Going undercover, the evangelists taking Jesus to Tibet

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by parijataka, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    Chinese authorities said to be selectively tolerant of Christian missionaries, seeing them as a counterforce to Buddhists

    Going undercover, the evangelists taking Jesus to Tibet

    Chris and Sarah recently moved into a newly renovated two-bedroom apartment in Xining, a bustling Chinese city on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, where they manage a small business and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ. The couple, whose names have been changed to protect their identities, are enthusiastic and devout. They say that they could stay for decades.

    "I really love being in a place where, it's like, if you're an artist, and an artist comes in and sees a blank canvas, they go heck yes – they love creating something new, and that's how I feel," said Sarah. "That's not to say that there aren't times when I cry my eyes out and get discouraged, but I know that this is where I'm supposed to be, so we're going to find joy in the midst of difficulty."

    Tibet is the K2 of the evangelical Christian world – missionaries see it as a formidable yet crucial undertaking, a last spiritual frontier. Of the 400 foreigners living in Xining, most are missionaries, estimates Chris.

    'For Tibetans, everything is about religion'

    Most missionaries in Tibet belong to nondenominational organisations which believe that Jesus Christ will return to the earth only when people from every social, cultural and linguistic group have been exposed to his teachings. These groups view mass conversion as a high form of ecclesiastical service, and as such, their tactics can be covert and transactional. Some lure young Tibetans with the promise of English lessons or professional training and coax them into conversion after making sure of their loyalty. Various Tibetans in Xining expressed disgust with this tactic. One likened it to bribery.

    "For Tibetans, everything is about religion," said a Tibetan woman in Xining who requested anonymity because of political sensitivities. "They think that Buddhism is perfect for them – that it's flawless. And if somebody points out that there's something wrong with their religion, that's a huge offence."

    Most Tibetan converts know the potential consequences of disclosing their spiritual leanings – social alienation, broken family ties – so keep them a closely guarded secret. Nobody knows how many there are: estimates range from zero to thousands.

    According to Barnett, Tibetan distrust of missionaries is shorthand for a much broader context – "where the whole structure of Tibetan ideas, beliefs, and cultural values is being radically undermined, year after year, by the Chinese project, by modernity and globalisation in general".

    Nowhere is this clearer than in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province. Once an outpost on the Silk Road, the city is now a bustling transport hub linking the Tibetan wild west with affluent eastern provinces. Its entrepreneurs and officials are flush with cash, the ancillary beneficiaries of government programmes that aim to win Tibetan hearts and minds by packing the region with highways and residential high-rises.

    Young Tibetans are flocking to cities in ever-greater numbers for jobs and opportunities. The devout spin prayer wheels at tiny temples nestled among police stations and extravagant banquet halls. Outside, the acrid smell of burning yak-butter candles mingles with faint overtones of car exhaust fumes.

    No evangelical organisations agreed to be interviewed for this article, but their websites shed light on their functional goals and theological justifications. Good News for Tibet Radio produces Tibetan-language radio programmes that feature "a mixture of Tibetan culture and history, health issues, native folklore, and the Gospel". The evangelical organisation AsiaLink prints children's Bibles in Tibetan.

    The Joshua Project, a website that catalogues "unreached people", lists 20 Tibetan subgroups as untouched by Christian beliefs. It quotes the Gospel of Matthew: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come."

    Interpretations vary: "You've got rapture people, you've got people who don't believe in the rapture, you've got millennial people, you've got all sorts of beliefs," said one Xining missionary who also requested anonymity.

    The first missionary to make any significant headway in Tibet was a Portuguese Jesuit named António de Andrade who, in 1624, infiltrated the region disguised as a Hindu pilgrim. The king and queen of a large independent kingdom there were intrigued by Catholicism, and helped him build a church. Yet De Andrade's warm reception rankled with Tibet's religious elite and, within a few years, the mission was undermined by insurgent lamas (pdf). With a few exceptions, missionaries spent the following centuries proselytising to ethnic Tibetans in northern India, hoping in vain that they would carry their message into the heart of the forbidding theocracy.

    A challenging terrain

    Things haven't got much easier. Foreigners have been summarily banned from volatile Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces since a two-year wave of protest self-immolations intensified there in the autumn. They are forbidden from entering the Tibetan Autonomous Region except in highly organised groups. Military police patrol the streets of Tibetan cities and maintain checkpoints on major roads.

    Missionaries have adopted a range of tactics to combat these obstacles, but none have proven consistently successful. In the 1990s, many would distribute religious leaflets in predominantly Buddhist areas. Evangelical blogs describe the process: often by cover of night, "tract-bombing" teams on tourist visas would stuff the leaflets into letterboxes and nail them to monastery walls. These missions tended to invite more hostility than curiosity. Missionaries were often arrested by high-strung officials or chased away by monks.

    Their techniques have become more sophisticated over the past few decades. Some, like Chris and Sarah, have secured long-term Chinese visas by opening coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants and guesthouses. Others are charity-minded doctors and aid workers. Evangelical organisations brainstorm new ways to make the Christian gospel accessible to Tibetans, such as screening Christian films in Tibetan dialects.

