World Student Christian Federation - Asia-Pacific Region (WSCF-AP)
Other Publications
Annual Report 2011
HRJP Water Campaign Resource Material
When Pastors & Priests Prey...
Contact Us !
Publications
No. 3, 2002
The artwork in cover is
designed by Jung
Tee-Wook from the
Ecumenical Youth
Council in Korea
(EYCK) for the
Anti-War Campaign.
Editorial Team:
Rev. Shin Seung Min
Ms. Necta Montes
Ms. Wong Yick Ching

Praxis

Issue No. 3, September–December 2002

 

Contents:

 

Editorial  •  Anti-War Campaign Position Paper  •  Perspective  •  Women Space  •  Solidarity

Editorial:

Christmas is approaching again, in the midst of a potential war in Iraq and Middle East, of escalating violence, of increasing hunger, poverty and injustice in the world. As a community of Christian students, we hear the cries of the suffering people and witness the very spots where the life of God’s creation is vividly negated.

We are situated at a critical juncture of time confronting with the most crucial call to our faith: the call to arise from death to life! We are challenged by the fact that Jesus Christ calls us to come out of death and to hear the voice of life. How can we hear this voice? And how can we rise up from death to life? In this Christmas season, we should be able to find time to reflect all these challenges.

The Asia-Pacific region will host the 33rd General Assembly of the Federation next year in Chiangmai. Guided by the theme “Talitha Cum: Arising to Life in Abundance,”(Mark 5:41), the Asia-Pacific region together with the Federation will critically reflect on the Kairotic significance of the “Life” and articulate its life-centred vision and mission in responding to the question of “Life”.

In this issue, we highlighted the significance of Peace through our anti-war statement. Peace in the world is at critical moment. We, as student should not be silent. We should voice out against any wars that destroy the life of God’s creation.

In Perspective, Glenda Rocas, one of the ExCo members articulated SCM’s vision and mission in conjunction with the globalisation. In Human Rights & Solidarity, one of our interns, Natalia Bachelor gave an overview of the plight of the people living in Myanmar. The Women’s Space covered a session taken from the programme, Women Doing Theology 2002, in which to instill the leadership potential of women students.

Finally, on behalf of all movements in the region, the Asia-Pacific office would like to bring our sincere Christmas greetings to all Praxis readers.

Shin Seung Min
Regional Secretary

 

Editorial  •  Anti-War Campaign Position Paper  •  Perspective  •  Women Space  •  Solidarity

Anti-War Campaign Position Paper:

World Student Christian Federation Asia-Pacific Region

No War! Give Chance to Peace!

Last month, we organised the 3rd National Coordinator’s Meeting of the WSCF AP in Thailand. The Coordinators of 13 national Student Christian Movements (SCM) were present together with officers and staffs.

We discussed several critical issues both on the regional and global level, and we reached a common understanding that “the US-led war situation is the most urgent agenda for the SCMs to voice out”.

We have decided therefore, to encourage our members to actively involve in promoting-peace and campaigning against war. This campaign includes the following action plans:

  1. Declaring our position – “No War! Give Chance to Peace!”
  2. Putting up anti-war poster campaigns in the campuses, churches and streets
  3. Signature campaign against war in the campus and on the streets
  4. Fund-raising for war victims through skipping meals
  5. Organising anti-war seminars and street demonstrations

Peace in the world is at a critical moment! We should not be silent! We should voice out with the prophetic vision as SCMs have always been doing.

We sincerely ask you to support and join our Anti-War campaign with prayers and action.

 

“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth!” Since the September 11 attacks, the United States have been accelerating its efforts to rally the world behind its so-called borderless war against terrorism. From the arbitrary branding of traditional enemy countries as “The Axis of Evil”, to the indiscriminate attacks on Afghanistan, and the present determination to wage war against Iraq, the United States government has no qualms about sacrificing thousands of innocent lives in the name of the “War on Terror”. While we do not believe that any nation has the right to possess weapons of mass destruction, we are against the use of war to disarm Iraq by the United States-led coalition. We base this appeal on our concern for the people of Iraq, on our common humanity with those who will suffer and on our concern for the Asia-Pacific Region who are likely to be targeted in retaliation, as the recent bombs in Bali and the Philippines have shown and the destination of many refugees that will result from this new war.

