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Thread: PRC selectively tolerant of Christian missionaries in Tibet

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    Default PRC selectively tolerant of Christian missionaries in 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.
    Proselytising has been illegal in China since 1949, when Mao Zedong declared western missionaries "spiritual aggressors" and deported them en masse, so today's evangelists work undercover as students, teachers, doctors, and business owners. Moreover, Tibetans are tough customers in the market for souls – Buddhism is central to their cultural identity, making them notoriously difficult to convert.
    Despite all that, experts say that changing economic circumstances could make foreign Christians more influential in Tibetan society now than at any point in history.
    Robbie Barnett, a leading Tibet expert at Columbia University, argues that the missionary phenomenon overturns the standard notion of western attitudes towards Tibet – that western society is intent on protecting Tibetan religion, while the Chinese government is more concerned with dismantling it. "If you look at foreigners there, there are people whose commitment is to the opposite – it's to replace Tibetan religion with their own religion."
    More than 10 people interviewed for this article said that Chinese authorities in Tibetan areas were selectively tolerant of missionaries for reasons that range from pragmatic to borderline sinister. One is that they are a boon to local economies – they open lucrative businesses and teach at local schools for next to nothing, supplementing their meagre salaries with donations from home. Authorities may also consider missionaries politically trustworthy, reluctant to undermine their spiritual missions by openly criticising regional policies.
    And lastly, the government may welcome them as a powerful counterforce to Tibetan Buddhism, with its electrifying political overtones.
    "China isn't trying to destroy religion by any means, but they're trying to destroy certain parts of Tibetan religion," said Barnett. "They're not the same project by any means, but they certainly have some congruency."



    '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 Antσnio 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."


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013...ngelists-tibet

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    Beijing intends to destroy the Tibetan indentity and to achieve that goal they'd stoop to anything including the 'importation' of foreign religions. On a slightly related note, I have little to none respect for people who want to encourage others to give up their beliefs and adopt what the missionaries brought along.
    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."
    If they really respected the culture they'd leave the Tibetans alone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by muck View Post
    If they really respected the culture they'd leave the Tibetans alone.
    So people are incompetent to decide whether or not they will adopt aspects of foreign culture and need to be protected from it?

    You're basically asking for restrictions on freedom of speech and the competition of ideas in the name of preserving culture.

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    I'm asking for nothing. All I was saying is that self-declared "affinity" to a culture and the desire to replace a crucial part of it don't go together.

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    Quote Originally Posted by muck View Post
    I'm asking for nothing. All I was saying is that self-declared "affinity" to a culture and the desire to replace a crucial part of it don't go together.
    Why?

    A lot of people like Arab culture but wish they'd lay off the honor killings and Jihad.

    A lot of people like American culture but wish we'd stop exporting crappy movies and Taylor Swift hate songs.

    I like some aspects of German culture but I was pretty horrified to see 70 year old dudes laying out in the Tiergarten butt *****.

    etc.

    Keep the good, replace the bad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by [WDW]Megaraptor View Post
    Why?

    Keep the good, replace the bad.
    Their religion is bad now?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sootan View Post
    Their religion is bad now?
    According to some people, yes.

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    [*******#333333]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.[/COLOR]
    class act...

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    Quote Originally Posted by [WDW]Megaraptor View Post
    According to some people, yes.
    Any trustworthy people?

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    If anyone destroys culture it is those missionaries

    US missionaries managed to complete the work of the conquistadors in Latin America by destroying the remains of precolumbian culture and religion (of which surprisingly much had survived between a thin veneer of catholicism) and now they're at it in Tibet.
    If I were the chinese I would tolerate mainstream christianity (Catholicism, Lutheranism, Orthodoxy) but fight the US evanglical church industry.
    This is not "freedom of ideas" but multibillion dollar cooperations preying on the weak.

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    Quote Originally Posted by [WDW]Megaraptor View Post
    Why?

    A lot of people like Arab culture but wish they'd lay off the honor killings and Jihad.

    A lot of people like American culture but wish we'd stop exporting crappy movies and Taylor Swift hate songs.

    I like some aspects of German culture but I was pretty horrified to see 70 year old dudes laying out in the Tiergarten butt *****.

    etc.

    Keep the good, replace the bad.
    If you say so. That was just a sideline comment by me anyway. One point still stands: those people make themselves willing tools in the Commies' quest to destroy the Tibetan identity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCR View Post
    This is not "freedom of ideas" but multibillion dollar cooperations preying on the weak.
    Right. Obviously people in the Third World are too stupid to decide for themselves what culture to adopt and what religion to follow. They need to be protected from outside influences. Because they are "weak" and lesser human beings. That's not racist or imperialistic at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by [WDW]Megaraptor View Post
    Right. Obviously people in the Third World are too stupid to decide for themselves what culture to adopt and what religion to follow. They need to be protected from outside influences. Because they are "weak" and lesser human beings. That's not racist or imperialistic at all.
    And why shouldn't a person living in a agrarian society be weak when confronted with a organisation from a industrial society?
    The difference in education and financial means alone is decisive.

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    [*******#333333]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.[/COLOR]
    Right, because a concept of someone first killing almost the entire planet and later sending his son to be tortured to be able to forgive sin, which he knew is going to be committed, who will later judge the entire planet and either send people to eternal place of happiness or eternal place of torture is perfectly ok. Oh, and of course their book doesn't teach that slavery, killing unbelievers (even if it is the whole town), marrying rapist, killing rape victim who didn't scream loud enough, women who are not virgins on wedding night, blasphemers, killing people working on holy day, killing sons of sinners is perfectly ok

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    What the heck...

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