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Unification is a ‘clashing’ of different social entities. It is a shocking process that two heterogenic states should be accustomed to the abruptly changed environment. It will also be a tough process that a socially accustomed entity meets with entirely different human community, so that it leads to much conflict in the realms of polity, economy and culture. When it comes to unification on the Korean peninsula, it surely causes much conflict and problem due to the long time seizure of the Korean nation under hostile ideologies of capitalism and communism, though we are not sure when it does. The Confucian cultural tradition is still deeply rooted, and quasi-religious and kind of autistic state have been formed in the North. Therefore, although the two Koreas may achieve a unified country through the mobilization of national sentiment, they shall suffer from a serious conflict and identity crisis in the process of unification.
Moreover, unlike Germany, the two Koreas have not actively exchanged or communicated with each other, so that mutual understanding between the two is very low. While East and West Germany had realized people-to-people exchanges of average 3 million in general or 10 million in the 1980s annually before the unification,[1] two Koreas recorded only 170 thousands in human exchange in annual terms which even downed to almost none in recent years. Considering this situation where exchanges and communications are very low between the two Koreas, the process of unification into a harmonizing community will be a difficult task since that the two conflicting values and thoughts are involved.
While it is unquestionable that any developments in the course of unification between the two Koreas, for better or worse, will have deep and lasting consequences for successful integration, it is more likely that it will trigger a lot of conflict and disputes in the newly unified nation. The problem of how to coordinate and overcome their conflicts and disputes will be an important criterion to judge a successful unification in an integrated way. Therefore, we need to carefully analyze the differences and similarities of both Koreas, so that we can mobilize possible resources for the successful integration of two Koreas. In this sense, this paper attempts to analyze possible social conflict and the problem of identity crisis to occur after the unification of the Korean peninsula, and to suggest alternative measures for promoting social integration and identity formation suitable to the newly unified Korea.

The term ‘social integration’ first came to use in the work of French sociologist Emile Durkheim. He wanted to understand why the rates of suicide were higher in some social classes than others. Emile Durkhiem believed that society exerted a powerful force on individuals. He concluded that a people’s beliefs, values, and norms make up a collective consciousness, a shared way of understanding each other and the world.[2] Social integration in this sense can be a collective social state where all members participate in dialogue to achieve and maintain mutual understanding based on shared values. An American sociologist Talcott Parsons said that social integration is maintained by the dynamics of both positive and negative dimensions. In positive dimension, people are integrated into a system through the internalization of such cultural values as beliefs, languages, and symbols. In negative dimension, people are integrated through reward and punishment and other control mechanisms.[3] As Durkheim explained, society is more secure and stable, when social integration is achieved by voluntary submission of the people to, what he called, collective representation composed of the emotional, the moral, the holy, and the religious.[4]
The idea of social integration has been utilized in the sense that unification is not just a political event, but a process of societal transformation. In light of the experience of Germany, there has been a growing consensus within South Korean society to view unification as a process rather than an outcome. Deepening differences in structure and thought between South and North Korea have made for an environment in which the realization of unification as a single event or as an immediate, absolute synthesis is no longer realistic. Furthermore, the idea of integration has been utilized more consistently as a more appropriate framework for the application of the idea of “unification as process of integration.”
On the other hand, debates on “unification as a process of integration” in South Korea have focused primarily on political and national security concerns, and the result has been a serious imbalance in the development of thought and discussion on integration as it applies across the political, economic, and socio-cultural dimensions. Discussions of social integration, specifically relating to the formation of a shared identity between South and North Koreans, have been particularly lacking. Some scholars have viewed unification as the final stage in the process of integration, with integration providing and creating the conditions necessary for unification. Others have approached integration as a much more general concept, one that encompasses cultural and social change and that will continue long after the conditions of political and legal reunification are realized.
So while the conception of “unification as process” is something with which we are growing familiar, we understand the concept of social integration as a particular state of unification process. Social integration can be seen as a dynamic and principled process where all members participate in dialogue to achieve and maintain peaceful social relations. Social integration does not mean forced assimilation. Social integration is focused on the need to move toward a safe, stable and just society by forming and mending conditions of social disintegration such as social fragmentation, exclusion and polarization; and by expanding and strengthening conditions of social integration towards peaceful social relations of coexistence, collaboration and cohesion.[5]
The concept of social integration is commonly understood as two dimensions; institutions and values.[6] Institutional integration focuses on the legal and policy aspects of the integration process, and is being proceeded with official organizations and socio-economic entities. Integration in values, on the other hand, is a multi-dimensional and relatively more complicated process that plays out over a longer period of time. Because value integration encompasses changes in beliefs, attitudes, public consciousness, and culture, it is comprised of the process of subjective consciousness and national identity to the institutional integration. In the conception of social integration, we have sought to formulate a scheme that will incorporate both legal-institutional and attitudinal dimensions, and account for both institutional and value integration simultaneously.
The German case shows well enough how difficult could we achieve a successful social integration in the process of unification. Despite the improved standard of living in East Germany from 50 percent to 80 percent of West Germany, some of East German people still want to return to the old regime; two thirds of former East German people feel they are second grade citizen, and three of fourth of them feel they are discriminated compared to West Germany people.[7] The report noted that East Germans, even in the past twenty more years of unification, possessed distinct attitudes, values, and expectations, reflective of the unequal reality of East Germany’s course of development.[8] While countless reports and articles on integration were produced in Germany following reunification, these proved inadequate for encouraging the actual convergence of the two societies. And the response to this insufficiency was greater attention to social and psychological assessments of integration that would acknowledge the distinct East German identity by measuring the quality of life in their ways.
Being compared with the Korean situation, nevertheless, the German unification is surely regarded as a typical example to achieve successful social integration. Germany had no serious scar from civil war between the two. And there are moderating people and institutions including the numerous “Round Tables” that brought representatives of the state and of various groups from society together and mostly they are protestant clergymen.[9] In order to make social integration successful, West Germany adopted health system and kindergarten system from East Germany, so that the system of unified Germany had been standardized by East Germans in the realms.[10] Above all, West Germany had pursued the so called, Ostpolitik through which “change through rapprochement” and normalization had been actively promoted with the communist state.
Having that in mind, social integration in Korea will be much more difficult than in Germany. Unlike Germany, Korea had suffered from civil war; “change through rapprochement” by sunshine policy was not very much supported by the people in South Korea; it is highly unlikely that there will be a peaceful revolution in North Korea; there are no groups or institutions to possibly play a role of reform in North Korea; and there are no “neutral” personalities or institutions to moderate social conflicts which might take place in the process of unification on the Korean peninsula. To make matters worse, the two Koreas hardly share an all-Korean identity because 70 years have already passed since the division. Unlike Germany where some sentiment of German nation had been commonly shared between the two Germans rather ambiguously and sometimes strongly, the two Koreas do not seem to feel any solidarity for all of Korea. Rather there seems a strong sense of voluntary identification in the people within either ROK or DPRK.


Mass Migration and Social Disorder
When unification takes place in the Korean peninsula, the immediate social response of the people will be mass migration of the population. The mass migration mainly will be the outflow of people from the North to the South. We have seen the mass outflow of people from the former communist countries to the West when the system collapsed in Eastern Europe. When the communist regime in East Germany came to an end, the East German people displayed four types of responses to the changes around them. Of the four responses—compromise, seclusion, evasion, and resistance—resistance was demonstrated the least.[11] It was somewhat striking because church organizations were widely present in East Germany and so the conditions were actually quite advantageous for organizing resistance. In contrast, civil organizations are totally nonexistent in North Korea today, and therefore organizing resistance against authorities would be an extremely difficult endeavor. It thus seems that escape is the only means of resistance that would be available, for ordinary citizens and power holders alike, in the event of sudden unification.
The mass migration issue might become a very serious social conflict in Korean context. As we all know, there are ten million separated family members scattered in both sides of Korea. Many difficult problems are inherent in separated family issue, such as legal disputes regarding land and property ownership, family reunion, right of succession, and so forth. Through inter-Korean government dialogue during the past 15 years, only about twenty thousand family members have succeeded in meeting their family members, but there are still many family members waiting and who applied seeking for their family members through inter-government dialogue. There are also South Koreans who went to the North during the Korean War. They also will seek their family members residing in the South. Families of abductees, POWs and even 26,000 recent refugees who settled down in the South surely will move to find their families in the North.[12]
Mass migration may enhance a social tension and chaos to the maximum level in a unified Korea. The social chaos and tension will mainly be heightened in the Northern side, but the mass migration from the North will surely have a great impact on the Southern peninsula. Massive inflow of the Northerners into the South may paralyze social order and system, and sometimes it may cause serious social crimes on the Southern peninsula. It may therefore result in the inability to properly administer laws in the South. But more serious social chaos may occur in the Northern side. North Korean society has traditionally been controlled through clandestine surveillance on individuals by the state and the consequent punishment of those deemed as threats to their authority. Many North Koreans have experienced severe punishment under this surveillance system, and some have even been the victims of unwarranted punishment. Therefore, if unification in Korea weakens state control, it is possible that these victims, who previously refrained from acting in fear of further punishment, will seek their revenge. It is also possible that these former victims will employ violent means against the people responsible for their undeserved suffering, even seeking them out in their homes.