The United States government has convinced the American people that they are threatened by a global network of terrorist set for more deadly attacks. They seek to convince their allies of this also, and falsely state that they seek to win the war against terrorism for the sake of world peace. Undoubtedly the American people were victims on September 11; however, instead of seeking insight into how this terrible event occurred, or seeking a peaceful solution, the United States is now lashing out with war and is using this opportunity to settle long standing disputes that are unrelated to the September 11 attacks. The victims of these wars were not responsible for the September 11 attacks, and rather than seeking justice the United States is seeking arbitrary revenge on countries who share the same religion as the attackers. The United States is also using the “War on Terror” as a pretext for development of their foreign and economic interests rather than safeguarding the national security of any country, just as they have done countless times before.

Asia-Pacific allies of the United States are rushing to support this senseless war as well. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for example, has opened the Philippine territory for US military training against terrorists, and the Australian Prime Minister John Howard has offered Australian troops to be deployed in Iraq. And despite public opinion being opposed to this Macapagal-Arroyo has even pledged the Philippine territory as a launching pad, if the United States strikes Iraq. Other Asia-Pacific leaders have just as enthusiastically rushed in to offer their support.

The US House of Representatives is in the mood for war, increasing its military budget to an astronomical amount of US$389 billion. These are not the actions of a country claiming they are seeking peace and they will eventually cause the targets of this aggression to fight back with more determination. This will then lead to a cycle of vindictiveness that cannot lead to peace.

In the midst of this chaotic time, we, the Student Christian Movements around the world reiterate our prophetic voice and recall the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God”. We must respond to the events that are unfolding before our eyes by voicing our mission/vision and carrying it out. Our inspiration is Jesus Christ who came into this world to bring genuine peace, even in the most challenging times.

We as Christian students strongly believe that war will not solve the problems currently faced by the world. Nor will war dissolve any feelings of hatred that have already been deeply sown. Neither will war bring justice for those already killed. War will only bring massive destruction, torn lives and families and widen the gulf between nations. As Christian students we demand peace. We want peace that will bring justice, mutual respect for peaceful co-existence and understanding to all creation of God.

We sincerely appeal to all nations to say No War! Give Chance to Peace!

November 18, 2002

SCM Aotearoa/New Zealand
SCM Australia
SCM Bangladesh
SCM Cambodia
SCM Hong Kong
SCM India
SCM Indonesia
SCM Japan
SCM Korea
SCM Philippines
SCM Singapore
SCM Sri-Lanka
SCM Taiwan
SCM Thailand

World Student Christian Federation Asia-Pacific Region
Stephen Hsu, Chair
Edwina Hunter, Vice-Chair
Glenda Roca, ExCo
Vinay Kumar, ExCo
Kim Sung Ran, Member at Large
Shin Seung Min, Regional Secretary
Wong Yock Leng, Regional Women’s Coordinator

 

Editorial  •  Anti-War Campaign Position Paper  •  Perspective  •  Women Space  •  Solidarity

Perspective:

WSCF Mission and Vision

Glenda Rocas

Glenda from the Student Christian
Movement of the Philippines (SCMP)
and the current Executive Committee
member of WSCF, shared this
reflection in the 3rd General Secretary/
National Coordinator’s Meeting in
14-20 October 2002, Thailand.

by Glenda Rocas

Today, I am asked to share on the mission vision of WSCF. What I am going to share with you is a personal reflection brought by my long and continuing journey with WSCF. It is through the Federation that I had been awakened with the importance of confronting and dealing with the women question. It is in my involvement with the Federation that I had a chance to have a genuine fellowship with people of different color, different faith background and people who view things, issues and situation differently. Yet, despite all these differences, friendships and solidarities are built. Perhaps mine and your personal journey of experience in the Federation is a burning proof that what John R. Mott and the rest of the vibrant youths who had envisioned more than a hundred years ago of an ecumenical community amongst student organisations/movement continue to burn brightly among the current generation of SCMs around the world:

WSCF was founded to encourage and coordinate the work of existing national student Christian movements as well as stimulate the formation of united student movements in countries where they did not exist. The formation of WSCF was a radical step toward ecumenical cooperation at a time when no other worldwide non-Roman catholic Christian agency based on independent national organisations.

As we go on with our work of building ecumenical ties, it is of utmost importance for us not to depart from the core of our Christianity which has primarily driven us to work for the Oikomene.

In the old Testament, Israelites were promised by Yahweh of a land flowing with milk and honey, same way in the new testament that Christ had hoped prosperity and abundance for his people, John 10:11 “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.

As Christians, especially in this time of a worldwide economic crisis wreaking havoc in the lives of millions all over the world, WSCF need not only be firm in its vision but should genuinely commit itself towards the realisation of the vision that Christ has laid out. Likewise, vision alone cannot sustain a movement, vision has to be coupled with contextualised strategy and adopt a specific political line in which the vision is being transformed into a powerful material/tangible alternative system.

