on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management
Bangalore, India, June 7, 2004
Scope, Diversity, Adventure of Asian-Pacific Resources
A Hidden History
Where and when was this ? 600 inscribed Christian
gravestones from 9th-11th cents, Bishbek, Inner Asia
(J.C.England Hidden History of Christianity in Asia
have been asked to bring to you a little of the adventure
of Asian-Pacific Resources. Not first considering
archives as such, but rather a much larger picture
of Christian history and life in our region, for which
our archives are the indispensable sources, and ‘food
for the journey of faith’.
I am assuming: (following Rita's first lecture)
you possess a unique identity, as your church / college,
your people do
that you are aware of this as person, believer, citizen
that you know some of the sources for living such
that you recognise.......presence of God’s Spirit
- beyond in the midst-
in the story of your life, in the story of your people,
and that you cherish / live by these ‘stories’
- & their sources -
now.... in the present
the central role of history for the present - for
our identity, calling, community
and within this for the central core of faith: which
discerning, responding to, God’s spirit in midst
discernment and response .... our ‘theology’
and as we have unique resources for our ‘story’,
hist. of church, people,
also have unique resources to gather, retore, preserve,
promote, for our own, our people’s faith understanding...theology
Clear to all there are many resources of history and
theology in our libraries which we have recieved,
& continue to receive from churches outside the
BUT. . . . . . .there's a “parchment curtain”
: hiding much of our story and history, and most of
the vast range of Christian writings and archives
of our own countries and churches .
- Church history is often falsified or ignored ...when
seen only as “missions” or “ missionary”
history, rather than as Church history and theology
- .when theology and church history often pre-fabricated
and transplanted . .
- when much of the record of Christianity in Asia
- in book, mss or art - has been removed to libraries,
museums, mission offices in London, Leiden, New York,
Paris, Rome or Berlin
- this results in continuing colonisation . and cultural
that gives priority to the story and records of other
societies and sidelines or neglects our own, deflecting
studies and resources, distorting identity
- this.hides from us also our continuing dependence
upon out-dated - often western - views of “third-world”
history and life; our acceptance of names, definitions
and categories that do not belong to the life of our
peoples (e.g. “foreign mission”, “far
east”, “younger churches”.....)
This is sometimes through our own lack of knowledge,
earlier missionary ignorance , or western arrogance,
through dominance by others of education, writing
result: Christianity / Bible / Jesus (!) appears not
to be Asian ....!!
- Christian Churches of our Asian countries sais to
“date only from last century” !
- our libraries contain often most obscure / most
European or Nth American aspects of doctrine or Church
History . . .
- while most important sources of Asian theology and
history entirely absent !
- often true that “ theological libraries are
the last outposts of colonialism” !
- Asian Christian history : hoow long is this in your
own country ?
Asian Christian theology: when did that begin there
Response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
think for a moment
- what if we in countries of Asia-Pacific possessed
the long history, the rich resources of Christian
art, literature and theology, that many countries
of the west have ?
what if we stood in a very long tradition of Christian
churches, universities and colleges, with many centuries
of Christian libraries, archives and librarian archivists
WE DO . . . . !! ( See Hidden History Paras. 1 &
2, 1998, p.1)
summarize Christian presence in our region;
i) 1st cent. India ..& China !; and ..... ?
by 8th century a dozen countries east of Persia; as
far as Japan, and Indonesia
earliest traditions ‘Oriental Orthodox’:
East and West Syrian, ‘Thomas Christians’,
‘Nestorian’, ‘Jacobite’, ‘Chaldean’,
Armenian . In some medieval centuries - greater numbers
than Roman Catholic and Orthodox together.
Images - Cosmas , and Arab travellers. . . . Biishbek
......court of Khans
- plus Pampakuda...Turfan .. .Dunhuang ....Kyoto...
- and sources from these- (See Hidden Hiistory - paras.
3 & 4, pp. 8f.)
by 16th century. throughout region….including.
Tibet, Mongolia, Inner Asia
in most countries it was then R.Catholic presence
but in 17th century Protestants arriving in south
and southeast Asia
Images - Hidden Christians Japan - 1865 Petitjeean
- author group Ezour Vadam<
- native churches Java - Coolen . . .
- the women: Gracia Hoskawa , Candida Xuu, Ota Julia,
Jeronima de la Asuncion, Catherine Man Tai . . . .