Widening Inequality and Class Conflict
The economic gap between South and North Korea will widen during the unification. Economic unbalance is a serious problem. More than 95 percent of GDP produced on the Korean peninsula come from the South, while only less than 5 percent produced in the North. This uneven economic development condition may become a serious obstacle towards a peaceful unity among Korean people. This may create serious regional conflict between the North and the South and it may develop into a class conflict between rich and poor in the unified society. As we discussed above, the mass migration to the South will likely occur mainly due to the food shortage in the North.
The social consequences of unification are predicted to appear primarily in the form of rapidly deteriorating humanitarian conditions around the country. Considering the current poor conditions of North Korea’s health services and food supplies, it is likely that the existing levels of starvation and the shortage of medical supplies and education resources will only be aggravated by the onset of sudden change. Therefore, even if living standards in North Korea will improve and income will increase in two-folds in the next several years or even in the following couple of decades, the majority of North Koreans will likely continue to live under harsh conditions.
In the course of Korean unification, the problem of unemployment will deteriorate the economic and social inequality. In the case of Germany, the unemployment rate went up to 40%. If the Korean unification is to bring about unemployment up to 30% of the economically active population of North Korea, the number of unemployment will increase as many as 3.3 million in unified Korea. South Korea had already an experience that the unemployed population reached up to 1.5 million under the IMF system in the late 1990s. In this context, 3.3 million people, or about 100 million urban workers are likely subject to unemployment. Therefore, the unemployment shall pay not only a huge economic expense, but also a social expense and even greater loss of self-identity because the North Korean people had been living in a socialist system in which they had never thought of unemployment.
North Korea’s chronic food shortage situation has resulted in undernourishment and devastating hardship for a quarter of the country’s population (approximately five to six million people). Moreover, famine and the continuing economic recession have left medical facilities poorly equipped to provide services to the North Korean people. The number of patients suffering from contagious or curable diseases reflects the inadequate state of medical care in North Korea. The deterioration of North Korea’s economic situation and the simultaneous loss of state management capacity will likely result in a greater risk of epidemics, as the healthcare to which the average citizen has access will become even more limited.
Considering the widening gap between two Koreas, it was not easy to integrate the two Koreas socially. Both Koreas did not have enough opportunity to exchange their views and thoughts with each other. When it comes to welfare integration, the conflict will become greatly tense. The Northerners may have a critical attitude to unified Korean society if health care system and social security benefits such as pension and various subsidies will not be provided with equal amount as much as those of the Southerners. The relative deprivation that the Northerners may feel will hinder to integrate the two Koreas into one communal body. Rather it may cause inferiority and frustration to the Northerners. If so, the socialist Northerners may refuse the unification, criticizing the South as a society that the rich becomes richer and the poor poorer. If so, the North Korean people are likely to criticize the South as a snob who knows only money, whereas the South Korean people are likely to treat the North as a ‘bagger.’ It will cause serious social conflict that may greatly inhibit the social integration in unified Korea.

Ideological Gap and Cultural Heterogeneity
Ideological gap and cultural difference will surely cause social conflict in the unified society in Korea. Two different and heterogenic systems of ideology, capitalism and communism had been formed and developed in each part of Korea for the past 70 years. It is not an easy task to integrate the two heterogenic societies at all.
Cultural heterogeneity will also cause a serious social conflict between two Koreas. While traditional values prevail in the North, modern and commercial values in the South. People in both sides of Korea will be faced with a kind of culture shock when it comes to unification. However, the traditional culture in North Korea is being changed recently by contact with the South Korean culture. In view of the closed system in the North, some past survey results are somewhat surprising even if we consider the fact that they showed many North Korean defectors settling down in the South. But it is natural that the cultural preference flows from the modern and commercial to the pre-modern and traditional. Therefore, the open, commercially entertaining South Korean pop culture has strong appeal to North Koreans.
Although the cultural inflow in North Korea may help North Koreans adapting to the new society, the cultural difference in two Koreas will surely be difficult to realize successful integration in the unified Korea. We have already seen that North Korean defectors living in South Korea are greatly suffering from such heterogenic lifestyles as too much busy life, too many English languages, abstruse legal terminologies, express buses, airplanes and so forth, which make the lives of North Korean defectors greatly difficult in social adaptation to life in South Korea.[13] Conversely, the North Korean defectors are not friendly preferred by the South Korean citizens. To the eyes of South Koreans, North Koreans are those persons of stubborn, double minded, and unthankful characters. It is criticized that North Koreans are too strong in self-esteemed character and they take for granted the things the South Korean government supported them. South Koreans may have a shock by finding the fact that traditional Confucian values such as loyalty to the nation and filial piety prevail in the North and also by seeing the undeveloped North far worse than they thought.


ROK (Han’guk) vs. DPRK (Cho’sun)
The sudden unification of the two Koreas will increase greatly the tensions and conflicts between them. Tensions and Conflicts are likely to occur with regards to various issues, including the progression of North-South negotiations and the decision on the part of South Korea whether or not to accept North Korean institutions. Today, the two Koreas possess very distinct understandings, particularly regarding the national history, national identity, the Juche ideology, origins of the Korean War, Kim Jong Eun’s achievements, and so on. Most North Koreans today possess only a distorted knowledge of Nam Chosun (North Korea’s nomenclature for South Korea), and are not aware even of the existence of a Republic of Korea. Such disparities constitute great risks for the future of the Korean peninsula, as even the smallest dispute may lead to a mass conflict in the case of unification. The Republic of Korea is in need of a policy that can accurately convey to the North the realities of the South and simultaneously build inter-Korean affinity.
As the state of division persists year after year, the statehood has become stronger than ever in both parts of Korea. Two Koreas have shown their own loyalty to their nations by their own national flags and national anthems. Fifty-three percent of South Koreans do regard North Korea as a different state.[14] The language, culture and living habits of the two sides have been mobilized for the nation-state building for their own purpose. The conception and interpretation of the Korean history have been diverged; school system and educational philosophy became different. Both Koreas see the origin of Korean nation differently. South Korea believes in the han(韓, 한) tribe as their original ancestor while North Korea rejects it. Instead, North Korea claims the mac(貊, 맥) tribe was the real origin of the Korean nation. South Korea has given its legitimacy of history to Shilla dynasty, whereas North Korea to Koguryo.[15]
The most difficult obstacle is the name of the country itself, that is ROK, or Republic of Korea and DPRK, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. When we use the name of country in English, it is not a problem. But when we use the country name in Korean, we will get in trouble. South Korea calls it Han’guk(韓國), while North Korea calls it Cho’sun(朝鮮). In these days, some people use the English word ‘코리아’(Korea) in English directly. North Korea in this context strongly believes that they are descendents of Cho’sun nation, rejecting the claims of Han nation, while South Korea believes without any doubt that they are descendents of Han nation. The two Koreas do not share the name of Korea or Korean nation in Korean language.
It is quite a contrasting situation when Germans had shared the name of German nation even in divided period. West Germany called itself Bundesrepublic Deutschland, whereas East Germany calls itself Deutsche Demokratische Republik in German language. Germans used Westdeutschland for the West Germany, and Ostdeutschland for the East Germany in German language. It clearly shows that the German people had shared the same German language Deutchland for their own nation regardless the division of the country. However, Koreans do not share the Korean word to designate the name of Korea or name of Korean nation. This will, in fact, worsen the identity crisis and lead the 2 countries to a serious problem in the process of identity formation and integration of two Koreas after unification of the Korean peninsula.
The national identity in the unified Korea is nowadays a hot issue in preparing unification in the South. Some people in the right wing try to establish the ROK identity in preparing unification, which is going to make a conflict with the identity of DPRK. There currently exists great tension whether the current liberal democracy should be preserved in the unification of Korea. North Korea on the other hand will not give up the socialist identity of their nation in the unified Korea. South Korea is likely to have an orientation of diffusing the ROK nationalism, or han nationalism while North Korea will intend to expand their DPRK nationalism, or cho’sun nationalism. North Korea on the basis of the Juche idea will attempt to expand their version of Korean nationalism, or what it calls Cho’sun Korea nationalism-first policy (조선민족제일주의).
When the socialist ideology in Russia and Eastern Europe suddenly disappeared, people could not immediately adapt to democratic environment. While some went to religious extremism, others were most inclined towards extreme nationalism. If the collapse of North Korean system results in the case of unification of the two Koreas, the North Korean socialism will tend to take an extreme nationalism. Considering juche is a component of North Korea’s political system, it will become an obstacle to integration in unified Korea.[16] According to surveys done by the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Seoul National University, the pride of juche is relatively strong and the loyalty of North Korean residents toward Chairman Kim Jong Un is also strong; a large percentage of North Koreans take pride in juche ideology and Chairman Kim has a popular support, which are not so low.[17] The relatively high level of internalization of the juche ideology and loyalty among North Korean residents will be a serious hindrance in integration of the two Koreas. The reason that the neighboring countries worry about Korean unification may be that a united Korea can go to extreme nationalism. For Japan, for example, there will be a great fear and threat if extreme nationalism develops in the unified peninsula. Strong and extreme nationalist ideology which might be formed would be a serious social conflict in unified Korea.
It will be also a difficult problem to strengthen the new identity of diplomatic relation in unified Korea in the sense that the two Koreas have preferred different countries for their own part. The most favorite neighboring state to South Korea is the United States, while that to North Korea is China. A big percentage of South Koreans regard the U.S. as the most favorite neighboring state to South Korea, while North Koreans regard China as the most favorite state to the North.[178] This trend has not changed for the past several years.[19] The most threatening states to each Korea are, on the other hand, different from each other. To South Korea, North Korea is the most threatening state, while to the North the United States is the most threatening power. From this picture, we can assume that we should be very cautious in preparing for Korean unification because North Korea prefers China, whereas South Korea prefers the United States. So that North Korea may not request any serious help from South Korea in the case of unification. Instead, North Korea may go to China to ask any imminent need.

Hostility and Distrust
There are other obstacles to bother integration and identity formation in a unified Korea. The presence of hostility and distrust which had been piled up over the 70 years history of the Korean division, will be the most challenging issue after unification in Korea. Koreans from both sides suffered civil war and still suffers ideological confrontation. The war and confrontation have left serious scars and wounds in the minds of Korean people, although two Koreas began to hold dialogues, exchanges and cooperation after the end of Cold-War.
The problem is that the antagonism has been hardened from both parts of Korea. While the antagonism is nestled sporadically and present in the lower layer of the society in the South, it had been strongly rooted in the upper class in the North. Since the North Korean regime had given much benefits to the victims and their families who suffered from the war, the upper class in North Korea are mostly those who directly suffered from the Korean War. Their feeling of strong enmity had been shaped not by brainwashed education, but by education through their family heritage. Considering the structure of a ‘systematic antagonism’ in both Koreas, it will be very difficult to derive an integrated unification.[20]
It is very interesting that the perception on the other side is quite symmetrical. If the perception of cooperation is increasing in the South, the same feeling of cooperation is increasing in the North. Perception of the “enemy feeling’ is mutually increasing in each side of Korea in the recent years. ‘Enemy feeling’ toward South Korea has increased among North Koreans in the recent years too. We could say that the perception on the other side of Korea is greatly affected by the situation of inter-Korean relation.
The serious confrontation between the two Koreas in recent years may affect the insecure feeling among both Koreans. Even after the provocations done by the North Korean leader to the US government just recently before the North and South Korean Summit, this feeling of insecurity is still present among the Korean people. Although the Korean Summit which happened recently showed that peace can be given a chance between the two Koreas, the facts still show that the two Koreas still have a much distrust and anxiety against each other.