Current Situation

The current prevailing situation worldwide is a complete antithesis to Christ’s vision. There is unpeace and hunger. United States is preparing to wage war against Iraq. The US Congress has finally put a nod to Bushes’ war mongering in Iraq. With or without the US-Iraq war, the world is living in the midst of unpeace. Globalisation, which has been touted by its promoters to liberate the world in poverty, is a complete lie. In the recently concluded WSCF AP Student Empowerment for Transformation, delegates of national movements have cited the following as the impact of US led globalisation:

Bangladesh remains to be one of the poorest countries in the world with 51% of its population living below poverty line or could hardly afford to have one more meal a day. US have pressured the Bangladesh government to export its gas through multinational petrol companies. Likewise globalisation has spelled the death of Bangladesh weaving industry.

Taiwan, which is considered to be one of Asia’s tiger economies, has started to privatise its public owned businesses giving way to laying off of workers and imposing worsening labour benefits and conditions.

In South Korea, there is massive lay-off due to structural reformation, the poor getting poorer, deterioration of human rights and social welfare.

Thailand is also treading the road of privatisation and reduction.

Poverty in Sri Lanka, Philippines and that brought by policies of globalisation India continues to worsen.

Even so called well-off countries in Asia-Pacific like Australia and Nez Zealand could not escape the impact of globalisation in their environment and economy. Cuts in social welfare especially in health and education are hurting the Australians and Aotearoans.

There is widespread inequity though today is a time of abundance brought by soaring development in science and technology, but sadly it is also a time of hunger for more than half of the world’s population. In the first World Summit held in Rome in 1996, the Heads of State of all countries of the world had “reaffirmed the right to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent to the right of adequate food and fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”. Despite this, 800 million throughout the world continue to sleep in empty stomach and 24,000 people die from hunger, starvation and related diseases.

In the World Bank Development Report 2000-2001, it said, “the World has deep poverty and plenty. Of the world’s 6 billion people, 2.8 billion, almost half live on less than $2 a day and 1.2 billion—a fifth—live on less than $1 a day, with 44 percent living in South Asia. The average income of the richest 20 countries is 37 times the average in the poorest 20—a gap that has doubled in the past 40 years”.

The World Bank Environment Strategy concludes that: “economic development gains have been unevenly distributed, and a large part of the world’s population remains desperately poor. At the same time, environmental factors such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, waterborne diseases and exposure to toxic chemicals threaten the health of millions of people. Natural resources—land, water and forests are being degraded at alarming rates in many countries. The economic costs of environmental degradation have been estimated at 4 to 8 percent of gross domestic product annually in many developing countries”.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Reports indicates that 20 percent of humanity has 92 percent of the cars, consumes 75 percent of the energy, 80 percent of the iron, 81 percent of the paper and 86 percent of the copper. Three hundred fifty nine (359) billionaires have a wealth superior to that of 45 percent of the global population.

This stark reality alone contradicts Christ’s vision of life in abundance. As Christians, where do we base our continuing ministry other than the life and witness of Christ? As long as poverty, unpeace and division among people remain, the burning call of the vision that Christ has laid down will remain to be the blueprint of our mission vision.

But sadly enough, the student movement vis-à-vis the SCMs around the world has to find its momentum back to replicate, if not surpass the active student involvement in the 1960s where students and SCMs have actively participated in the national liberation movement.

Decline in the Student Movement vis-a-vis SCM

I think the WSCF need to reflect on the following points in order to reverse the trend of declining membership. Somehow the local movements need to comprehensively analyse their country’s economic, political and cultural conditions.

1. Commercialisation and Privatisation of Education

The students, especially from the developing countries (to which many of Asian countries belong) basically are from middle class and higher echelon of our society. This fact stems from the reality that university education is not free and therefore not accessible to majority of the youth sector. This reality of inaccessibility of university education is further intensified by the fact that education has become part of the capitalists’ milking cow. Universities are owned by capitalists who only think of profit, therefore the commercialisation of education.

The commercialisation and privatisation of education have greatly intensified in the last years. Even so-called welfare states have passed on to private capitalists its responsibility of education. This condition breeds the situation that only those in the higher class of society can afford education.

This situation makes organising among the students quite difficult, simply because those in the higher class in the society are the few privilege class that enjoys the prevailing social order and therefore does not see the immediacy of bringing about social change. Their economic conditions, does not drive them to put up protest and join social movements for change.

