MR-NET  News #17


 23 August 2004   

  SVD Mission Research Network  
Mission Secretariat - Rome   

The 15th SVD General Chapter urged that all SVD mission researchers be in very close collaboration, and to focus their study and teaching on concrete issues that can help improve our missionary service, and make it responsive to present needs. And so, this occasional email bulletin shares ideas, opinions, resources and hopes about SVD mission research.

In this bulletin:

1. Arul and Selvamani - UNIVERSITIES MEETING






1. Arul and Selvamani - UNIVERSITIES MEETING

Joseph Arul and John Selvamani (SIN) of Fu Jen University in Taipei presented a paper at a workshop of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, held in Rome Rome March 25-27, 2004. The workshop was organized to establish a Sectorial Group in Sciences in the federation. The paper was entitled "Making scientific knowledge accessible to everybody. A role for a Catholic university in Taiwan." An abstract of the paper follows.

Taiwan, an island nation, has become an important player in science and technology development. Realizing the potential in biotechnology and information technology advances, researches in these areas have been a priority among universities and research institutions in the country. At the same time, there is awareness of the need to educate people on the impact of scientific advances on Taiwanese society and enable them to evaluate and judge the role of science and technology in human society. In this regard, biotechnology and genomic medicine have received much attention. Society, Technology and Society (STS) network and Ethical, Legal, Social Issues (ELSI) research centre have been established to educate the public and promote researches in ethical implications of biotechnology and genomic medicine in Taiwan.

Many universities in the country have included courses on science, technology and society for non-science students to promote better understanding of science among future generation. In this paper we assess the courses offered in science to non-science students in selected universities in Taiwan. We evaluate, in detail, the science courses offered through the holistic education curriculum in Fu Jen Catholic University and propose ways by which a Catholic university could play an important role in promoting a scholarly and healthy discussion on the impact of science on human society and values in Taiwan.

[For more information contact Joseph Arul at or John Selvamani at ]

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Stanislaw Grodz (POL) participate in an international conference on Christian-Muslim Relations in Contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa, 19-23 April, 2004.  The conference was organized by the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations (CSIC), Department of Theology, University of Birmingham, UK. He sends the following report.

During its over 25-year long existence the CSIC has prepared many specialists – both Christians and Muslims – who actively develop contacts between adherents of both religions in Africa and elsewhere. Encounters organized by the CSIC have always been characterized by the high level of academic competence required from the participants. Yet, this focus on academic standards does not obscure the fact that quite often the presenters are highly religious people. In its policy the Centre has always been careful to give an opportunity to present a broad range of opinions, at the same time discouraging destructive polemics or apologetics. Such a combination creates a unique atmosphere in which even the most delicate and controversial issues can be raised and constructively discussed.

About 35 participants, mainly Africans, took part in the conference. The main part of three full conference days was given to twelve speakers. To my own surprise I happened to be the only European among the presenters.

The speakers discussed the situation in nine African countries: Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria (2 papers), Republic of South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania (3 papers). Some general issues were also raised concerning: education; problems with using religion as a cover-up for economic, political and ethnic disputes; irresponsibility of mass-media in reporting conflicts; status of women; failures of encounters on official level (in contrast to often successful ones at the grass-root level); unwillingness of religious groups to give up their privileged position in the society and share it with religious minority groups; rapid deterioration and collapse of the legal systems in many African countries leaving the people at the mercy of various dictators and multinational corporations.

Talking about education on several occasions the participants underlined not only the need for learning about the religion of the other in an unbiased way but recommended the foundation of common schools open for both Christians and Muslims.

Problems concerning the spread of Islam and Christianity in Africa were also been addressed. Because it is unlikely that both Christians and Muslims will abandon their missionary activities, a quest for a new paradigm for this activity seems to be necessary. I pointed out that religious faith does not necessarily need to be perceived as an obstacle in building up mutual understanding between adherents of different religions. Contemporary Muslim thinker, Hasan Askari, contends that people pay too much attention to boundaries separating religious traditions. In his opinion, and I concur with him, the real division lines cut across different religious traditions, and in fact, describe various modes of believing rather than adherence to official religious traditions. This may be a common basis for building a new perception of Christianity and Islam that places them together in one perspective described by Wilfred Cantwell Smith as total complex. Broadening of horizons in order to include non-Western perspectives on Christian-Muslim relations, postulated by David Kerr, is another new opportunity. In my view this is happening within the SVD – the non-Western perspectives are coming to the fore. I used the opportunity to briefly introduce the audience to who we are and what we do. Our new involvement in Chad was used as a springboard to put forward some ideas concerning a dialogue-based approach to missionary work. The new challenge gives us an opportunity to reconsider our present approach and to see our methods of work in a new, sharper light. I pointed out that the SVD Chad team would operate in the area considered as the ‘frontier’ of the Muslim world in Africa. Who is present there and what he does may become a very sensitive matter. Being in that ‘frontier situation’ we need not behave as soldiers who come either to attack or to defend. We need not uphold the old stereotyped perceptions of being rivals in another ‘scramble for Africa’.