Economic and Welfare Remedies
Economic cooperation and assistance should be done in the direction of improving the North’s economic capability and income levels. Otherwise, the gap between the rich South and the poor North will be widened that it will be very difficult to make any consensus of same nation among them. As we discussed earlier, more than 95 percent of the entire GDP produced in the Korean peninsula come from the South, whereas only 5 percent in the North. This is an enormous imbalance of production on the Korean peninsula. If this situation is continued, the regional conflict between the North and the South will be intensified to its extreme degree even after unification.
South Korean economy in a divided situation tends to be endangered by any North Korean threat. Therefore, we need to establish a more stable economic cooperation with North Korea in order to create a peaceful and secure environment. We need to create and expand a common interest of both Koreas through the exchange of complementary industrial products, so as to establish a regional market in North Korea. In addition, the construction of Social Overhead Capital will bring about much benefits of transportation to China and Europe by saving transportation cost, which may reduce unification cost in the long run.
At the same time, we should take the effort to break down the psychological wall especially by carrying out humanitarian assistance to the poorest layer of up to 6 million starving North Koreans. Health, sanitation and food will critically and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of society especially in the North. These people will find survival extremely difficult without the distribution of immediate food supplies. Inefficiency in food distribution can lead to chaos and conflict at all levels and within all the sectors of society. A deadlock in food provisions can cause previously North Korean companies and factories to become dispersed, as members set off individually in search for food. Therefore, special attention must be paid to ensure that schools, hospitals and sanitoriums located in poverty-stricken areas receive immediate necessary aid. By performing material support, we need to save lives in the North and release the enmity emotion that they might have against the South as well as the possible absorption of the North by the South.
In order to avoid social chaos and economic downturn caused by mass population migration, it is highly recommended to promote a policy for separation of labor market between two regions during certain provisional period. It is also very important to keep a separate labor markets in order to stabilize the national economy in times of turmoil like a sudden unification. For this purpose, it is necessary to pursue a policy to give priority of ownership to those who reside in their house during certain period of time, i.e. 5 years or 7 years. In addition, it should prepare measures to come up with a solution for the unemployed including various measures for expanding employment.
If the situation is allowed, it should promote the gradual privatization, while maintaining the state ownership of the means of production in major properties in the Northern region in order to minimize the regional inequalities. It is also recommended to enforce a license of usage rather than ownership of land and house, and also such policy is recommended as compensation rather than the return for the South Korean holders of the North’s land documents.
It is crucial to maintain the social welfare service in North Korea at least as it is now. This means that the welfare level in North Korea should not be curtailed down even after unification. The welfare system itself in North Korea is regarded relatively well established compared with that of South Korea. Fortunately, however, it will not make much cost to maintain the present welfare services because the actual quality of benefit is very low in North Korea. For this reason, maintaining the current level of welfare benefits seems to be not a big financial burden. Therefore, it is needed to secure proper funding to absorb the social welfare system in order to expedite social integration in unified Korea.

Value Integration and Identity Formation
We should confirm a couple of social principles and some directions in order to promote solidarity of its members in a unified Korea. A unified Korea will need a new identity formation because there will be a totally new system different from the old regime. That is, people in unified Korea will be required to get used to new values and ideology, and they will also be requested to share emotional ties and a sense of pride among themselves as members of a unified Korea. Therefore, we should build these new values and ideology pertinent to the newly unified system. A general direction of value integration is suggested as this: Strengthening and Magnifying the vision of a unified Korea as a main source of integration, while managing minimization of the social conflict so as not to hinder the North-South integration.
In more concrete terms, we should actively promote social and cultural activities to form a sense of inter-regional community while reducing culture shock between the two regions. For this purpose, it is important to create a national consciousness and national feeling on the basis of ethnic identity and ethic ties; on the other hand, it is also important to acknowledge a heterogeneous entity as that of diversity in unified society. We can build the national consensus through the history of Dangun and Japanese colonial experience for example. The most preferred direction is that DPRK will be absorbed by the value of the Republic of Korea. However this is not possible in reality. North Korea has presented Corea as an alternative national identity which is worth consideration. Both Koreas can also share social cohesion when they eat kimchi, wear hanbok, and paly yutnori, and other traditional folk games. In all, it is very important to understand and acknowledge the heterogeneity as a diversity since the two Koreas had been much differentiated during the 70 years of division. So that we should be careful to avoid the heterogenic elements disturbing social integration in unified Korea, while promoting national pride and national consciousness as a force of social cohesion.
In order to successfully overcome value conflict in unified Korea, it needs to address the high level of vision, discourse and strategy for a new identity formation. As indicated in the German unification, it may have to pay a huge social cost of unification if psychological conflicts between the two Koreas are not properly managed. In this regard, a unified Korea will need to adhere to the principles and directions in order to build core social values needed in the unified society.
The First Principle would be the promotion of communication and coexistence. This is the principle not only needed after unification but also in the process of it. In order to achieve a successful integration, it is essential to understand that the two Koreas have disparate systems, and it must build a new attitude and culture of acknowledging different norms and values. In this regard, it is no doubt to say that promotion of communication and coexistence is the first and the foremost principle for the successful identity formation in the unified Korea.
The Second Principle would be the development of universal values such as democracy, markets and openness. Though coexistence and communication should be the basic starting point for social integration, it is not enough for unified society when we think of identity formation after unification. It needs a further effort to prepare and create universal values and institutions as of the unified version. Only then will we be able to ultimately achieve unity and achieve the purpose of social integration. In order to promote identity with social cohesion after unification, it will take place at least through homogeneity in institutions and will create a shared value between the North and the South residents. This practically means that the North Korean socialism should be transformed into more democratic, marketized, and opened system in unified Korea.
The Third Principle would be the building capacity for integrated identity. In order to enhance the integrated identity in a unified Korea, it is not only to simply expand the universal values and institutions to the North. Rather we should enhance capacity building of integration by creating and enlarging new social and cultural assets in the unified society. Strengthening social capacity in this sense means new identity should be a positive sum, not a unilateral institutionalization. In other words, it means that the integration policy should not collapse the cultural assets of a unified Korea, sticking to the principle of institutional homogenization. Unification shall be meaningful as far as it is the result of creating a ‘bigger Korea’ to create sustainable growth engines and so as to expand its national assets in economic, social, and cultural terms. In this sense, how to rebuild the vulnerable social and cultural identity and assets of North Korea has emerged as a challenge. It is also an urgent task to accumulate diplomatic identity and socio-cultural assets through human and cultural exchanges with China and the United States after unification.
The Fourth and Last Principle would be the green and peace-oriented value. As for the direction of new identity formation in a unified Korea, it is highly recommended to obtain a green and peace-oriented value. Unified Korea may have basically two fundamental challenges; One is to create a cultural model that can lead to co-existence with nature beyond the growth-oriented development approach; the other is to create a social model that can lead to a peaceful life in which a member of the community is promoted to the good of all. Both are connected closely to each other. How to integrate the qualitatively new core values into a social system is the main challenge and goal of the twenty-first century unified Korean peninsula. ‘Green peace’ shall be the core value of integrating various social groups in unified Korea. The idea of joining green into peace is embedded in the word of green peace. Green has been already a trendy value in philosophical thinking in these days and therefore will be the most critical element to constitute a sustainable form of human beings in the unified Korea. Peace is also an emerging value as a very urgent task of human being too. After the Cold War, ethnic, regional, cultural, and religious conflicts are bringing about a variety of conflict, violence and hatred, and it has become an urgent task to manage nationalism, ethnic sentiment, racism, and religious conflicts. In this, the value of green and peace will be the dominant paradigm of identity that the future Korea should build together with a newly established fatherland.

Conflict Transformation and Healing Programs
After the unification, regional conflicts between the North and the South will become serious problems in many aspects, and these conflicts are likely to be further amplified through political and social empowerment based on local sentiments. If there will be such a serious conflict, intervention of a third party may be a very realistic option as an arbitration mechanism to mitigate the conflict among them. There will be a great need for a mediator or mediation mechanisms to solve the various conflicts of ideological, cultural and social ones deeply rooted in between the two Koreas after unification. Traditionally, the conflict is understood as that can be ‘revolved’ or ‘managed’ by special methods. But more recently people have argued that it cannot be ‘resolved’ or ‘managed’ in a way that the sources of conflict are completely eliminated. Rather it should be solved by the method of conflict transformation, focusing on the relationship among conflicting parties. In many cases, conflicts cannot be treated in the way of ‘management’ or ‘solved’, rather they are able to be treated only through redefining ‘relationship’. Therefore, in the case of such a conflict, there should strive to find creative sympathetic elements in the process of dealing with conflict resolution and to build a constructive relationship better by focusing on the ‘relationship’ between groups of conflict rather than focusing on the conflict itself.
In this respect, conflict mediation and the specialized agencies can be utilized in addressing social integration in unified society in Korea. It may help operate a national program to seek a mental healing. Millions of North Koreans lost their families because of hunger, and witnessed their family members’ deaths. They should be supplied help for mental healing and counseling. It may also help operate conflict transformation programs such as ‘Peacemaker’ and ‘conflict mediation’.[21] In particular, we should prepare a training program for the North Korean people. If the two Koreas do not reconcile with each other fortified by hatred and a sense of revenge due to the Korean War, unified Korea will not be able to take a step forward for successful social integration. And also it should carry out democracy training program. Some values of authoritarian attitude will be important factors to hinder the integration of a unified Korean, given the nature of North Korean society with the ‘unitary guidance system’ and undemocratic behavior prevailing currently in North Korea. In this regard it is essential to carry out democracy training programs to tolerate diversity and to recognize the entity of others in order to realize a successful social integration in a unified Korea.