2. “Growing Apathy” among the Students

In the recent years, it is quite noticeable in the national movements reports and sharing on the issue of “growing student apathy” as one of the major culprit in the declining mass membership. There seems to be an attitude of taking it against the students. I think we need to combat this attitude of taking it against the students their individualist attitude, self-centeredness and lack of interest in social concerns. Rather, we need to analyse what are the causes that lead to this phenomenon among the students. Only through understanding the root causes of this situation can we be able to effectively strategise how we can win back the much needed talent, time and energy of the students in social causes.

We need to recognise the fact that the present educational system is first and foremost serving the interests of the capitalists. Though education’s genuine purpose of intellectual pursuit and advancement for humanity’s development continues, it has taken a back seat, as education became one of capitalists’ instruments to preserve status quo. This condition breeds an educational system that does not promote critical thinking, participatory and collective action. Rather it promotes individualism, competition and suppression of academic freedom.

This situation is further intensified in the recent years at the onset of so-called globalisation. Economic recessions even in the most highly industrialised countries and financial crisis all add up to the growing rate of unemployment and labour flexibility. This reality puts a lot of burden and pressure to the students to excel individually in his/her academic studies as this “seems to” serve as a passport to employment. This drives the students in a highly competitive mood and away from engaging into any social participation.

Added to this reality, is the advent of computers and cybernetic (that is highly an individualised type of learning and communication) has captivated the student world. Furthermore, the globalisation of Western culture had been successfully used by the United States to divert student/youth energy in mimicking pop icons rather than question the prevailing world disorder.

Gaining Back Student Movement Momentum

1. Critical Study of the World Situation

SCMs around the world need to study and critically analyse the trend in the world economy and the politico-military might of many big countries. Tools of Analysis are very important in this endeavour. Likewise, studies need not only be confined to a small portion of our membership, it should reach out to many students via small study groups and big forums and symposiums.

2. Persevere in Painstaking Organising

SCMs have to deeply analyse the root causes of the so-called `student’s apathy’. Let us not take it against the students, but rather examine ourselves, how much effort and energy have we committed to encourage students to take active social participation. The present social order is calling us to devote more of our time, talent and efforts to organise the students.

3. Review our Tools of Analysis

I invite SCMs to review the tools of analysis we are using from national to regional to global level as there are a lot of pseudo-progressive framework of analysis that are wasting our energies, but does not really offer any tangible and viable alternative to present social disorder.

Cost of Realising the Vision

In the process of realising the vision, not one but many SCMs and students have fallen in the dark brought by political and religious persecution. It is a fact that working for social change to realise abundant life, peace and equality among the people is a long and thorny road. Even Christ himself had suffered death through crucifixion (which is considered in that time as the highest political death) in his quest to bring about social change.

Christians have always been persecuted for our belief and vision but this should not coward us in the process because the Lord assured us of God’s refuge. Psalm 91:3-9 “For God rescues you from the snare of the fowler from the destroying pestilence. God will cover you and under God’s wings you shall take refuge; God’s faithfulness is a buckler and a shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrows that flies by the day. Not the pestilence that roams in darkness nor the devastating plague at noon. Though a thousand fall at your side ten thousand at your right side, near you it shall not come. Rather with your eyes shall you behold and see the requital of the wicked. Because you have the Lord for your refuge. You have made the most High your stronghold”.

It is but natural that in the process of government’s implementation of its economic policies dictated by IMF-WB (International Monetary Fund and World Bank), political repression is in. In the midst of growing repression and exploitation in our region, the more is the challenge for us to respond, the more SCMs should grow in campuses and churches, the more we need to be firm in our mission. And here lies the greater challenge to question the prevailing economic, political and cultural set up. Building SCMs is a minor way to create social consciousness and a venue for unified action thus there is a greater challenge for WSCF to boost the building of SCMs in the countries where political repression is at its highest.

For existing SCMs around the world, there is a need to be more creative in our organising. The government of our countries and foreign exploiters who are behind the perpetuation of globalisation are getting desperate to extract further profit from the people at the expense of people’s rights, thus they are making repressive move to quell any resistance from the people. Historically and until to this day, SCMs have always been at the side of the oppressed and poor and therefore SCMs are a target of repression. Therefore we need to be creative, firm and persevering in our journey towards our vision.

 

Editorial  •  Anti-War Campaign Position Paper  •  Perspective  •  Women Space  •  Solidarity

Women Space:

Creative Methods of Conducting Bible Studies

by Dr. Kathleen Rushton

This is one of the sessions in Women Doing Theology 2002, Christchurch, conducted by Dr. Kathleen Rushton. It is a helpful exercise which the Regional Women’s Programme would like to share with all women SCMers.