    "I would be sad and super disappointed if I saw a Tibetan church that looked like an American church," said Chris. "It's a very different culture, and they're going to worship in a very different way."

    Chris and Sarah have a strong affinity for Tibetan culture, even if elements of Tibetan religion strike them as sinister or harsh: its icons, the shamanistic rituals, the draconian precepts of reincarnation. "I love these people so much, and I feel like I … I want them to be free from fear," said Sarah. God, she said, brought her overwhelming feelings of love and compassion – feelings she wanted her Tibetan friends to share. Yet so far, progress has been slow. "You can't expect to go into this really rocky field and immediately plant corn," she continued. "It's going to take some time."
     
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  3. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    Link to above

    Modus operandi of the missionaries, enter China as English teachers for which there is much demand and then do a recce and move to a remote region to start proselytisation - from comments section.

    Thanks for this article, it's very interesting even if it puts me in a bad mood. Over a decade ago, whilst living in China we encountered many Christians, mostly from the US. As you point out, some came as English language teachers, others as learners of Chinese. They were all funded by their local church back in the States. The amount of learning they did was, as you can imagine minimal, what they did do was settle in, look around and investigate remote areas nearby before reporting to their church back home. They had long-term projects. Once information on local religion, number of population in the areas, style of life etc was reported to their Christian hub they were then asked to move to that particular remote village and set up a local school "for the poor". This would take years to accomplish, especially in a place like China where bureaucracy is, at most, challenging. Chinese authorities, despite forbidding all expats to talk publicly about religion (or politics, for that matter) knew these Christians nets were around, but I guess they must have thought they brought money, (they tend to be linked to a higher education institution or a hospital etc) and let them be.
     
  4. spikey360

    spikey360 Crusader Senior Member

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    Good for us. Maybe something will finally weaken the Communist State.
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Now if that is what is happening, then China will be up for the jumps since it means a direct interest of the West in Tibet.

    No more pussyfooting!

    Real dangerous for China.

    The Church will bring China to her knees as the Church brought USSR and East Europe to its knees by encouraging people to revolt against the Communists.

    How the Pope 'Defeated Communism'
    How the Pope 'Defeated Communism' (washingtonpost.com)
     
  6. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    wow dont get frustrated our motherland wont be weakened no matter our enemy state India wishes us well or wishes ill. There r always Muslim Tibetans and Chrisian Tibetans. The most popular wine in China was introduced to Shangri La Tibetans by western missionaries in 19th century. Nothing new then of Evangelists at all.

    Pls forget China for a while n mind Indias own business. Like "Religious Demographics" mentions yr Muslim pop. is growing so fast that someday India will be on the same par with subcontinent peers then everlasting peace will be bestowed upon India.

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  7. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    And in India they support Maoists in Orissa, anti nuclear power plant agitation in Kudankulam and helped LTTE in Sri Lanka. Church/missionaries are in many cases used by US and other Western countries for other purposes as well.

    China should beware.
     
  8. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    oh tks for caring abt China so much. but in another post an Indian actually is excited Chima may be weakened?!
    which part is credible in Indian fork tongued doublespeak?

    And Indian posters seldom r introspective. Instead u seek externally western to blame for such as Maoists deeply rooyed in yr own social ills and poverty ah ha?

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  9. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    What a ditz. Go home.
     
  10. JBH22

    JBH22 Senior Member Senior Member

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    if we could copy this I would be happy to send missionaries in Kashmir :)
     
  11. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

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    whatever it is anyway go church go ! ......long term always wins ....goodbye ccp !
     
  12. Dovah

    Dovah Untermensch Senior Member

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    Be careful what you wish for. ;)
     
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  13. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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  14. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    irrelevant
    Seriously ?

    To those radical evangelists we Hindu heathens are no different from those Buddhists.

    And what has destruction of the Tibetan Buddhism got to do with the CCP ? Infact even the CCP might want this as it will break the bone of the peaceful yet determined resistance of the Tibetans.

    CCP must be careful in what they have allowed into their backyard. This snake, called evangelists, can breed so quickly and inject so much venom into the society.
     
  15. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Indian evangelists should be arrested on charges of treason and sedition.
     
  16. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    I wish there was a hate button when I see comments such as these.'
     
  17. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    You do realize that different people have different views and ideas, right ?

    Anyway, I don't think these missionaries have a chance. The CCP is way smarter and has greater power to counter these "messengers of God".
    That being said, Beware.
     
  18. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    The Evangelists will never be able to conquer the Middle Kingdom. Rather, the Middle Kingdom will conquer the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Their efforts are in vain.
     
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  19. A chauhan

    A chauhan "अहिंसा परमो धर्मः धर्म हिंसा तथैव च: l" Senior Member

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    It will be a loss to the Tibetans.Little OT but I laugh whenever I see this advertisement :-
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    As if he is not the Putra of the Parameshwar, and become so only after conversion.:notsure:
     
  20. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    if u'd bn in Tibtans living envirnmt then u'd probably get a feel of their psyche confined to the surroundings. they worship holly mountains holly lakes holly tree more like animists not that "typical" of Buddhist. a church I visited was a French Catholic one dated back to mid 19th cen.

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