Information and Cyber Management
Unification will lead to a serious social crisis. The so-called unification crisis in Korea can lead to public unease in the Korean peninsula. The events following the Cheonan warship incident and Sewol Ferry incident demonstrated that people in South Korea can access news about the incident very quickly via the internet, even before the official government statements are made. In the same way, news of a political situation in North Korea will likely reach the domestic and overseas Korean masses first through internet sources rather than through the South Korean or unified authority. Taking into account that today’s South Korean citizens perceive internet sources as being more credible than official information provided by the government, it is vital that the unified Korean government find improved ways to accurately and efficiently transmit information concerning unification news to the Korean public.[22] Failure of the government to do so will lead the public to feel greater distrust towards the government and ultimately hamper the government’s efforts to promote its policies on unification.
To ease tensions, the unified Korean government will need to take an active role to formulate an effective accommodation policy for North Korean refugees. Yet, even despite positive intentions, a passive approach by the unified Korean government may only encourage continued mass chaos if most of Koreans tend to resort to groundless rumors and false reports. Nonetheless, it is crucial for the unified Korean government to take an active role in controlling the crisis. In the current information age, the government must prepare to take action with the awareness that the ability of ordinary citizens to access information is similar to that of field experts. This may apply to unification crises on the Korean peninsula as well. It is no longer possible for the government to manage its people by attempting to restrict information; this will only cause the people to distrust the government. In order to gain the people’s trust, the government must turn to a system through which it can share information efficiently through the internet and persuade the people by engaging with and openly challenging opposing views online. Therefore, without clear and accurate guidelines from the unified Korean government, social chaos in unified Korea will be difficult to avert.

Unification as a historic and societal event may cause much conflict and crisis rather than blessings and benefits to both Koreas if not strategically planned and properly managed. Preparation for unification is not an issue that is confined to a task of immanent political and military challenges. It is an issue of the societal and historic agenda of the entire Korean peninsula in the 21st century that requires great transformation in national identity and various social realms including economy, education, culture and so forth. The vision and plan for the process and strategies of unification will determine the fate of the Korean peninsula, so it should not be dealt with using any nationalistic sentiment, populism, or political force. Well organized plans and analyses based on institutional changes and people’s awareness in the two Koreas are needed. In this sense, efforts should be made to seriously evaluate what the current status and trends of the inter-Korean division and integration situation signify.
Mass migration is likely to trigger social disorder, and widening economic gap between the two Koreas may intensify the class conflict in unified Korea. Ideological and cultural heterogeneity will be even more serious hindrances in integration and identity formation in a newly unified Korea. And enormous hostility and distrust will be great burdens for social integration in unified Korea. This paper suggested four possible solutions which need to be addressed for successful integration and new identity formation after unification in Korea. First, social chaos and conflict should be minimized through the remedies of economic and institutional measures; second, social cohesion and new identity should be strengthened by providing new visions, principles and values; third, very practical programs should be addressed; fourth and finally, proper management of internet and cyber information are needed to reduce social conflict and identity crisis after unification in Korea.
A shift of policy paradigm will be vitally needed also to ease tensions and conflict after unification on the Korean peninsula. Economic and welfare issue will be vital for social integration in unified society. The problem of how to distribute the economic and welfare benefit will be crucial whether it is able to create social cohesion and national unity after unification. Value integration will be also critical for social integration in unified society. For this, communication and mutual understanding is basically needed, and development of universal values such as democracy, markets and openness is essentially important. And the so-called green peace value will also be crucial to form social cohesion with a new identity. The newly unified society will require new citizenship needed for new systems and new institutions. It is a crucial task, in particular, to make the younger generation realize the importance of having a new identity formation after unification because they are the major citizens who shall live in it. The approach to performing this task should not be a unilateral promotion of policy. Rather, mutual understanding and better communication are needed for substantial improvements in the new identity formation in a unified nation. Flexible and organized efforts must be made to rebuild a new social identity for unified Korea while comprehensively understanding a variety of changes in new systems and orientation in the newly established Korean society.
Toward achieving this long-range goal, we should start from the reality of divided Korea. Not only South Koreans’ but also North Koreans’ participation is all the more important to make a preparation towards a successful social integration. What is more important than sheer communication and exchange is to convince the Northern Koreans that their future lies in the unified peninsula and the integration of the two Koreas is far more beneficial than maintaining the current division. Therefore, widening economic gap between the two Koreas and the rising sense of crisis and distrust towards each other should receive more attention from policymakers and scholars as well.
The current South Korean administration emphasizes the recovery of national homogeneity in particular, proposing that South and North Korea work together on the agenda for humanity, co-prosperity and integration. It is not easy to achieve such a vision considering the continuing conflicts and confrontation. But it is fortunate that positive notion regarding the other side as partners of cooperation still exist in the minds of many South Koreans and North Koreans. This is the positive aspect for successful social integration. Both Koreans remember and share the forms of culture even though the content became changed. Both can communicate with each other from a shared memory. We are able to promote social cohesion and new identity formation by utilizing this shared memory. For this goal, inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation is to be encouraged at the governmental level and at the civilian level as well.

Durkheim, Emile. The Division of Labor in Society. New York: The Free Press, 1956.
Dong Ho Han, et. al. White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2014. Seoul: Korea Institute for National Unification, 2014.
Hansel, Lars. “East Germany: Rationale for East Germans choosing the early unification,” Lessons from the former divided nations and its implications for the Korean context, Peace Foundation International Symposium on the Unification 2010 (June 23, 2010).
History Institute of Social Science Academy in North Korea, Full History of Cho’sun Korea, Vol. 2: Ancient. Pyongyang: Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Science Publishers, 1991.
Kim, Philo. “Conception on the South and the Reality in North Korea by North Koreans,” Changes of North Korea and the Residents in 2014: How We Evaluate the Change in North Korea during the two years of Kim Jong Un (IPUS, SNU, August 27, 2014).
________. Religious Nature of North Korea: A Comparison on Religious Forms of Juche Idea with Christianity. KINU, 2000.
________. “Human Loss of Korean War and the Change of Class Policy in North Korea,” Study of Unification Policy, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2000), pp. 219-242.
________. Regional Self-Reliance System in North Korea. KINU, 1999.
________. “An Evaluation on Mass Exodus of North Korean Refugees and its Countermeasures,” Policy Studies (Fall 1997), pp. 245-297.
Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea, and Government-Civil Policy Council for Assistance to North Korea(of Unification Ministry), White Paper on Ten Years of Assistance to North Korea. Seoul: Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea, and Government-Civil Policy Council for Assistance to North Korea(of Unification Ministry), 2005.
Korean Statistical Information Service, “North Korean Statistics: Major Indicators of North and South Korea,” http://kosis.kr/bukhan/bukhanStats/bukhanStats_03_01List.jsp (February 13, 2015).
Lee, Eun-Jong. “Unification Preparation from the Perspective of Unification Document in Germany,” Workshop cohosted by Free University of Berlin and IPUS, Seoul National University, January 28, 2015, Hoam Faculty House, Seoul National University.
Mujahid, Ghazy. “Population and Social Integration Policies in Asia and the Pacific,” Asia-Pacific Population Journal Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 29-55.
Park, Jin. “Refugee Management for Possible Emergency in North Korea,” unpublished paper.
Park, Jong-Chol, et. al. Measures of Building Comprehensive System for National Consensus on Unification. Seoul: KINU, 2005.
Park, Myung-kyu, et, al., Survey on Unification Conception in 2014 (Seoul: Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Seoul National University, 2014).
Parsons, Talcott. The Social System: The Major Exposition of Author’s Conceptual Scheme for the Analysis of the Dynamics of the Social System. Glencoe, Ill: The Free Press, 1951.
Pfennig, Werner. “Social Change: East-West Division, Demographic Statistics, and Consumption Behavior.” Ministry of Unification, Study of Unification and Integration in Germany: Volume 1 – Sectional Study. Seoul: Ministry of Unification, 2014.
Sen, Amartya. “Social Exclusion: Concept, Application and Scrutiny,” Social Development Papers No. 1. Manila: Asian Development Bank, 2000.
Son, Young-jong, Young-hae Park, Yong-gan Kim, Thorugh History of Cho’sun Korea, The First Volume. Pyongyang: Social Science Publishers, 1991.
Song, Young-Hoon, Philo Kim and Myung-kyu Park, Survey on Unification Conception in North Korea in 2008~2013: Focusing on North Korean Refugees. Seoul: Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Seoul National University, 2014.
Suh, Jae Jean. “Social Consequence of North Korean Contingency,” IIRI Working Paper Series 02 (June 2010), pp. 10-15.
UN News Center. “Peace Dialogue,” UN, 02 Jan. 2015. http://www.un.org/news/
Werner Pfennig, “Germany United Since 25 Years – Korea Since 70 years Still Divided: Some Questions and Critical Remarks Based on Experiences Made in Germany” (Paper presented at Conference on the German Experience of Integration after Reunification Its Implication for Korea, January 27, 2015, Hotel Lotte).
Winter, Friedrich, ed. Die Moderatoren der Runden Tische: Evangelische Kirche und Pilitik 1989-90(Leipzig, 1999).