 The Scriptures which we inherit are the outcome of generations of meaning-making and story-telling about God, the universe and human persons. This session offers some background and practical ways to continue this task of meaning making as women doing theology in our contexts. We shall explore ways of nourishing our personal lives and gaining skills for our task as women leaders.

I. Sound Practice Requires Sound Theory

  1. Being aware of the three worlds of the biblical text
  2. Exploring traditioning and storytelling
  3. When choosing a biblical text
    • Purpose
    • How the passage is named?
    • A reading is a “cutting” from a section and part of a larger work
    • Translations
  4. Are we retelling biblical stories ethically? Ethics of Reading a Biblical text:
    • The power of Scripture
    • What world does a reading open up?
    • Whose story/voice is not heard?
    • Reading in a non-biblical world
    • Trivialising, sexualising and demonising women
    • Stereotyping people with disabilities, racism, Jewish people

II. Creative Methods of Conducting Bibles Studies

Reflective Methods for Individual Use:

  1. Suggestions for Reading the Scriptures prayerfully
  2. Lectio Divina

Group Methods:

  1. A Method of Scripture Study in all have a chance to speak
  2. Reading in Different Voices
    1. The reading by several people:
      Woman of Samaria. Jn 4:1-42
    2. From perspective of a character:
      HERODIAS. Mk 6:14-29
    3. Retelling the story:
      Text, commentary, re-telling.
      I Cor 1:10-17 Chloe
    4. Scripture/a contemporary figure:
      Mt 15:21-28 Canaanite Woman
    5. Story and Freeze-Act
      Text read, interrupted by a voice of today as group Freeze-Act.
    6. Seeking New Images:
      Art, New Angles, Images from Daily Life
    7. Hearing Some Women’s Voices

Reflective Methods for Individual Use

1. Suggestions for Reading the Scriptures Prayerfully

Attitudes For Prayerful Bible Reading

  1. God does want to communicate with us.
  2. The Bible is a book – this means that the work of interpretation is the meeting place of two particular and very complex factors: ourselves with our ever expanding horizons of experience and the text which is shaped by all the strangeness of the long-distant time and place and the circumstances of its being written by human persons.
  3. We who come to read this sacred book are ordinary persons.

A Method of Prayerful Bible Reading

With these convictions firmly in place, we can approach the prayerful study of Scripture:

  1. Be aware that, since all reading is interpretation, the more we are likely to understand.
  2. Try to be respectful of the historical and cultural distances that separate us from the text, without being paralysed by the difference.
  3. Do not hesitate to do a little research.
  4. Try to read the bible as holistically as possible for, no line of the Bible, like not line of any text has an independent meaning. We are more likely to find meaning and nourishment from a leisurely and prayerful reading of a good part of the text, e.g. a whole parable, or a chapter, or a whole gospel than from reading a sentence or two in isolation.
  5. It is importance to read and re-read a reading.
  6. The Bible should always be read as the Church’s book. This means that the proper context for biblical prayer and study is the faith-life that we share with all believers.
  7. Pay close attention to the passages which make you uncomfortable. Revelation is most clearly revelation when it breaks through our personal biases and social prejudices, and challenges us to change our way of thinking.
  8. Finally, we must read Scripture prayerfully. Through such a reading we seek to discover Jesus so we ourselves, as twenty-first century Christians can confront problems and challenges of our times.

(Adapted from a pamphlet by Sandra M. Schneidners, How to Read the Bible Prayerfully, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1984).

2. Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a form of biblical spirituality that, over time, can transform/change a person into the image of Jesus we meet in Scripture.

Origins:

Acts 8:26-39
Philip and Ethiopian official of Queen Candace (Isaiah 53:7-8)

Desert fathers and mothers -
Spirituality of prayerful reflection on biblical texts

Benedictine monasteries -
Rule of St. Benedict (c.540)

Four steps which need regular practice:

Pray for the gift of a receptive heart.

Begins with the slow, leisurely, attentive reading (lectio) and re-reading of a biblical text.

By spending time with the text, making its words part of you, you move on to meditation on its meaning (meditatio).

Because the text is engaged at the level of experience, the meditation gives rise to prayer (oratio) or response to God, who speaks in and through the text.

Finally, prayer of quiet resting in the verses read, a time of quiet desire for God, or silence with the silence of God.

This prayer may reach that degree of interiority and union with God that the great women and men of the spiritual life have called contemplation (contemplatio) which is the full flowering of prayer in imageless and wordless union with God in the Spirit.

