A few months ago now I received an e-mail from the Church Council Secretary saying that Frodsham Methodist Church were in the process of selecting the Church Charity for 2013 and did I have any suggestions for charities operating in China. This is not such an easy task as one might imagine as the Government do not always make it easy for NGO’s to exist and operate.
I suggested the Amity Foundation, a charity I had heard of because of one of their schemes, namely the Amity Teachers Programme, where they provide foreign teachers to some of the poorest and least developed parts of China. As I suggested the charity, I was asked to introduce it during the Covenant Service held on Sunday 6th January. I wanted to introduce the charity under three headings thinking about what the Amity Foundation is, what it does and why I thought their work was so important. As I was still in China, and using the wonders of technology, I recorded a video and below is the transcript of what I said.
What is the Amity Foundation?
It is an independent Christian voluntary organisation headquartered in Nanjing and which has links to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the Government-approved Protestant Church in China. It was founded in 1985 by Chinese Christians and until his death in November of last year its president was Bishop Ding Guang Xun—who originally trained as an Anglican priest, but became a bishop in the Three-Self Movement when it was established in the 1950s.
The Foundation’s name in Chinese has two characters. The first character means ‘love’ and is a reference to the verse in I Corinthians 13: Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love. The second character helps form the word for ‘morality’ or ‘ethics’.
The Foundation tries to form a bridge between the Christian Church and wider society in China, contributes to China’s social development and openness to the outside world, and is an ecumenical forum for the sharing of resources.
What does the Amity Foundation do?
It has a variety of projects and ways of helping and enabling mission in rural communities. Amity is supported by the British Methodist Church and, among other projects, is currently supporting preachers who are poorly paid and cover very large geographical areas to meet their congregations. They are working to supply electric scooters to enable preachers to make pastoral visits and attend preaching appointments, for example.
Amity is also the largest printer of Bibles and Christian resources in China and I know that the Bibles in use and for sale at the churches I have visited here in Wuhan always come from Amity’s Nanjing Printing Press.
As well as this Christian outreach and missionary work, Amity also run a variety of humanitarian and development activities ranging from the teachers programme & Children’s Homes (classroom pictured below) to environmental protection (a serious problem in China I know) and disaster relief to the running of clinics and HIV/AIDS awareness projects.
Why do I think the work of the Amity Foundation is so worth supporting?
There are two aspects to Amity’s work that I want to highlight.
There are 23 million registered members of the Protestant Church in China, though there are said to be closer to 100 million Christians in the country.
It seems that more and more people are turning to faith once again after the repression of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. People are desperate to learn more and to worship together but there is a real lack of information and understanding on how to lead worship or set up cell groups or even on how to read the Bible. A Singaporean Methodist I know here says that one of the dangers of this lack of information is that people may be sucked in by cults or fads and that it is more important than ever that the mainstream established churches, like The Methodist Church, are at work here to provide resources, Bibles, pamphlets and to equip preachers.
The second thing I want to mention briefly is their humanitarian work and in particular the HIV/AIDS awareness programme.
From talking to my students, I know there is a real lack of awareness regarding HIV/AIDS and many of my students tell me that AIDS does not even exist in China. Of course, the contrary is true and it is estimated that 740,000 people are living with AIDS in China.
According to Amity, in the poorest parts of China people who have no income are forced to sell their blood to survive. This has resulted in widespread HIV/AIDS infections, where whole villages are ravaged by the infection. Amity has thirty-four village programmes, which include setting up household groups for mutual support, information sharing and the services of health professionals.
Other charities are working on this problem too and one of the British Red Cross’ AIDS programmes is in China. It is more important than ever that awareness programmes are pioneered, especially in rural countries where awareness is even lower than amongst my students.
Of course China is a huge country and there is a lot of work to be done. We hear how China now has the world’s second largest economy and it is perhaps easy to think they no longer require aid money and to forget it is still very much a developing country. If, for example, Frodsham Methodist Church were to raise £1000 this year, that is equivalent to about 10,000 RMB or a year’s salary for many workers in Wuhan—and more in rural areas. Quite small amounts can make a huge difference and Frodsham Methodist Church’s support for a project, such as the one mentioned earlier providing electric scooters, will make a big difference to Christian mission and humanitarian work in China.
More information about Amity can be found on the following web pages:
The Amity Foundation
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
Blog posts written by the Minister and Members of Frodsham Methodist Church.