[1] Ministry of Unification, Collections of Exchange and Cooperation between East and West Germany. Section 3: Human Exchanges and Transportation. (Ministry of Unification, 1993); Suk-Eun Chang, Integration Process of Divided States and Its Lessons: Focusing on Vietnam, Yemen, and Germany (Seoul: KINU, 1998), pp. 113~116.
[2] Emile Durkheim, On Suicide. Translated by Chung-sun Kim, On Suicide of Emile Durkheim (Seoul: Chung-A Press, 1994).
[3] Talcott Parsons, The Social System: The Major Exposition of Author’s Conceptual Scheme for the Analysis of the Dynamics of the Social System. (Glencoe, Ill: The Free Press, 1951).
[4] Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society. (New York: The Free Press, 1956), pp. 129~130.
[5] “Peace Dialogue,” UN News Center (http://www.un.org/news) 02 Jan. 2015.
[6] Jong-Chol Park, et. al., Measures of Building Comprehensive System for National Consensus on Unification. (Seoul: KINU, 2005), pp. 9~13, 129~161.
[7] Werner Pfennig, “Social Change: East-West Division, Demographic Statistics, and Consumption Behavior.” Ministry of Unification, Study of Unification and Integration in Germany: Volume 1 – Sectional Study. (Seoul: Ministry of Unification, 2014), pp. 159~167.
[8] Op. cit., pp. 168~169.
[9] Friedrich Winter, ed. Die Moderatoren der Runden Tische: Evangelische Kirche und Pilitik 1989-90 (Leipzig, 1999), recited from Werner Pfennig, “Germany United Since 25 Years – Korea Since 70 years Still Divided: Some Questions and Critical Remarks Based on Experiences Made in Germany” (Paper presented at Conference on the German Experience of Integration after Reunification Its Implication for Korea, January 27, 2015, Hotel Lotte), p. 15.
[10] Eun-Jong Lee, “Unification Preparation from the Perspective of Unification Document in Germany,” Workshop cohosted by Free University of Berlin and IPUS, Seoul National University, January 28, 2015, Hoam Faculty House, Seoul National University.
[11] Lars Hansel, “East Germany: Rationale for East Germans choosing the early unification,” Lessons from the former divided nations and its implications for the Korean context, Peace Foundation International Symposium on the Unification 2010 (June 23, 2010), pp. 126-127.
[12] There are numerous number family members abducted during the Korean War, and also there are 516 South Korean abductees remained in North Korea. Since the end of the war, 3,835 South Koreans had been abducted (or kidnapped) among whom 3,310 were repatriated and some escaped, but 516 are still under detention in North Korea. And about 500 South Korean POWs (out of 19,000 South Korean entire POWs) who are alive in North Korea will become a social issue., Dong Ho Han, et. al. White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2014. Seoul: Korea Institute for National Unification, 2014, p. 550.
[13] Young-Hoon Song, Philo Kim and Myung-kyu Park, Survey on Unification Conception in North Korea in 2008~2013: Focusing on North Korean Refugees (Seoul: Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Seoul National University, 2014).
[14] Myung-kyu Park, et. al., Survey on Unification Conception in 2014, p. 425.
[15] History Institute of Social Science Academy in North Korea, Full History of Cho’sun Korea, Vol. 2: Ancient. (Pyongyang: Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Science Publishers, 1991), pp. 10~13, 129~134, 180~182; Young-jong Son, Young-hae Park, Yong-gan Kim, Thorugh History of Cho’sun Korea, The First Volume.(Pyongyang: Social Science Publishers, 1991), pp. 33~43.
[16] Juche ideology has been developing from a simple ideology to religious belief. North Korea performs worship service of meeting and study in, what it calls, ‘Study Room for Kim Il Sungism’ like a church building in Christianity. It is estimated that there would be at least more than 100 thousands those places nationwide. The place is regarded as solemn and sacred location distinguished from ordinary or profane locations because the place is believed to be deeply related to Kim Il Sung. Philo Kim, Religious Nature of North Korea: A Comparison on Religious Forms of Juche Idea with Christianity. Seoul: Korea Institute for National Unification, 2000.
[17] To the question of “Do North Koreans have pride in the juche ideology?” 57 percent said “yes,” while 43 percent said “no” in 2014. Philo Kim, “Conception on the South and the reality in North Korea,” Changes of North Korea and the Residents in 2014 (IPUS, SNU, August 27, 2014). The share of positive responses stood at 63.8 percent in 2012 and fell to 51.9 percent in 2013, but rebounded to 57.0 percent in 2014. These figures represent a drop of some 20 percentage points from 1994, when some 80 percent professed pride in the ideology.
[18] Myung-kyu Park, et. al., Survey on Unification Conception in 2014, p. 177; IPUS, “How We Evaluate the Change in North Korea during the two years of Kim Jong Un,” Conference of IPUS on Changes of North Korea and the Residents in 2014 (August 27, 2014), p. 112.
[19] Young-Hoon Song, Philo Kim and Myung-kyu Park, Survey on Unification Conception in North Korea in 2008~2013: Focusing on North Korean Refugees. p. 106.Scharmer (2001a), 71.
[20] Within this structure of “systematic antagonism” I would call, North Korea has pursued regional self-reliance system since early 1960s which has a military purpose. This is the unique idea of Kim Jong-Il, who had raised a county-based self-reliance strategy in 1964 to defend the system in case of war. In this context, North Korea tried on purpose to evenly disperse the industrial facilities nationwide, shunning from being paralyzed in war-time. This has been done to improve the capability of military defense. After the post-Cold War era, North Korea has furthermore resorted to the self-reliance strategy of local mobilization. Philo Kim, Regional Self-Reliance System in North Korea. KINU, 1999.
[21] For example, refer to Peace-maker program, http://www.hispeace.or.kr and to conflict resolution program, http://www.kadr.or.kr
[22]  Jae Jean Suh, “Social Consequence of North Korean Contingency,” IIRI Working Paper Series 02 (June 2010), pp. 10-15.



Philo Kim
Dr. Philo Kim is currently an Associate Professor for Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (IPUS), the Seoul National University.


This paper discusses the impact of Japanese international and domestic politics on the Japanese government’s attitude towards Japanese Christians until the end of the Second World War. It reflects on the Japanese government’s reaction to the West’s politics and its effects on Japanese Christians.
Since the arrival of Christianity in 1549 until the end of the Second World War, both Protestant and Catholic missionaries had a contentious relationship with Japan. In the 16th century they were welcomed because their presence increased Japanese trade with the missionaries’ home countries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan reluctantly permitted missionaries to reside and work in the country because the Japanese government desired good trade relations with the Western nations that had predominantly Christian populations. Although welcomed, missionaries were resented for propagating their faith because they feared the West’s economic expansion and political ambitions in Asia. The authorities were concerned that the Western nations could use missionaries to persuade Japanese Christians to assist in colonizing Japan. The late arrival of Christianity, in comparison to Buddhism that arrived in Japan in the fifth century, and the inflexibility of the Christian faith to accommodate Shinto and Buddhism, gave Christianity a foreign image. Consequently, consecutive Japanese governments were distrustful of Christianity, foreigners, and even Japanese Christians’ loyalty to the nation and the emperor. This paper also traces the close connections between politics and persecution of Christians in Japan. It discusses how fear of colonization and a desire for equality with the Western nation inspired successive governments from mid 17th century until the end of the Second World War to assert their power by suppressing Christians and impressing on all nationals the consequences of disobedience.

The 16th century commercial and religious expansion of Europe in AD 1549, brought Jesuit missionaries Francis Xavier, Cosme de Torres and Juan Fernandez to a war torn Japan through Portuguese ships. Shogun (military dictator) Yoshitreu Ashikaga (1536-1565) was losing power to the warring daimyo (warlords governing provinces). Daimyo of various domains reacted differently to the missionaries and their faith. Some welcomed them while others tolerated them because they came with Portuguese ships that brought weapons to help their cause. Conversion of a few helped the missionaries to establish their work. In 1582, three daimyo sent a Japanese ambassador to the Pope. Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) who emerged the most powerful warlord in the civil war was tolerant towards missionaries as he imported weapons from Portuguese traders. He gave missionaries and their Japanese congregation freedom to preach and practice their faith.
The freedom to preach and practice faith came to an end in 1587 when Oda Nobunaga’s successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) ordered all foreign Catholic priests to leave the country. Two reasons suggested by historians for Toyotomi’s sudden change of heart were in response to the West’s political ambitions in the East and Christian influence in Japan. Mullins and Drummond suggest that Hideyoshi heard reports of a drunken Portuguese sailor boasting that the king of Portugal planned on making Japan a Portuguese colony.[1] Concerned that the rumours were true, Toyotomi ordered the Catholic priests to leave the nation. Toyotomi’s fear was not unfounded because since the 16th century, Christian missions and colonization had close links. European kings and queens gave patronage to the missionaries who travelled on commercial ships. Although the missionaries and ships had different aims, close connections with the colonizing powers created an image of missionaries as colonization agents. The Second reason for Toyotomi’s sudden change in attitude towards Christianity suggested by Fujita and Furuya was because of the young Christian women’s refusal to have sexual relations with Toyotomi. He saw their refusal as disobedience, and was infuriated with the Catholics. Their boldness to refuse a daimyo was a sign of his subjects’ rebellion and a challenge to his power. The Buddhist monks who had helped him in the campaign took advantage of the situation and convinced Toyotomi he needed to assert his power over Christians. Toyotomi declared Christianity was not compatible with Japanese culture as it taught the subjects to be disobedient and dishonorable to their masters.[2] In 1597 he further asserted his power by crucifying 26 Christians, nine of whom were foreign missionaries, three Japanese Jesuits and 17 Japanese laymen.[3]
Toyotomi’s successor Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) and his successors stringently followed his policy of suppressing Christianity. They used Buddhism to keep a tight reign over all citizens. Everyone was ordered to register at the local Buddhist temple. The temple held all birth, marriage and death records. Christian families went through annual inspection to receive a tera-ukejo (a certificate from the temple) to prove their allegiance to Buddhism. The test required Christians to spit and step on fumie (an icon of Mary and Jesus). Those who failed the test were persecuted. The persecution forced Christians to go underground. Kakure Kirishitan (hidden Christians) performed all Buddhist temple rituals to show their obedience to the government but also developed different ways to continue Christian worship. They engraved crosses behind Buddhist statues and lanterns and believed they were bowing to the crosses rather than to Buddha.By 1639 the Tokugawa government had established full control over the nation. They introduced sakoku (national isolation) and forced all Japanese to sever ties with foreigners. No one was permitted to enter or leave the country. Only the Dutch were the only Europeans who were able to maintain trade with Japan by placing an ambassador on a man made Dejima island under the observant eyes of Japanese guards.