[Sources various including: Sandra M. Schneiders, “Biblical Spirituality”, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, 56.2 (2002): 133-142]

Group Methods

1. A Method of Scripture Study which makes sure everyone
has a chance to speak (Cf. Hans Rudi Weber)

  1. The leader invites the group to sit comfortably and quietly.
  2. The leader reads the scripture passage.
  3. The group silently re-reads the passage, reflects and selects one new insight.
  4. Going around the group in order, one by one each person shares one significant new insight. There is no discussion.
  5. The leader again reads the passage. The group listens anew enriched by each person’s sharing.
  6. Each person silently reflects again. The leader then invites the group to share any new insights going around the group in order, one by one each person shares one significant new insight. There is no discussion.
  7. The leader then invites the group to ask for points for clarification and discussion.

2. Reading in Different Voices

  1. The reading is read by several people who take the parts of narrator, characters and crowd. See Woman at the Well John 4: 1-45.
  2. Write/speak from the perspective of a character:
    Mark 6:14-29ESF. Herodias. But She Said. Pp. 49-50.
    Read by two people.
  3. Retelling the story:
    I Corinthians 1:10-17. Chloe
    - text
    - commentary
    - re-telling the story…
  4. Read along side a person of today or of more recent times:
    Matthew 15:21-28 The Canaanite Woman
  5. Story and freeze-act:
    Gospel text is read interrupted by a voice of today while group Freeze-Act.
    Matthew 5:38-6:6
  6. Seeking new images:
    Art
    Visual Ads
    New angles of stories
    Images for daily life
    Music
  7. Hearing some women’s voices:
    Elizabeth – Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-66
    Mary of Nazareth – Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-35, 39; Matthew 1:18-25;
    Mark 3:31-35; 6:1-3; Act 1:9-14; 2:1-4
    Anna – Luke 2:36-38
    Mother-in-Law of Peter – Matthew 8:14-15
    The Woman with a Haemorrhage – Matthew 9:20-22
    The Official’s Daughter – Matthew: 9:18-19, 23-26
    Herodias and Salome – Matthew 14:1-12
    Justa, the Canaanite Woman – 15: 21-28
    The Poor Widow – Mark 12:41-44
    The Woman Called Sinner – Luke 7:36-50
    Mary Magdalene – Luke 8:1; 23:44-24:11
    Women at a Distance from the Cross and at the Tomb – Matthew 27:50-61; 28:1-10
    Mary and Martha of Bethany – Luke 10:28-42
    The Woman with a Spirit that Crippled Her – Luke 13:10-17
    The Woman, Jesus and the Pharisees – John 7:53-8:11
    The Woman who Anointed Jesus at Bethany – Matthew 26:6-13
    The Woman of Samaria – John 4:1-42
    Sapphira – Acts 5:1-11
    Tabitha – Acts 9:36-42
    Rhoda – Acts 12:1-17
    Lydia – Acts 16:11-15, 40
    Priscilla – Acts 18:1-4, 18-28; Romans 16:3-5a; I Corinthians 16:19; 2Timothy 4:19
    Phoebe – Romans 16:1-2
    Junias – Roman 16:7
    Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Euodia, Syntyche – Romans 16:12; Philippians 4:2-3
    Chloe – I Corinthian 1:10-17
    Corinthian Women Prophets – I Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:33b-36
    The Woman Clothed with the Sun – Revelations 12:1-17
    The Woman Clothed in Purple and Scarlet – Revelations 17:1-18

Parables Featuring Female Characters
The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
The Lost Coins (Luke 15:8-10)
The Persistent Woman (Luke 18:2-5)

Parables of Women’s Work
The Patch and the Wineskins (Mt 9:16-17; Mk 2:21-22; Lk 5:36-37)
The Baker Woman (Mt 13:33; Lk 13:20, 21)
The Flowers of the Field (Mt 6:28-30; Lk 12:27-28)
The Faithful and Abusive Stewards (Lk 12: 41-42)

Parables of Sophia
The Mother Hen (Mt 23:37-39; Lk 13:34-35)
The Yoke (Mt 11:28-29)
The Children (Mt 11:16-19; Lk 7:31-35)

Johannine Figures of Mother and Bride
Born of God (John 1:13; 3:1-10)
The Bride (John 3:29-30)
The Woman Giving Birth (John 16:21)

 

Editorial  •  Anti-War Campaign Position Paper  •  Perspective  •  Women Space  •  Solidarity

Solidarity:

Are We Blind to the Problems
of a Warring Country?