(See J.C.England et al. Asian Christian Theologies
vol. 1, 2002).
and by 19th cent. the growing ‘missionary movement’
many parts of that story are however little known,
especially the oral - and written - accounts of local
Christtians; and such pre-1900 women as: E.G. Toru
Dutt, Pandita Ramabai, Katherine Khin Khin, Sophia
Blackmore, Melchora Aquino, Juliana Lopez, Agnes Tsao
Kuei, Cheng Guanyi . . . .
(See further in Asian Christian Theologies vols.)
(See Hidden History - para 3. p.1)
- Is it still possible to say that an unnderstanding
of - and the writings of - 4th century Asia Minor,
16th century Europe or 20th century Nth America are
more significant for our Christian understanding and
theological education today , than are those of 4th
century Persia, 16th century China or 20th century
the fundamental theological assumption we must have,which
is both theocentric and universalizing: that there
is one living God of all times and places ..... who
has been as present and active in any part of Asia
as in Europe or North America.
Concluding: As Theological Librarians and Archivists
in Asia-Pacific the central priorities for us are
. the Christian resources of our own country and region
-because the central Christian task is always to respond
to the saving presence of God where we are..- as it
was for ancient Hebrews and for every later community
Our central concern therefore is Asian-Pacific Christian
thought, writing and witness which have arisen from,
and fed, Christian life in our country and region;
the 'reflective' responses to God's historic and present
work in Tamilnadu or Tomohon, Guangdung or Fiji, Cholla,
or Kyushu, Luzon or Samoa. written by women as well
as men, lay people as well as clergy, expatriates
as well as nationals.
This is the primary food and resources for all present
learning , teaching and living and gives our work
as librarians and archivists, a unique and very special
role, for our own people and for the world Christian
discovering within a people's present struggle and
aspiration, and in their creative cultural and religious
traditions, the presence of the same liberating and
transforming Spirit known in Jesus the Christ.
Diversity, Adventure of Asian-Pacific Resources II
Bangalore June 7
Other Half of Christian Theology 1 - before 1800
: who wrote this? when ? “the Master is the
great Father- Mother of us all..to be worshipped but
close..no one is far away..therefore feed the hungry..cure
the sick..care for prisoners..” (Yang Tingyun,
1630s, China. Asian Christian Theologies vol. 1, 2002).
within these long histories
we see a life of faith....and reflection on that...and
writings and traditions of every conceivable form
- theology being lived out ....in communities of faith
But what is ‘theology’ for you?
... What do you think is specifically theological
... Who does it? ... Where? ... How?
... With what aims or intentions?
...[ And is it the vital concern of librarians?]
The "WHO" doing theology is not just the
"professional", the clergy or the theological
teacher: all Christians have a theology; their daily
living is nourished / transformed by it;
- so the "Where" is all the hopes and struggles
of daily life, where we discern the delivering presence
of God and join the actions of Jesus-with-others...
... the "How" is a finding of faith and
insight in personal experience, in witnessing to this
and in living with and for others, and in reflection
upon the life, witness ... and writings! of our forebears
and contemporaries in the faith - especially those
within our own region, cultural tradition and country.
central and specifically theological activity therefore
- Recognising and responding to God, as a whole person
- Discerning the signs of God's coming 'kingdom' where
- And being gathered up by God's Spirit in the life-of-Jesus-with-others,
live out such a theology in the faith that the One
loving, transforming Spirit:
- Is in all creation - all peoples, all times, all
places ... without exception ...
- Can be discerned, through the Spirit Herself, in
even the deepest tragedy, by the marks and signs in
all human life of the life-of-Jesus-with-others ...
- Is let loose in all the world, saving and liberating,
healing and sustaining - found in all that gives or
transforms life, all that builds community, all that
creates wisdom and beauty ...
- Does this picture something of your owwn hopes and
faith ... your own theology? Or how would you rephrase
it from your own life and study?
Theological reflection in our region - in all its
varieties of form language and context - is still
their immense extent and diversity; the complexity
of their Christian sources largely unknown; their
quite different forms, concepts, purposes and writers
. . . .
the richness of our own “pilgrimages”
and “reformations”, “enlightenments”
and “aggiornamentos”; ...much of all these
lying beyond our accustomed western categories.
