From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
A PASSAGE TO CHINA: PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN PREPARE
05 May 1996 12:57:38
95105 A PASSAGE TO CHINA: PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN PREPARE
FOR JOURNEY TO BEIJING
By Julian Shipp
NEW YORK CITY--More than 40 Presbyterian women gathered here March 1-4 to
worship, build community, learn, and strategize in preparation for the
United Nations' Non-Governmental Forum of the Fourth World Conference on
Women to be held in Beijing, China, in late summer.
During their two-week journey, Aug. 28-Sept. 15, participants will
speak with women and men in the Chinese Christian community about their
ministry in churches and ecumenical bodies. They will also explore Chinese
history and culture as they travel to Xian, Nanjing and Hangzhou.
The travel seminar, titled "Women Hold Up Half the Sky," is being
sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and Women's Ministries
Program Area of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Jean Woo, special assistant for the PC(USA) China Program and
coordinator of the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) China
Program, who brought seminar participants up-to-date on Christianity in
China today, said Christianity is a "young religion" in China with
Confucianism and Buddhism being the dominant theologies.
According to Woo, the Christian population in China has never exceeded
1 percent, even though Christianity was first introduced in China in 635
Woo said Catholicism was accepted in China more than 400 years ago, in
1593, when a group of Jesuits won the favor of the Ming Court. However,
Protestant influence in China did not begin until 1807, when Robert
Morrison, a Scottish Presbyterian, sailed there.
During the last 150 years, Woo said, Christianity in China has grown
slowly but steadily and is now experiencing a huge resurgence among Chinese
she described as "culture Christians." According to Woo, these are
intellectuals who are interested in Christian theology but have no desire
to become part of the church or be baptized because of the hostility of the
Communist Party to Christianity.
Woo said today's Chinese church is a curious combination of unity and
diversity and has been a postdenominational church since the early 1950s,
when all denominational church structures went out of existence.
"Our going to China is really a visible sign of our solidarity with
Christian women," Woo said, adding that more than 20,000 people from all
over the world are expected to attend the Non-Governmental Forum on Women.
"We are going [to China] to listen and to be a presence and to be one with
the spirit of Christ."
During the seminar, participants also examined the work and issues
facing the United Nations, religious communities and governments on global
Experts discussed a broad range of current women's issues, including
"Women and Power," presented by Reeta Roy, director of issues management
for Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; "Violence Against Women" by Jane F.
Connors, lecturer in law at the School of Oriental and African Studies at
the University of London; and "Women's Health," presented by Dr. Elaine
Wolfson, president of the Global Alliance for Women's Health.
During a panel discussion, all agreed that while progress has been
made in some areas, women globally do not enjoy equal status with men and
that women worldwide face a dangerous path through life. In America, for
example, 4,000 women are beaten to death each year by their partners,
according to statistics compiled by the Presbyterian United Nations Office.
"In a significant number of countries female genital mutilation is an
accepted cultural practice," Connors said. "While in South Asia, women are
at significant risk of injury and death from their families-in-law,"
primarily due to physical abuse when a dowry is disputed.
"The number of women [globally] living in rural poverty has doubled
over the last 60 years," said Linda Selde, public affairs officer for the
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), an organization that
provides direct financial support to low-income women living in developing
"In the less developed and poorest countries of the world, maternal
mortality is phenomenally high," Wolfson said, adding that each year more
than one million women worldwide die from complications due to pregnancy.
During the Fourth World Conference on Women, governmental
representatives will examine the ongoing obstacles to women's equality and
development, and determine the working priorities within the United Nations
system for the years 1996-2001.
Women and men at both the grassroots and policy-making levels will be
asked to help achieve goals established in a U.N. Platform for Action,
which will address poverty, violence, literacy, health, work and
decision-making as they relate to women. The platform will be developed
and adopted at the conference.
Integral to the conference's success, travel seminar planners said,
will be the willingness of participants to share their experiences with
Presbyterian audiences in their regions and to be actively involved in the
work of the PC(USA).
To that end, Presbyterian women are excited and ready to undertake
their task, according to the Rev. Susan H. Craig, associate director of the
Women's Ministries Program Area in the National Ministries Division.
"We're discussing the possibility of having a follow-up conference
after our journey is over," Craig said. "So we're excited about having the
opportunity to cross-connect [our experiences] in so many [geographic and
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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