A Look at How the Karen People
in the Southern State of Burma Live Everyday

by Natalia Bachelor
of SCM Aotearoa and WSCF AP Human Rights Intern in Burma Issues
June-August 2002

Following the turnover of Burma from England to the people of Burma in 1948 the planned democracy did not last long. A military junta took power in 1962 during a military coup and has ruled the land with fear since. Burma is a country torn by ethnic differences; all 16 ethnic groups have a different idea of the perfect Burma. The Burman people are the largest ethnic group. They dominate in population and are the group of people who lead the military. Other ethnic groups who felt the exploitation and repression, have established many small armies and have taken up arms against the Burmese and themselves. They have been fighting for over 50 years for independence and democracy.

Policies of the junta have caused many arrests, injuries and deaths. It seems the world can turn a blind eye on what is happening in this country and if it were not for the fact that people have started to vocalise their disgust many countries would feel no problems dealing with this military junta. The land and sea are rich with natural resources and many other countries and big businesses are interested in investing in their share of these resources. But international pressure from human rights groups have slowed the trade with the military junta and stopped most companies from having anything to do with Burma.

But still they ignore the real problems in Burma. The fact that human rights abuses still happen throughout the country is warrant enough to have some strong intervention from the United Nations, but the concerns of groups such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other NGOs are ignored.

Some documented human right abuses range through the following:

  1. Forced Labour – People are given no choice but to work for the military junta. Many villages are forced to send people to work on projects such as roads and military facilities for no wages. Due to recent international pressure some people are being paid. This money comes from the extra taxes demanded from the very village that the workers are from and still there remains no choice but to work. Children, women and men are used for this work, often having to walk for miles to the construction site and provide food for themselves during the long 12-hour workdays.
  2. Forced Portering – Working as slaves for the military. There are hundreds of documented reports of people being used as porters for members of the military. These reports come from both the people used in the portering and ex-soldiers of the junta who have fled in fear or disgust of the treatment of the ethnic minorities. Men are often shot if they are unable to keep up with the well-fed and trained soldiers; there are also many cases of women being raped by the soldiers.
  3. Rape – Both gang and individual rape reports come out of all parts of Burma; it has become a weapon against ethnic minorities. It is also seen by some as a way to breed out the minority races. Recently the Shan people have published a report on 173 incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving 625 girls and women from their state by the Burmese army troops. (Contact details follow this report)
  4. Forced Relocation – Whole villages being herded and moved to a new area for many reasons. Leaving behind their farms and often many if not all of their possessions. These relocations vary, some beneficial, some life threatening, depending on one’s ethnicity and race and according to the way the military junta rule that particular village.
  5. Forced Displacement – Whole villages told to move with no or little warning and no place to move to. This either makes room for new tenants or for a business venture that they are in the way of. They have to leave their farms and can only take possessions they can carry.

Both these groups of relocated and displaced people are part of the portion of the population who are internally displaced. These internally displaced people have no if any voice. Below is a story of real time, of what is happening today for an ethnic minority in the most southern part of Burma. This story is of the daily struggle that the Internally Displaced Karen People in the Tenasserim Division face every day.

Internally Displaced Karen People in the Tenasserim Division

Burma map

With all the bitterness the new generation of Karen children are being brought up with, it is the leaders’ biggest worry that they will seek revenge. The Tenasserim Division is the southernmost area of Burma, it boarders with Thailand. The battle between the ethnic minorities and the Burmese troops has been ongoing for many generations. Since 1997, times for the Karen people have become worse.

Background

The Karen people in Tenasserim Division have been moved into relocation camps, not unlike most ethnic groups in Burma. They are moved here for several official reasons, the main one is for their own protection from the rebel armies and which the Burmese troops will protect them from. The unofficial reason is in fact stopping them from joining the rebel armies.

The Karen People in the Tenasserim Division of Burma ironically have two choices in their lives that can be the difference between life and death. There are two main choices, the Karen have decided to either live in the relocation camp the Burmese troops have assigned them to, or live as an outlaw in the thick jungle by the boarder of Thailand. Both these options have their disadvantages.

Relocation Camps

There are approximately 50,000 Karen people living in the relocation camps in the Tenasserim Division. Living in a relocation camp, the Karen people are treated as a slave by the Burmese troops that patrol the camp. The people are forced to work for the Burmese troops as cleaners, road builders, dam constructors, military base builders and army porters. This forced labour is an everyday occurrence for these people. There is also the rape of many women. These go unreported due to the shame for the family and the lack of justice dealt to the perpetrator, instead the women often gets their punishment of a beating for telling lies.