But here are larger claims
- that in the Asian region is found the “other
half” of Christian theology, and of church history,
from their earliest periods, and now in a score of
- that we are meeting here autonomous Christian traditions
of faith, witness and critical reflection, arising
within unique historical and religious contexts and
possessing their own imageries and hermeneutic methods;
- that there are presented to us in such theologies
major challenges to the understanding and practice
of much Christian theology; especially of that in
some western countries -
Asian Theological Resources - a quick birds’-eye
these can be summarized as follows:
i) For early periods (pre 1500) :
- Some early phrases: “cool wind” ; ”that
world is to this world as the child in the mother’s
womb”. . .(ACT vol. I, p. 17.); Creation as
the divine arrow held in flight by God (ACT I, p.16)
- "the hungry came....” (ACT I p.15)
In collections of hymns, poetry, treatises, homilies,
chronicles, scholia (commentaries), letters, liturgies,
parables, dialogues, biographies, inscriptions, carvings,
crosses, seals and frescoes. Large collections of
these have been located across the Asian region, but
many are still unrecognised and unclassified, let
In particular, the collections held in scores of libraries
and museums world-wide include :
- hundreds of Syriac writings in a wide variey of
forms from the 4th century on in Central Asia, India
- dozens of lengthy sutras from Turkestani and Chinese
Christians of the 7th to 11th centuries;
- letters and journals of numberless Christian travellers,
from the East as well as from the West, in the 9th
to 14th centuries;
- along with narratives, inscriptions, art-forms,
chronicles, biographies and letters.
For these and much later writing we are still in the
‘excavatory’ stage, when much work remains
in order to unearth neglected, and even suppressed
For the ‘early modern’ period, (1600-1800)
- (Note Yang Ting Yun above).
- “Stable peace, mutuality in relationships,
individual choice and 'the ways of nature'”(Fucan,
- the central truths of Hinduism were "wholly
congruent with the Christian faith”.(Ezour Vadam,
- "powerful images of transition from ... despair
to hope...from colonial subjugation to freedom”
Visuals . . . .
writings in this period remain anonymous (or were
attributed to a missionary author) and we are only
now beginning to realise the extent, and the thrust,
of contextualising writings in these centuries.
An overview of the 'types of discourse' represented
in literary or art forms however - from the hands
of 'local' clergy, lay women and men, and from 'foreign'
laymen and clergy - could be summarized as follows:
i) Local friends/converts, interpret and collaborate
westerners (almost every country) - in catechisms,
grammars, liturgies, manuals ...
ii) Local Christians encounter, modify, even reject,western
teaching (e.g. India, China, Korea, Japan)- in
commentaries, treatises, narratives ...
iii) Indigenous verse, drama and art forms express
Christian thought (e.g. Ceylon, Indo-China, China,
iv) Indigenous religious tradition is restored and
with Christian teaching (India, China, Malaya) - in
dialogues, treatises ...
v) Complete integration of vocation, lifestyle and
can be observed in the works of some authors/artists,
is especially notable in the lives of a number of
vi) Chronicle, testimony, apologetic, biography, also
in letters, diaries, confessions and narratives across
vii) Exceptional forms extant from some countries
memre, encyclopaedia, babad, pasyon, Maria-Kannon
Note also Letters , poems , journals- such as those
CandidaHsu, Andrew Li (China)
Mar thoma IV, Pingali Rayadu (India)
Paulo Yoho Ken, Gracia Hosokawa (Japan)
Ota Julia, I Py Ok (Korea)
Domingo de Salazar, Aquino de Belen (Philippines)
Alagiyavanna, Gabriel Fernando (Sri Lanka)
Diversity, Adventure of Asian-Pacific Resources III
Bangalore June 7
Other Half of Christian Theology 2 - The Story of
- Life-of-Jesus-with-others today : Cruccified Guru,
(Confucian) Sage, Prophetic lover, Barefoot Jesus,
Boddhisattva, Holy Shaman...... (See Asian Christian
Behind the publications Introducing the Research Guide
(see vols. 1-3)
South and Austral Asia vol.1 -
Some examples of writings we can use today:
India : K.C. Sen ( the true Asiatic Christ; Sat-Chit-Ananda
[for the Trinity])
Pandita Ramabai - flexible theology which serves society
Sri Lanka: James de Alwis - a localised, social &
Michael Rodrigo - from selfishness to selflessness
in nipa hut
Pakistan : Emanuel Asi and peoples’ theology
Bangladesh: Mukti Barton - the Bible and justice,
Aotearoa NZ and Australia . . . .