Japan’s self-imposed isolation by the mid-19th century created inconvenience for the growing western economy. The Japanese refusal to permit foreign ships to refuel at Japanese ports created travel difficulties for American and Europeans transporting goods. Finally in 1854 Commodore Perry of the US navy persuaded the shogun to open a few ports to foreign ships.
Contact with the West gave the Japanese an awareness on the development in technology in the world. The government set on a mission to modernize Japan through importing technology and hiring foreign experts to train Japanese. However, they also realized that by reconnecting with the West they could not avoid contact with Christianity. Almost three centuries of sakoku and negative propaganda of Christianity made the 19th century Japan suspicious of Christians. For years, the government and the temple taught, foreigners and Christianity were evil. The government’s decision to permit foreigners, who were followers of Christianity, to reside in the country infuriated some people. The Tokugawa government ignored the objections, opened the country, and hired foreigners to educate the Japanese in the sciences. However, Japan’s need for acquiring western technology did not change the government’s dislike for Christianity. They did not rescind the edict against Christianity, and did not permit missionaries to enter Japan. The ban on propagation of Christianity did not dissuade the Protestant missionaries from their purpose. They took advantage of the government’s job offers to the foreigners and entered the country.[4] When asked to appoint teachers for new universities, they recommended Christian teachers. Scholars argued whether missionaries by taking government jobs acted deceptively. The Norwegian scholar, Lande, considered it was an intrusion;[5] whereas the Japanese scholar, Natori, thought missionaries had the right to take the jobs as they were qualified, fitted the job description, and contributed to society.[6] They established reputable educational institutions, and used the Bible as their textbook to teach English.[7] They built friendships with their language teachers and students. The government, suspicious of the missionaries, put their language teachers under close surveillance.[8]
The presence of Christian foreigners in the country encouraged some kakure kirishitan to re-surface and claim they had always believed in the Catholic faith. Johannes Lures reports about 2,300 hidden Christians claimed to have continued their faith in Christ despite praying at Buddhist temples to avoid persecution by the authorities.[9] The discovery of hidden Christians surprised the Catholic Church as well as the government and the Buddhist priests. The government arrested the newly emerged Christians, persecuted and deported them to various parts of the country. In 1868 Japan went through a major political reform. The feudal government of the Tokugawa Shogunate came to end and supporters of the Emperor took power to establish a modern state. Even though the government changed, the persecution of Christians continued. Unable to quietly observe the persecution of Japanese Christians, missionaries urged their home mission boards to persuade their respective governments to help Japanese Christians. Under pressure from the missionaries, the American and the British consuls in Japan conducted their own investigations and found the reports to be true. The US and the European governments requested Japan to reconsider their treatment of Japanese Christians. The Meiji government (1868-1912) came to power dreaming of creating an industrialized modern state that was equal to the imperialist Western nations. In hope of revising trade treaties that highly favored the Western nations, in 1873 the Meiji government removed signboards prohibiting Christianity and stopped persecuting Christians, but officially Christianity remained forbidden.
Taking advantage of the relaxed laws, Christian missionaries established educational institutions, hospitals and churches. They preached the gospel and trained Japanese to evangelize rural areas where foreigners were forbidden. The Meiji government continued to search for a unifying belief that all Japanese could hold in high esteem. In the early 1880s, the state bureaucrats, in consultation with scholars of ethics, worked towards finding a method to build a society of social unity and order. The scholars of ethics argued that religion was ‘irrational and socially harmful’ as different religious beliefs divided the society.[10] Their views on religion gave the bureaucrats a legitimate reason to suppress its growing power.
In 1882, the government issued a directive that divided Shinto into two: Kyoha Shinto (Sect Shinto) and Kokka Shinto (State Shinto). The government made Kokka Shinto (that claimed the Emperor as a god) mandatory to follow claiming it was not religion but the culture of Japan. They claimed the Japanese tradition dictated that the emperor was the divine head of the nation and therefore worshipped.
The respite from persecution was short lived. In 1889, the Meiji government enacted a new constitution that gave freedom of religion to all and freedom to travel and reside outside the concession areas to foreigners. It permitted missionaries to preach in the whole country. However, a few months later in 1890, the government issued Kyoiku Chokugo (Imperial Rescript on Education, hereafter Chokugo), an edict on the moral education of the country. It appealed to all citizens to observe filial piety, live in harmony and, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives for the imperial state. This was the wish and tradition of their imperial forefathers and, therefore, the duty of all subjects. The Chokugo was based on kokutai (national polity) that asserted the Emperor was a living god. The Meiji government used the Chokugo to unite the Japanese under a state-sponsored and Emperor-centred civil religion-State Shinto. This cleverly written document promoted the Emperor as the traditional head of the nation demanding people’s obedience and submission to the Emperor in the name of Japanese culture and tradition. The Chokugo had two primary purposes: firstly, to promote nationalism by calling on all subjects to their cultural roots, i.e. Emperor worship, and secondly to remove Christian influence from education. In a document issued to all educational institutions, the students were instructed to recite the Rescript every day and bow to the imperial seal on the document and the Emperor’s portrait. The government argued that the moral essence of the document was ‘a public one’. Obedience to the state and to the Emperor ‘was presented as the highest secular obligation, one that transcended private ethics and religious belief’.[11] Schools were instructed to remove religious education from their curriculum and expected to take students to visit shrines to pay homage.
Since most Christian ministry was through educational institutions, the Chokugo was used to eliminate Christian influence on education. Christian schools that refused to remove religious education from their curriculum lost their government recognition and resulted in a drop in the number of students. Some schools had to close down. However, most schools removed religious education classes from the curriculum but continued them in buildings next to the schools.[12] Christian teachers at government schools were expected to bow to the Chokugo and the Emperor’s photo. Those who did not comply were labeled unpatriotic. Such environment forced Japanese Christians to think theologically and to decide whether bowing to the decreed objects equated to idol worship or were they only bow of respect. One such Christian was Uchimura Kanzo. In 1891 he was a teacher at Tokyo Dai Ichi Koto Chu Gakko. He was forced to resign because he did not bow to the objects in front of his students and colleagues. The incident was reported in newspapers and became proof to the government that Japanese Christians did not revere the emperor and could not be trusted. The incident reignited the seed of scepticism against Christianity sown in the seventeenth century. Tetsujiro Inoue, Professor of Philosophy in Tokyo Imperial University, declared Christianity incompatible with the Chokugo.[13]
The spark of nationalism ignited by the Chokugo was fuelled by Japan’s war with China in 1894-1895. Japan’s victory in the war generated a wave of patriotism, which was expressed through emperor worship. Japan’s victory over China was significant because Japan had adopted Chinese script, culture, Buddhism, Confucianism and Chinese medicine. For almost three centuries, the Japanese schools taught kangaku, Chinese language, classics and ethics. Japan’s victory over China was a proof that Japan had superseded their teacher. It also became a proof of the authenticity of their emperor’s divinity. Since Japan had restored the emperor as the head of the nation in 1868, the country had achieved a powerful position in global politics. While the West was impressed with Japan’s rapid industrialization and militarization, the Japanese were inspired through Chokugo to return to their traditional religion, Shinto. This resulted to a decline in Christian churches. By 1902, member denominations of the Cooperating Committee in Missions recorded a collective leakage of 65 percent in their church population.[14] Japanese Christians struggled to find ways to convince the country that denying the divinity of the emperor did not mean they were unpatriotic.

Japan’s international and domestic politics had a direct effect on the practice of Christian faith in the country. In 1902 Britain and Japan signed a treaty of cooperation and lent a helping hand to the Allied Forces in the First World War. Believing the West had finally accepted Japan as equal, the government relaxed pressuring Japanese Christians to conform to the Chokugo. In 1912 the government, for the first time, acknowledged Christianity as a legally practiced religion in the country by inviting Christians to participate in talks with Shinto and Buddhist leaders. The invitation was also a call for the Christians to accommodate the Shinto belief of the divinity of the Emperor. Until late 1920s while the government negotiated with the Western nations they relaxed religious practice laws in Japan. However, the government felt let down by the West. After the end of the First World War Japan felt they were given a smaller portion of the confiscated German territory. The Western nation’s refusal to include a clause for racial equality in the Versailles Treaty in 1919 further proved to Japanese that the Christian West did not see Asians as equals. Three years later Japan was forced to reduce their naval forces much more than their allied friends. A year later in 1924 Japan felt further humiliated by the US ban on Japanese immigration. Furthermore, even though the US and the Europeans had imperialistic ambitions in Asia, they did not support similar Japanese claim on China and Korea.
In early 1930s, the Tokko turned their attention towards Christians. They first dedicated their energies to understand the Christian faith. They attended churches and studied Christian theology to attain knowledge how Christianity could accommodate to state sponsored Shinto. Emperor worship was made a requirement for all Japanese and seen as a sign of patriotism. Even though the church did not believe in the divinity of the Emperor, in response to the growing nationalistic atmosphere, added bows of respect to the Emperor in all religious meetings. As nationalistic sentiments ran high in the 1930s, the presence of a shrine became a symbol of patriotism. Yuasa Hachiro (1890-1981), Doshisha College principal, was forced to resign in 1934 because he misread the Chokugo and removed a shrine from the college campus. Not all Christians supported shrine worship. However, by 1937 politics had affected relationships between the Japanese Christians and foreign missionaries. While the British and the Americans condemned the Japanese invasion of China, some Japanese Christians supported their army’s conquests. Some members of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Communion in Japan) wanted the church to formally thank the Japanese army for victory in China.[15] In 1937, when Japan formally declared war with China, the pressure to conform increased on Japanese Christians. As the nation rallied behind the soldiers dying in China, citizens in Japan showed their patriotism by showing allegiance to the Emperor. Bowing towards the imperial palace at every gathering became a norm. Japanese Christians could no longer avoid the watchful eyes of the police and their neighbours and, therefore, were forced to incorporate Emperor worship into their daily lives. In March 1938, the Tokko office in Osaka sent a questionnaire to some Christian organizations and individuals in the Kansai area asking them to provide Christian views on the relationship between Christ and the Emperor, practices of ancestor worship and shrine worship.[16] Thus proving that the government still believed Christianity was not compatible with Japanese culture. The questionnaire was designed in such a way that the Christian leaders had to clearly state whether they believed Christ was a higher deity than the Emperor. It was an attempt by the Tokko to prove that because Japanese Christians did not worship the Emperor or other Japanese deities and was believed to be unpatriotic.
In 1940 the government enacted a Religious Organization Law that maintained an image of religious tolerance by giving foreigners permission to practice Christianity. Japanese Christians, however, were instructed to sever all ties with foreigners and discontinue all foreign financial help. In addition, the new law added more conditions to register churches as religious bodies. Churches could only register as a denomination if they had more than 5000 members, 50 churches, no foreigners in leadership, and received no foreign financial aid. Those Christians who did not comply to the new law were considered traitors. To instill fear among Japanese Christians, in July 1940 the government arrested four Salvation Army workers, the social reformer Toyohiko Kagawa who had worked as an advisor to the government to rehabilitate those affected by the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. His arrest proved to the Christian community that they were monitored and the government did not hesitate to arrest famous men such as Kagawa.[17] Even though all men were later released, their arrest served the purpose. Japanese Christians broke ties with churches and mission organizations in the West. They refused financial help from the West and learned to be self- reliant. As missionaries returned to their native countries Japanese Christians took leadership. Since most Protestant churches fell short of the government requirement to register as religious bodies, in June 1941, 33 Protestant denominations united to form the Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan (United Church of Christ in Japan). The government monitored the Church and prohibited recitation phrases such as ‘maker of heaven and earth’ from the Apostles’ Creed because the government expected the church to believe the Emperor as a higher deity.[18] In January 1942, Tomita Mitsuru, Presbyterian minister and President of the Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan visited Ise Shrine to pray for Japan’s victory in the war.[19] His actions, however, were not acceptable to all the Christians. The Holiness churches refused to change their beliefs or practices, as a result, they were persecuted. Some pastors were imprisoned during the war and a few died. At the end of the Second World War the Japanese church regained freedom to practice their faith.
Japan’s treatment of Japanese Christians therefore, was a reaction to domestic and international politics. The government pressured all citizens to conform to prescribed religion as they believed uniformity in faith would bring unity and protection from the colonial West. Pressure to conform resulted in some Christians trying to make Christian faith indigenous. Such efforts by some resulted in syncretism. The limitations of this paper did not permit me to engage in questions regarding Japanese practice of historic Christian faith. Similar to Joseph in Genesis 50:20 the Japanese Christians can say God has turned intended evil into good for them. Separation from the Western church and missionaries during the Second World War benefitted the Japanese church as absence of foreigners gave room for Japanese to create indigenous church leaders. The church learned to theologize and be financially independent.


