The Scope, Diversity, Adventure of Asian-Pacific Resources


Seminar-Workshop on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management Training
Bangalore, India, June 7, 2004

The Scope, Diversity, Adventure of Asian-Pacific Resources
John England

I A Hidden History

Story: 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 1998, p.48)

We 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’.

1. 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 uniqueness
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 church,
and that you cherish / live by these ‘stories’ - & their sources -
now.... in the present
this means
the central role of history for the present - for our identity, calling, community
and within this for the central core of faith: which is
discerning, responding to, God’s spirit in midst of life
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

2. 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 region ......
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 domination .
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 and publishing....

The 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” !

Pause - Asian Christian history : hoow long is this in your own country ?
Asian Christian theology: when did that begin there ?
Response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3. 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 !?

BUT WE DO . . . . !! ( See Hidden History Paras. 1 & 2, 1998, p.1)


To 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.)

ii) 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).

iii) and by 19th cent. the growing ‘missionary movement’ throughout Asia.
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.)

4. Re-orientation
(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 India ?

Note 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.


5. Concluding: As Theological Librarians and Archivists in Asia-Pacific the central priorities for us are therefore:
. 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 of believers
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 community.
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.


Scope, Diversity, Adventure of Asian-Pacific Resources II
Bangalore June 7

The Other Half of Christian Theology 1 - before 1800

Image : who wrote this? when ? “the Master is the great Father- Mother of us be worshipped but one is far away..therefore feed the hungry..cure the for prisoners..” (Yang Tingyun, 1630s, China. Asian Christian Theologies vol. 1, 2002).

So 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 communities of faith and service.

1. But what is ‘theology’ for you?
... What do you think is specifically theological activity?
... Who does it? ... Where? ... How?
... With what aims or intentions?
...[ And is it the vital concern of librarians?]
Pause -
[Summarize? ]
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.

The central and specifically theological activity therefore is:
- Recognising and responding to God, as a whole person in community.
- Discerning the signs of God's coming 'kingdom' where we are.
- And being gathered up by God's Spirit in the life-of-Jesus-with-others, now ...

We 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 ...

Pause - 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?

2. The Theologies
Theological reflection in our region - in all its varieties of form language and context - is still largely misunderstood:>
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 countries;
- 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 -

3. Asian Theological Resources - a quick birds’-eye view.
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 alone studied.
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 and elsewhere;
- 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 materials.

ii) 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, Japan)
- the central truths of Hinduism were "wholly congruent with the Christian faith”.(Ezour Vadam, India...).
- "powerful images of transition from ... despair to hope...from colonial subjugation to freedom” (Filipino Pasyon).
Visuals . . . .

Many 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 with
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 and reshape
Christian thought (e.g. Ceylon, Indo-China, China, Japan,
iv) Indigenous religious tradition is restored and reconciled
with Christian teaching (India, China, Malaya) - in
dialogues, treatises ...
v) Complete integration of vocation, lifestyle and writing
can be observed in the works of some authors/artists, and
is especially notable in the lives of a number of women.
vi) Chronicle, testimony, apologetic, biography, also appear
in letters, diaries, confessions and narratives across the
vii) Exceptional forms extant from some countries include
memre, encyclopaedia, babad, pasyon, Maria-Kannon ..

4. Note also Letters , poems , journals- such as those of
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)

Scope, Diversity, Adventure of Asian-Pacific Resources III
Bangalore June 7

The Other Half of Christian Theology 2 - The Story of Two Centuries

1. Images -
- Life-of-Jesus-with-others today : Cruccified Guru, (Confucian) Sage, Prophetic lover, Barefoot Jesus, Boddhisattva, Holy Shaman...... (See Asian Christian Theologies vols)

2. 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 & contextual faith
Michael Rodrigo - from selfishness to selflessness in nipa hut
Pakistan : Emanuel Asi and peoples’ theology
Bangladesh: Mukti Barton - the Bible and justice, for women
Aotearoa NZ and Australia . . . .

3. Southeast Asia
Some unexpected sisters and brothers - their stories and writings:
Burma: Khin Maung Din - shared humanity and practical love...
“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 theology
Mangunwijaya - architect, novelist, squatter, priest ...
Vietnam: Mai Thanh - full humanity and love is in fact divinity
- and many “underground” theologiccal writings .....

4. 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 good Chinese”
Japan: Passion of Christ and Kirishitan experience (Tenchi Hajimari)
Kinukawa Hisako - Jesus’women disciples; dismantling barriers
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

5. 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 each year”;
- 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 the region
- 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...

6. - 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 Xian, China)
- 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.

7. 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 ?

Further Reading

Amaladoss, 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.

Ellwood, 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 and Liberation

England, 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.

England, Rita M. and John C. Ministering Asian Faith and Wisdom. A Manual for Theological Librarians in Asia. Quezon City: New Day; Delhi: ISPCK, 2001.

Francis, 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

Kwok 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 and spirituality.

Sugirtharajah, 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”.

Contact Persons *

Mrs. Elizabeth T. Pulanco, Convenor, email:
Mr. Yesan Sellan, Secretary,,

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