Some unexpected sisters and brothers - their stories
Burma: Khin Maung Din - shared humanity and practical
“Seminars under the Bo tree “
Philippines: Jeronima de la Asuncion arguing for women’s
rights and racial equality in the 16th century
Elizabeth Olesen - people’s agonies and “journey
to the heart”
Indonesia: Coolen’s indigenous settlements and
Mangunwijaya - architect, novelist, squatter, priest
Vietnam: Mai Thanh - full humanity and love is in
- and many “underground” theologiccal
East and Northeast Asia
Selected Stories and writings from a few countries:
China: Wu Li “How glorious! your heart becomes
an altar for the Lord”
Theresa Chu Mei-fan- to be “good Catholics and
Japan: Passion of Christ and Kirishitan experience
Kinukawa Hisako - Jesus’women disciples; dismantling
Korea: Chong Yak Jong - Gospel to reconstruct a nation
Kim Jae Joon - “the cross is heavier that that”;
a Third Day
Korean Assoc. Women Theologians - theological training,
writing, publishing, advocacy
Taiwan: C.S.Song - leap from Israel to Asia: Cross
in a Lotus World
and the good news now!:
- the steady flow of books being published on a whole
spread of Christian writings, . “more than 200
significant volumes a month & 4 - 5 new journals
- courses in our own Church history and theology offered
now in increasing number of seminaries and faculties
- for 20 years now Asia-wide courses forr younger
theolog. teachers “to recognise and use ‘Asian
Resources’ . .”
- and over last 10 years a growing number of training
courses for theolog. librarians, and now for archivists
- we start to recognise the ancient and historial
Asian-Pacific Christian archives : within and outside
- and other rich archives of churches, college collections,
NCCs, documentation centres....
- there has also been the establishment of ForATL
, and national Theolog.Librarian Associations, and
special programmes of WCC, CCA and associations of
theological schools in region...
- Recent archive discoveries include a rrange of material:
- from recently published Lopez family letters (after
1900, Batangan, Phils.), to Nestorian relics of 7th
century, near Kyoto Japan
- from the MS autobiography of Semisi Nau , Tongan
missionary to the Solomons 1905-1919, to documents
and carvings in 8th cent. monastery, church, (near
- from long-hidden records of the life of Yamada Waka
- pioneer Christian feminist in Japan 1910 on, to
the discoveries last year by Wang Weifan of stele
inscriptions believed to show Christian presence in
China in the 1st cent.
To conclude and become more practical - questions
we are left with:
What then do we look for ? Care for ?
- in own library, other institutions, or collections
- types of materials <
- in what sources <
- what bibliographies, listings are already accessible?
- what guidance from special collections ?
- what archives are to be copied / returned from overseas
- which colleagues can we join with, locally, nationally,
in our community ?
Michael. Life in Freedom. Liberation Theologies in
Asia. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997. - liberation
movements in which Christians are involved, theologians
in diverse faiths, inter-religious, social, liberative,
committed, “for the poor” theologies.
Douglas J., ed. What Asian Christians Are thinking:
A Theological Source Book. Quezon City: New Day, 1976.
Philadelphia: Westminster Press, c.1980. Examples
of: “Rethinking Christian Theology in Asia”,
“Man in Nature and Destiny”, “God
and Revelation”, “Christ and the Christian
Life”, “Theology of Mission”, “...
of Religious Pluralism”, “.... of Development
John C. ed. Living Theology in Asia. London: SCM Press,
1981; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1982. “....Asian
theology which arises from the encounter of faith
with contemporary historical reality”....from
the struggles of peoples in suffering and hope...
from particular countries and movements.
--- et al. Asian Christian Theologies: A Research
guide to Authors movements, Sources. 3 vols. Delhi:
ISPCK; Manila: Claretian; Maryknoll NY: Orbis ,2002-4.
Rita M. and John C. Ministering Asian Faith and Wisdom.
A Manual for Theological Librarians in Asia. Quezon
City: New Day; Delhi: ISPCK, 2001.
T. Dayanandan and F.J. Balasundaram, eds. Asian Expressions
of Christian Commitment: A Reader in Asian Theology.
Madras: CLS, 1992. “...readings from “praxis-oriented
theologians in Asia ...crucial for understanding the
Christian expressions of commitment “ - thirty-nine
extracts since 1970
Pui-lan. Introducing Asian Feminist Theology. Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 2000. - traces the emergence
of feminist theological consciousness (since 1977),
); outlines its sources and resources in Asia - in
women’s experience, the Bible and Asian religious
traditions; feminine images of the divine; Asian feminist
images for Christ; partnership in church; sexuality
R.S., ed. Asian Faces of Jesus. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis
Books, 1993. “...essays on “Jesus Amid
Other Asian Ways, Truths and Lights”, and “Newly
Emerging Profiles of Jesus Amid Asia’s Poverty
and Religious Plurality”.