[For more information contact Stan Grodz at ]

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This fifth meeting of Project Europe was hosted at our SVD Parish in Berlin from 11-15 of May 2004. The meeting was organized around three primary concerns: Publication, On Site Visits, Planning for Next Steps.

Publication. In general there is agreement that any publication should aim to help our confreres better articulate SVD mission today in Europe. A particular concern is to find ways to speak about God in a secularized world. In the end a publication date of October 1 was set.

On Site Visits. After spending some time visiting with the pastoral team of the parish and the Chemin Neuf ministry in Berlin, the group spent some time reflecting together on possible implications for SVD mission in Europe. "Welcome" is a critical theme - whether in parish or in our own SVD houses. Perhaps our own experience of community life leaves us with questions about whether we are welcome or not. As a result there is less emphasis on welcoming.

Some concrete ideas emerged in the course of the sharing:

• SVD parish needs to emphasize outreach - to faith-seekers.

• Parish ministry is not only that of the SVDs - it is with all members of the parish. We need to work with the other members of the parish as fellow missionaries.

We don't always need to invent new organizations, many times it would be more useful to participate in existing groups.

• SVDs should emphasize a strong biblical base in their efforts at outreach.

Pray publicly, in the church for our dialogue partners, including faith-seekers, followers of other religions, the poor and marginalized, people of other cultures.

• There should be welcomers in the church on an ongoing basis.

What would the agenda of an "evangelization" committee be? There would seem to be some danger of collapsing evangelization committees with other concerns - JPIC, development, world solidarity...

Give a short report of activities of members to the SVD community - Salesian experience. The same is true in a parish - committees need to report to the overall parish community.

Next Steps. The group would like to be able to fashion a clear answer to the question: What is SVD missionary service in Europe? This is a question that has emerged repeatedly since the Donamon accord. While there certainly is missionary work to do in Europe, the members of Project Europe also insist that not every kind of church work should be classed as SVD missionary commitment. It seems that there is a growing consensus, in practice, on the nature of our service here: SVDs have been making larger commitments to immigrant communities here in Europe and there is a widespread concern to find ways to reach out to those who are distant from the church and from religious practice. It was proposed and accepted to study the mission statements of the various provinces in the next meeting to be held in November.

[For more information contact Heribert Bettscheider at or at MissWiss ]

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The inaugural meeting of the Islam Contact Group was held at Nemi on 26 May 2004. Present for the meeting were Adam Was (POL), Stan Grodz (POL), Anbu Augustine (INC), Markus Solo (OES), and Tom Ascheman (CUR). The principal topic of discussion was the purpose for the formation of an Islam Contact Group (ICG). It was happily noted that we have a growing number of younger confreres professionally trained in the study of Islam. At present there does not seem to be a need to develop big structures or a formal institute focused on the study of Islam, however, there is a growing need to:

• maintain contact among SVD scholars of Islam to promote mutual support as colleagues.

• encourage other younger confreres to do studies in areas related to Islam.

• animate the Society for a greater interest and commitment to Islamic encounter.

The members proposed the following activities as their immediate concerns:

• Write up notices for MR-NET on a regular basis. For instance, send two items per year regarding some of the activities of the group members.

• Propose some articles for VERBUM SVD - perhaps arrangements could be made to have one issue dedicate three or four articles to topics related to Islam.

• Keep in touch with seminarians so that some become interested in Islamic studies. The contact group members should try to make sure there will be another generation of SVDs interested in Islamic studies.

• Compose a prayer for use by SVDs so they can pray for Muslims during the time of Ramadan or Eid-al-Fitr.

For the time being, the group asked Adam Was to serve as their primary contact. Anyone interested in participating in the group should contact him.

[For more information contact Adam Was at ]

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The SVD communications coordinator, Niels Johansen (CUR), is happy to announce the inauguration of a new SVD web site from the generalate. Eventually this site will serve as a portal for information about and from all of the various SVD provinces and projects around the world. In due time it will also substitute the SVDWorld Intranet site that has been in use for the past two years.

The new website includes both a public area for the wider public and an area reserved for SVD members. To access the private area you can apply for a password from our webmaster - Thi Pham (ROM). Since this project is just getting started, there are still a lot of improvements that are planned. Thi will certainly appreciate any suggestions you might have.

