Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 19, 2008
Pilgrims discover Christís Asian face
Chinese lives bear witness to their faith
By ANITA ALLSOPP
Meeting the shamans of the Naxi people, I saw reverence and respect for nature and gratitude for harvests.
They were like Jesus on the shore, by an open fire saying: "Come have breakfast (lunch)" (John 21:12) Do we have eyes to see?
The Chinese people we met were hospitable and curious, and very open with their feelings. They shared not only their food, but also their songs, their children and their long history.
Along this road, I also began to intuit that Jesus the Pilgrim was also walking with the many peoples of China.
"All of us are walking together to discover God in the world and in others." Addressing the leaders of other religions in 1986, John Paul II said: "As followers of different religions we should join together in promoting and defending common ideals in the spheres of religious liberty, human brotherhood, education, culture, social welfare and civic order."
John Paul II has said something quite profound here. Dialogue is an essential ingredient if pilgrims on the way are going to build a new world order.
At a recent Asian Synod, the bishops of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei felt that much could be learned from dialogue with other religions. As concerns the religions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Animism present in China, they had the following to say:
This pilgrimage to China did not involve direct dialogue on religious matters. Rather the religious roots of these peoples were revealed in the way they lived their lives.
There was tangible detachment from material goods and respect for life in the beautiful rural areas of farmland and rice paddies. I saw filial piety and respect for elders in the marketplace. The peasants were simple and humble coming into the city on bicycles, carts, etc, carrying animals and vegetables in baskets.
In Ligiang, meeting the shamans of the Naxi people, I saw reverence and respect for nature and gratitude for harvests.
I come away from China realizing that Christ has an Asian face as much as a Western one. The fullness of Christ will be in the melding of these two perspectives.
I come home humbled and deeply touched by a generous people, 70 per cent of whom still live in a rural setting, with few material goods.
If I have left behind something of the compassionate and inclusive Christ, then perhaps too the Chinese people have benefitted from my presence.
When Jesus walked with the disciples of Emmaus, he explained the Scriptures to them (Luke 24:27). I wonder if these Scriptures could not also include over and above the Old and New Testaments, the Buddhist and Taoist texts, writings that pre-date our Bible?
Is there not a foreshadowing of Christ in all that came before him? Could Jesus have, along with his Hebrew roots, some ancient Asian roots that we have yet to discover?
In China we broke bread at the inn, like the disciples of Emmaus. Our table was sometimes a coffee table, a conference room podium, a kitchen table or an office desk.
We were sometimes surrounded outside our windows by a polluted horizon, or the backdrop of Jade Dragon Mountain, or the morning traffic of bicycles, carts and cars. These are the images that remain embedded in the landscape of my soul.
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