There is a lack of food in these relocation areas and there is no land to grow food for the needs of the family. If the people want to tend their land that they have been forced to leave, the permit costs 150-300 Kyat (Burmese currency). If the people are lucky enough not to get shot while they are out tending their crops, they must return to the camp by dark or will be beaten (often to death) for not returning in at the right time. When it comes to harvest time, the troops get first pick of the crops; they choose the best and often take about 50% of the total crop for free. With what is left over, the people sell to make enough money to pay the taxes for the year to come. Paying taxes to the military is a means of guaranteeing the family’s safety, as the punishment is often a beating to death if the people did not pay up.

Education is limited; schools have no resources and are only to teach Burmese which is another of the many rules in these camps. So the children lose their language, their culture, and their ancestry.

There are many daily ironical choices the people make in this environment. Do they trust their next-door neighbour with any information for fear of them being the informers of Burmese troops? Do they teach their children to comply or not comply with the Burmese troops? Is tending their land worth the risk of getting shot or beaten by the Burmese troops? How are they going to raise the high taxes? Who in the family can do the forced labour today? Will the people report the rape of their 13-year-old daughter and risk her humiliation?

Jungle Living

The other group, the Internally Displaced Karen People (IDKP) live their daily lives in fear. The Burmese Military sees them as the enemy because they do not live under their control. They live in free-fire zones and anywhere away from the relocation camps, and are hunted like wild animals by army battalions.

They live in dense jungle where it is hard for the Burmese troops to find them. They make their buildings from forest materials such as bamboo, palms, coconut leaves, banana leaves etc; these resources are plentiful and also give good camouflage. The IDKP move on average one to two times a year but it was known of people who have moved up to five times a year to escape Burmese troops that are hunting them. They set up camp in small groups maybe three to six families together, close to the top of a stream so they have water to drink and irrigation for their paddy. Other such family groups set up at the ends of other streams around, but not so close so it looks like a village.

The people live in fear of Burmese troops finding their cluster and are constantly on the lookout. Often weary of any strangers and trust only the people in their little group. Many of the children have only one or no parents due to living in free-fire zones. The children with no parents are often `adopted’ into other families even though they are struggling to look after their own children.

To set up a paddy is a whole village’s effort and all the members of the family play a role, either working to clear the dense bush or keeping an eye out for the Burmese troops. Each paddy takes many days to clear, prepare and plant. There can be up to six little groups living in the approximate area and each group will need a paddy area. Their rice diet is supplemented with plants from the jungle. The people have become experts in preparing food; some of it poisonous if not prepared the right way. Children are taught which plants to eat from an early age, as often during an attack the children and adults get separated and the children will need survival skills. There are reports regarding starving children choosing the wrong food to eat, getting ill and often dying due to preparing food wrong or mistaking the identity of a plant. Therefore they are taught very carefully to avoid this happening. There are also the other dangers of living in the jungle, wild animals, poisonous insects and disease carrying pests. There are no medical supplies and they often have the most basic of weapons to defend themselves. Every day is an ongoing struggle just to stay alive.

Schools are primitive, hidden and moved often. Parents run them and there are no formal educational supplies. Unlike the relocation camps they learn their own language (Karen) along with Burmese, Thai and English (when there is a parent who knows these). But their school black boards are made from bamboo covered with several layers of charcoal that needs to be reapplied daily and soft rock is used for chalk. These boards do not last long and have to be left when the school is raided. Sometimes a large boulder or cliff face is used as a blackboard. Banana leaves and sharpened bamboo sticks are the children’s writing supplies. Although affective, all work disappears when the leaf shrivels and goes brown.

There are choices that are made in the daily lives of the IDKP that impact on their survival. Choices such as, do they allow their children to go to school for fear of a raid that would separate the parents from the children? Do they bother building a rice paddy that may have to be moved before harvest? Do they keep in contact with their family in the relocation camps? Do they give up and head to Thailand?

The Future

It is understandable that children brought up in this environment are bitter and angry. When democracy finally comes to Burma, it will be a huge struggle to get over this anger. There will be rebuilding of villages, farms and more importantly broken souls. Education is the key to the future generations for the Karen People of the Tenasserim Division.

 

Contacts to organisations that work on issues in Burma:

The Peace Way Foundation
PO Box 1076
Silom Post Office
Bangkok 10504
Thailand

Committee for the Internally Displaced Karen People
PO Box 11
Kanchanaburi 7100
Thailand

The Shan Human Rights Foundation
PO Box 201
Phrasing Post Office
Chiangmai 50200
Thailand