First presentation –
Today’s presentations were very powerful and helped us to understand the different challenges that different cultures have around the world. Bishop David Lai shared the story of the Diocese of Taiwan which developed after the Kuomintang Army retreated and the American troops arrived to protect the Taiwanese of being overtaken by Mao’s troops imposing Communism and persecuting all religions.
The Taiwanese Episcopalians have grown and continue growing. They are known very well by their schools, kindergartens and head start programs. I was so impressed by the strong faith and their willingness to share their faith. I pray that we stop being shy and be more courageous in inviting others to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
One interesting program they ran this year was a course on Christianity. The purpose was to prepare their membership to know their faith and them proclaim it.
(Also note Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves that happens to be in a table next to mine.)
The second presentation of the day was shared by the Rev. Peter Koon of Hong Kong, who talked about the issues of being a church in a changing society. The recent riots of the people demonstrating against the Beijing Communist decision of not recognizing the choice of the people of Hong Kong to lead the area, affects the life of Christians there. He explained the “One Country, Two Systems” theory which allows the people of Hong Kong a certain amount of freedom and keep the stability of the area while still being part of the People’s Republic of China.
I was very impressed by the other speaker Gareth Jones (left on the photo next to Bishop Wolf of Kansas who was moderating), and how the Hong Kong Seminary has transformed their theological studies to prepare the future clergy. They have moved from a generic theological education to truly identify their Anglican identity. The seminary has grown from nine to over 80 students.
The most powerful presentation of the day came from Bishop Azariah on the daily threat that over a quarter million Christians suffer daily from radical Islam and the acquiesce of the more moderate Muslims that are afraid of the wrath of the radicals.
He asked for our prayers, but also wants us to be aware of the dangers of radical Islam. He warned Americans and asked us to learn more about Islam and not ignore the power of the radical Muslims that seem to be growing daily. Islam is being hijacked by extremists that want to impose the Sharia law.
Bishop Azariah spoke of the many meetings where interfaith groups participate. They occur including those with the Pakistani government where they recognize the discrimination against Christians, but when the time comes to do something nothing happens and the persecution continues.
He stressed the existing “Blasphemy Laws” of the country by which many Christians are jailed. More outrageous are the existing forced conversions used against women. If a Muslim man likes a pretty Christian girl he can by force make her to declare allegiance to Islam and her family has no recourse.
Bishop Ian Douglass of Connecticut asked Bishop Azariah about the bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar almost a year ago. On September 22, 2013, 175 Christians Pakistanis (mainly women and children) were killed by two bombs. Eight days after that, two more bombs exploded, targeting Christians. Bishop Azariah will be baptizing and confirming at All Saints on that same day this year and he is asking for our prayers. He said that a church without a cross is not a church.
Regardless of all the persecution we are called to love our neighbor even those who slap and persecutes us daily. We are called to recognize the otherness in that other person. “Keeping the faith is a very difficult exercise,” he said.
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.