[1] Mark Mullins, Christianity Made in Japan: A Study of Indigenous Movements (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998); Richard Henry Drummond, A History of Christianity in Japan (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971), 81-82.
[2] Neil S. Fujita, Japan’s Encounter with Christianity: The Catholic Missions in Pre-Modern Japan (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1991), 112-113; Yasuo Furuya, History of Japan and Christianity (Saitama: Seigakuin University General Research Institute, 2006), 27.
[3] M. Paske-Smith, ed., Japanese Traditions of Christianity Being Some Old Translations from the Japanese, with British Consular Reports of the Persecutions of 1868-1872 (Kobe: J. L. Thompson 1930), 54.
[4] Juichi Natori, Historical Stories of Christianity in Japan (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1957), 198.
[5] Aasulv Lande, Meiji Protestantism in History and Historiography: A Comparative Study of Japanese and Western Interpretation of Early Protestantism in Japan (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1989).
[6] Juichi Natori, Historical Stories of Christianity in Japan (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1957).
[7] James Curtis Hepburn (1815-1911), Presbyterian Church of America missionary, reached Japan in 1859. He opened a school in Yokohama that later on grew into a university and is now known as Meiji Gakuin. William S Clark (1826-1886) came to Japan at the government’s invitation to establish an agricultural school in Hokkaido. Other missionaries to arrive in Japan during the Tokugawa period were J. Liggins (1829-1912) and C. M. Williams (1829-1910) of the Episcopal Church of America, S.R. Brown (1810-1880), D.B. Simmons (1834-1889) and J.H. Ballagh (1832-1920) of the American Dutch Reformed Church.
[8] Irwin Scheiner, Christian Converts and Social Protest in Meiji Japan (Los Angeles, California: University of California Press), 15.
[9] S. J. Johannes Laures, The Catholic Church in Japan: A Short Story (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1970), 212.
[10] Richard M. Reitan, Making of a Moral Society: Ethics and State in Meiji Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2010), 57.
[11] Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 111
[12] Daniel C. Green, ed., The Christian Movement in its Relation to the New Life in Japan (Yokohama: The Standing Committee of Co-operating Christian Mission, 1903).
[13] Mark Mullins, ed. Handbook of Christianity in Japan (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 38.
[14] Daniel C. Green, ed., The Christian Movement in its Relation to the New Life in Japan (Yokohama: The Standing Committee of Co-operating Christian Mission, 1903), 61-65.
[15] Hamish Ion, The Cross and the Rising Sun: The British Protestant Missionary Movement in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan 1865-1945, Vol. 2 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1993), 232-3.
[16] A. Hamish Ion, ‘The Cross Under an Imperial Sun: Imperialism, Nationalism, and Japanese Christianity, 1895-1945’, in Mark Mullins ed., Handbook on Christianity in Japan (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 69-100.
[17] Hamish Ion, The Cross in the Dark Valley: The Canadian Protestant Missionary Movement in the Japanese Empire, 1931-1945 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1999), 260-1.
[18] Yumi Maruyama-Cain, ‘The Bible in Imperial Japan 1850-1950’ PhD Thesis, University of St. Andrew’s, 2010, 52.
[19] Ben-Ami Shillony, the Emperors of Modern Japan (Boston: Brill, 2008), 170.

Esther Maxton
Dr. Esther Maxton earned her doctorate from Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. She has taught Mission subjects at Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India. She has also served as a missionary in Japan for 16 years. Currently she is working with the Free Methodist Church in the UK.


This article approaches the issue of nominal Christianity (in short, nominalism) as a challenge faced by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) since Vatican II (1965), particularly in the Philippines. We will show that it is possible to overcome the common failure of almost all Christendom churches in overcoming the static maintenance religiosity of church structures in order to retain the dynamic spirituality of renewal movements (RMs). Through these RMs, each church member (nominal or not) can be discipled to take their faith seriously by maintaining a close communion with God in their daily life. So based on the recent experiences of spiritual renewal within the Philippine Roman Catholicism herself, we can learn how to make effective and strategic interventions that can avoid the nominalism that has infected the spiritual vitality in the culture and vast constituency of Christendom globally.
In the mid-2017, out of the nearly 2.5 billion Christians in the world, 1,231,050,000 (52%) are Roman Catholics.[1] In the Philippines, in spite of the increased pluralistic religious challenge of various phenomena of Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal denominations and para-church groups as well as non-Trinitarian sects, the number of Roman Catholics has remained at about 82% of the total population (Matheny 2011:206).[2] This indicates that there is internal spiritual vitality in this gigantic and largest Christian denomination, as non-Catholics, esp. Evangelicals grow out of “bounded set” thinking that only those who affirm the confession of “accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior” and belong to certain churches are saved.
This paper defines and views nominalism from a “centered set” approach, where there is only a clearly defined center (in our case, commitment to follow Jesus Christ), so involvement in the set is not based on who has crossed the borders, but rather on the proximity to the center and the direction they are moving. Those who are closest to the center will be the most involved with each other. Those who are further out, but who are also moving toward the center, may also be involved with each other as they are drawn in.
“In a centered-set church it is recognized that we are all sinners, all struggling to be the best people we can be. But we also believe that the closer one gets to the center (Christ), the more Christlike one’s behavior should become… No one is considered unworthy of belonging because they happen to be addicted to tobacco, or because they’re not married to their live-in partner,”[3] or because they hold to some doctrine which may be heretical. Thus in this paper, all those who are considered nominal members of the RCC are assumed to be spiritually immature “further out” Christ-believers who need to be discipled to full maturity as committed Christ-followers.

Social stresses brought about by demographic urbanization and socio-economic globalization have produced a general loss of trust in all institutions – political, economic, socio-cultural and religious. The suffering masses feel that the ruling elites are incapable to transform society as they misuse their authority for their own gain and not for improving the lives of the people. They have lost trust in societal leaders who are seen as arrogant, incompetent and corrupt. Only a few church leaders (lay and clergy) have identified with the people and taken their side against the abuses and misrule of the religious and political hierarchies in the past and up to the present.
Historically, the societal status quo has been the patronage system (still in force today) which has ensured massive poverty and misery resulting from the domination and corruption of political and religious patrons. Only some of the local priests stood by the poor and fought against the colonial powers and the post-independence political dynasties. Hence the people’s allegiance to the church and its practices, like attending masses as often as possible, observing Christmas and Holy Week festivities, have kept their faith in God and hope for a better life alive. Surveys have shown that Filipinos have been among the happiest and most optimistic people on earth,[4] having learned to live with low expectations and to cope with life’s struggles through spontaneous prayer, ritualistic prayers, singing, drinking with friends and a fatalistic (bahala na) attitude, with family and friends to count on when crises strike.
In spite of the reputation of the country to be among the most religious in the world, the hierarchy called the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called for the “re-evangelization of the people,” recognizing the need to lead them to personal encounters with the living God which results in conversion and discipleship. In a culture where preaching the gospel is accepted and welcomed (even in street corners and buses), it is assumed that all (except for Muslim, folk Buddhist Chinese and animistic tribal minorities) are Christian. But many, especially the poor, have been ignorant or indifferent about their faith.
At the parish level, in spite of the inertia of institutionalization, most clergy have active lay councils who assist them in conducting the regular liturgical services and doing some community services. Its masses continue to center on God, though homilies have become more self-related: the self’s experiences, personal relationship to the divine, self-development and general good feelings. Its ethos has become more ecumenical, which allows members to move from denomination to denomination and to non-denominational and para-church gatherings, looking for that which best meets the individual’s needs. All non-Catholic Trinitarian Christians are treated as “separated brethren” (unless provoked), while non-Trinitarians are considered by all Christians as “cults.”
Folk religiosity. Most RC constituents continue to commit to traditional religious practices, like belonging to the church through baptism, receiving the sacraments for salvation, learning the Catechism, observing the Ten Commandments and participating in devotional practices (like making the sign of the cross when passing through a RC chapel, praying before meals, praying the rosary, wearing scapulars, blessing their vehicles with pictures or statues of Mary, Jesus or the saints, etc.). But the locus of applying tradition is no longer in the “handing down” but in the “picking up” of what the individual wants and how they want them (and often also if they can afford them, like mass weddings have to be sponsored by the rich, since many could not afford “church weddings”). Social folk practices (like processions,[5] fiestas, etc.) that have dominated social life have increased due to mass propagation by television coverage and social media.
Yet though festivals are good for community bonding, they have some major social disadvantages, too. The ever-increasing number of them that have accumulated through the years and the extravagance by which they are celebrated have not only kept the poor, poorer, but also diverted time and resources from the spiritual priorities of value formation and moral living.
Diaspora. About 85% of the RC population have joined the mass migration (approximately 10%) of Filipinos to relocate for citizenship, study or work in other countries. At least 75% of them come from the poorer classes who have entrepreneurially and sacrificially left their beloved families, often in desperation for gaining employment to help their families back home. They have helped in giving life to the parishes where they reside and have been deeply appreciated. Because of their friendly and hospitable nature (common Filipino traits), they have been able to adjust to local cultures and adopt local norms without cross-cultural training.

