he answered.  “Hui.  Wo hui shuo yi diar.”  Thus my “Can you speak Mandarin?’ had been answered with ‘I can speak a little.”  We then established who his wife was and his son and that he had only the one child.  I learned he is a massage therapist but will need to get a certificate here to practice.  He learned where I had lived in China and other tiny things.  But we had broken the barrier – I had no Burmese. He had no English.  We met in a third language and shared something of our lives. I then learned that another of the men, with the same professional skills, also spoke Mandarin. Now we had not only worshiped together but we were drawn closer by sharing words. 

All the food!

Earlier this same week I spent the night in the sleeping car of a train with two women. One was Australian and the other Russian.  The Australian spoke English. The Russian – French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.  I was the one in between in this situation as the Russian and I spoke Spanish and the Australian got what I could give her of our conversation and I gave the Russian what I could of the Australian’s conversation.  Neither my Spanish nor my Chinese is fluent but with ‘just enough’ fluency miracles can happen.  Even earlier in the week my enjoyment of my time in Spain was enlarged when someone I needed to speak to in Spain could speak at least a little English. 

 Thank God for a most interesting week in my life and for reminding me again how wonderful it is to communicate with the people who surround me. Life is not meant to be lived alone.  Community is all important and it takes communication to make a community. 

– Nancy

New Year Greetings to all our readers!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

The IBTS “blogging” community greets all our regular readers with warmest good wishes for 2011.

The accent in our community this year will be on peace and human rights. We have an exciting research and conference programme lined up for you all and hope you will take the opportunity to visit Praha (Prague) and be part of the experience.

It still is not too late to book in for our Thomas Helwys Lectures on Religious Freedom and Human rights to be held in the early days of February. Renowned Baptist scholar and ethicist Professor Glen H Stassen (Fuller Seminary and IBTS) will be delivering the Thomas Helwys lecture. His books on Christian Ethics and Just Peacemaking and his work on the “Sermon on the Mount” have drawn international acclaim and you can be sure of being part of a ground-breaking experience to join us in Praha (Prague) for this great occasion!

Full details at www.ibts.eu. Look up the Research Institutes – Thomas Helwys.

– Keith