[The site can be accessed at or at ]

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Roman Malek (GEN), Verschmelzung der Horizonte: Mozi und Jesus. Zur Hermeneutik der chinesisch-christlichen Begegnung nach Wu Leichuan (1869–1944). Studies in Christian Mission 29 (Leiden – Boston: Brill 2004), 613 pp. View: and Order via:

This work explores the Problematik of the Christian-Chinese encounter from a non-Confucian perspective, exemplified by the comparison between Jesus of Nazareth and the non-orthodox philosopher Mozi (ca. 479–381 B.C.). The investigation is based on the work Mozi yu Yesu (1940) by the Hanlin-scholar and only Protestant convert with a jinshi-degree, Wu Leichuan (1869–1944). Following a historiographical introduction, the first part gives a biographical sketch and discusses the writings and prolegomena of the Sino-Christian hermeneutics of Wu Leichuan (a.o. his conception of God and man, the pneumatology and ethics). Part second describes the social reformer Mozi and his teachings which Wu Leichuan interprets in a Christian way. Part three presents the life and teachings of Jesus according to Wu Leichuan as well as his attempts to establish a “Ruist” view of the Christian tradition. Part four is dedicated to the comparison between Mozi and Jesus, with special emphasis on Wu’s understanding of religion and his attitude towards Socialism/Communism. The final part refers to the defectiveness of the Chinese and Christian traditions from Wu Leichuan’s point of view and to the necessity of a return to the “true and original Dao.” Detailed bibliography and a general index conclude the work. [Contact Roman Malek at]

Piotr Nawrot (BOL), Archivo Musical de Moxos: Antología, Santa Cruz de la Sierra: Fondo Editorial APAC y Cochabamba: Editorial Verbo Divino, Bolivia.  ISBN 999055-1-096-2.  4 Vol.

Este estudio presenta una colección de textos y transcripciones musicales de obras inéditas del Archivo Musical de Moxos. Lo que se entrega al lector y al músico es el resultado de una investigación emprendida en varios archivos y bibliotecas de Europa y America... [Contact Piotr Nawrot at]

Peter Sam Cao Nguyen (KOR), Vietnamese Conversion to Christianity: The Impact of the Refugee Experience.  Berkeley, California: The Graduate Theological Union, 2003.

This work is an exploratory study of the relationship between the Vietnamese refugees' escape experience from their home country and their experience of conversion to and within Christianity. This study focuses on sixteen Vietnamese refugees who escaped Vietnam by boats, spent time in refugee camps, and settled in the United States. Conversion, in this study, includes the process of intensification within one's own tradition, a change of denominations, and/or a change of religions. [Contact Peter Sam Cao Nguyen at]

David Mayer (JPN), Komagane Poems, Techny Mission Books, 1999.

Of an August evening, in Komagane City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan, against the background music of a few remaining cicadas and of the newly arrived crickets, in a tatami-floored house, these poems were started. Like the seventee-year cicadas, much of their life was underground, the passage of time from childhood experience in Columbia, Missiour, to the threshold of the last quinquennium of a teaching career in Japan. More recently Dave has published a further collection of poems: "Yamaguchi Journey" Japan Poetry Review No. 9 2003, pp. 23-26. ISSN 1341-2523.  [Contact Dave Mayer at ]

Steve Bevans and Roger Schroeder (USC) Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004 ISBN 1-57075-517-5, 488p.  

The work explores the history of mission, describing a number of models of missionary activity that have emerged over the centuries. In the process they identify six constants of mission that help to compare the models while setting them within their particular historical and ecclesial contexts. They conclude their work with a helpful reflection on prophetic dialogue that adds some interesting perspectives on the reflections of the 2000 SVD General Chapter. From the closing paragraph of the final chapter:

Mission today is a "single, complex reality"(RM41). In its singleness it remains faithful to what has always been constant: the centrality of Jesus Christ, the importance of the church, the urgency of the message in the light of the world's end, the proclamation of salvation, the importance of the human person and human culture. But as a complex reality the one mission needs to be sensitive to the various movements of culture, thought, politics, and spiritual sensitivity that make up the context in which mission is lived out.  Today, we believe, mission needs to be acknowledged first of all as God's work and as a dedication to preaching, serving and witnessing to the reign of God as lived, preached and embodied in Jesus of Nazareth. It needs to be open and determined, sensitive and courageous. As the church witnesses and proclaims, prays and celebrates, works for justice for humanity and for creation, is open to people of other faith perspectives and to the context in which people live, is available as God's instrument of reconciliation - in other words, as the church lives out its radical missionary nature - our conviction is that prophetic dialogue best names the service to which God is calling it in these first years of a new century and a new millennium.  Prophetic dialogue, in other words, is the phrase that best summarizes a theology of mission for today, keeping the church constant in this context. [Contact Steve Bevans at and Roger Schroeder at]

Anyone interested in ordering multiple copies of this work should contact our ex-confrere, Bill Burrows, at Orbis Books.  He is willing to offer a special discount to members of the MR-Net. [Contact Bill Burrows at]

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