From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:57:38


                      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 
women's concerns. 
     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 
programmatic] areas." 

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   Web page: 


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