Even if sociologists a few decades ago predicted the decline of religion in modern societies, in the most RC society in Asia, religiosity has not declined but advanced. She has been transformed by three major renewal movements (RMs) to overcome the inertia and nominalism that typically seep into old religious institutional structures, while maintaining its dominant influence in the culture of Filipino society.

1. Liberation Theology
Due to the impact of Liberation Theology the RCC is engaged in poor communities and helping in the holistic change in these communities. In the early 1970s, a social activist movement sought to transform the country by renewing the church to become “the church of the poor.” Eventually called “theology of struggle” (TOS), it sought to destroy the system of elitism, a new way of becoming a new humanity through liberation from poverty and oppression, which also reflected Filipino spiritual and cultural values. It wanted to overcome Christendom, which is Christian colonialism experienced by Filipinos: “The finest land became the property of the friars because they controlled the sacraments.”[6]
But it soon lost its liberative potential when they allied with Filipino Communists during the Marcos Martial Law regime (1972-1986). When they parted ways due to ideological and strategic differences, the progressives formed Christians for National Liberation to continue their fight for social justice non-violently through civil disobedience. Many of them formed Basic Christian Communities (BCC), but these were often attacked by government forces as Communist fronts and labelled as such in the media. Those accused of being too close to the political left caused dramatic reductions in church income.
Following the educational model of dialogic and participative dynamics in the BCCs,[7] it had the best potential to empower the poor. But its hoped-for dream that the poor will emerge as the avant-grade of social transformation who will take their lives in hand and liberate themselves to put an end to their own misery has faded away. The BCCs have slowly phased out, and some gradually adopted the name of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs), which has become a renewal move of decentralization by the RCC hierarchy in the Philippines.

2. Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)
Since the Second Plenary Council convened by the CBCP in 1991, the Philippine RCC has officially pledged to become “the church of the poor.” Her idea to re-evangelize the people was to rebuild the parishes from the bottom up, which implicitly follows the critique of the hierarchical church order at the 1979 Puebla Conference. She conceives the church to be a family of God, which resonates with Filipino culture, by forming small groups designed for fostering intimate support networks and community building (as prayer groups), for addressing the needs of the poor, and “for encouraging liberative pastoral practices that generate social commitment, not the emotionalism” (versus charismatic cell groups) “or narrow ideological commitments” (versus the more radical TOS).
This “new way of being church” is being born through the simple faith of Christians and the emerging empowerment of the poor in their struggles to overcome their sufferings.[8] (cf. Boff 1986). The BECs are the centers of evangelization, as people experience church as the family of God created by prayer and the Word of God; they are the nuclei of the church which is the sign and sacrament of salvation. Each BEC belongs to a network at the grassroots level and keeps the church in touch with the struggles of everyday living and also try to end the problem of elite democracy (not democracy per se).
With just more than 1,700 BEC centers in a country of 42,000 barangays/villages, this movement remains peripheral to church and national life. This ecclesiastical decentralization model seems to be not fully embraced by most of the bishops and very lacking in the leadership training of the clergy. In practice, they are kept busy with performing masses and leading religious ceremonies as well as too undermanned to do lay leadership training that will empower the people to overcome the fatalism, vices and values that keep them poor. Meanwhile the poor are still too many and too busy for daily survival, needing at least three livelihoods to have just enough income. With no energy and time for attending religious meetings, they cling to hope and invest in traditional folk practices which actually keep them trapped in poverty.

3. Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR)
The influence of the above two renewal movements has been overshadowed by a third: the CCR movement. Based on many surveys, the Philippines has 88% of Roman Catholics and 94% of non-Catholic Christians (averaging 90% of the Christian population) who consider themselves as those with “charismatic experiences.”[9] As they become open to the work of the Holy Spirit, the faithful view their involvement to be a levelling up beyond their traditional religiosity. They have been empowered to overcome the decay of moral values through the calls for repentance and to recognize God and godliness as the answer to all problems – personal and societal.
Beginning in the early 1970s, starting from the Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord) community, CCR spread mainly through lay initiatives, especially through holding weekend “Life in the Spirit” seminars used in the global neo-Pentecostal (popularly called Charismatic Renewal) movement.[10] These were most effective in bringing spiritual and moral renewal to the middle class families, clans and communities, as they were introduced to the Pentecostal concepts and experiences of being “born again,” “baptism in the Spirit” evidenced by tongue-speaking, as well as healing and deliverance ministries, labelled by some outsiders as “emotionalism.”
Except for El Shaddai, most of the CCR groups emerged and proliferated among the middle class. Though educated to be more rationalistic and scientific with a more secularized worldview, the traditional RC devotional habits have continued to be practiced. Surprisingly, it is El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde who, because of a vision, has prohibited the bringing of icons to their Saturday night gatherings and in their chapter meetings since 2010.
The CCR has also been quite holistic from the start. The grassroots chapters of El Shaddai organized their own savings and investment programs. The largest CCR group, Couples for Christ (CfC) had a social arm called Gawad Kalinga, which eventually outgrew the mother organization and incorporated as a separate CDO. Other CCR leaders formed Christian development organizations (CDOs) – the oldest and largest of which is Tulay sa Pagunlad (Bridge to Progress), which birthed several similar autonomous regional CDOs that specialized in micro-credit and micro-enterprise development programs. In 2004, together with a few other CDOs they formed the Alliance of Philippine. Partners for Enterprise Development (APPEND), which ran as a “party list” candidate and won a seat in the lower house of the Phil. Congress in 2013.
Perhaps most significantly, the CCR enhanced the emergence of new lay leadership who have become more influential than the clergy. Mostly businessmen and corporate executives these lay leaders have led with their personal charisma as well as preaching and teaching gifts. As they teach direct from their personal study of Scriptures, they call for spiritual living that are modelled in the early church with its communitarian and egalitarian lifestyle, similar to pre-modern Filipino life – a past “golden age” when people lived simple and moral lives. Yet they also balance these teachings with emphasis in their links to the institutional church and her pro-life and anti-communist ideology.

Looking at present realities, social scientists see that faith and spiritual identities are being developed nowadays in post-modernity and social media contexts, as individuals define themselves in connection with their participation in various social groups resulting in the emergence of various neo-tribes. The rise of neo-tribes should be understood in light of the divergent concepts of self and its fragmentation in late modernity. There has been a “decentering and destabilization of human identity;”[11] there are a “large number of cultural possibilities which compete for the self in the contemporary context,”[12] and there are “multiple sources of contemporary selfhood” which “ground very stable identities as well as many different kinds of identity crisis and fragmentation.”[13]
As post-moderns develop a variety of religious and secularized versions of spirituality, they show that they yearn for a new sense of identity and community as they continue to face a diversity of choices that arise from the forces of globalization, urbanization, and consumerism which foster a sense of hyper-individuality at the expense of true community. This process has been called re-tribalization, and it has brought about the rise of various “postmodern neo-tribes.” This tribal sense of identity surfaces in a variety of ways, including new religious movements as well as alternative cultural events. As this process unfolds with like-minded people within their “neo-tribes,” new life-affirming secondary institutions are created.
Heelas and Woodhead suggest that “the hard and fast distinction between primary and secondary institutions may be breaking down,”[14] and that in the contemporary cultural situation of postmodernity “the image of dwelling in many homes may be more appropriate than that of homelessness.”[15] This turn to the self is best understood in light of a concept of the self that embraces the broader turn to life that draws upon life-enhancing secondary institutions which offer various forms of “alternative spiritualities” as resources for the self, so contemporary seekers can draw upon many of these same spiritualities to set up their numerous “homes.”
In each “home” everyone who participates must do so as a performer, not as a spectator. This is the one basic rule which makes each a “festival” and a “festal culture.” It is “an image of free society, the dinner party, in which all structure of authority dissolves in conviviality and celebration.” And this can be fulfilled in RMs when each meal where Christ is the acknowledged host is “church,” and where each one participates freely to obey him and to serve one another.

Hence there are at least four sociologically recommendable ways by which RMs in the Philippine RCC have shown on how to preserve and sustain spiritual vitality to overcome nominalism in established churches and denominations.

1. Disciple-making in Small Groups
Above all, disciples are made in small meetings, not in large gatherings. This was also the way of disciple-making of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament: People should be evangelized and discipled to mature spirituality through participation in small groups (maximum of 14-20 adult members each), like BECs and/or (Charismatic-style) prayer and Bible sharing groups.[16] Even when the community leaders have become discipled Christ-followers, each tribe or neo-tribe should develop a biblical religiosity of Spirit-filled love (agape) in the form of networks of small groups. Then as all become increasingly “mature in Christ” (Col.1:28-29; 2 Cor.3:17-18), they will grow in faith and love for Jesus, the Holy Spirit will guide them to become less concerned about religious rituals to appease spirits and demons and religious festivals to celebrate life. Direct and constant communion with God and with a small community of co-disciples is enough for life-long spiritual vitality.
Biblical religiosity will be expressed in a “secularized faith” which simply integrates “prayer to God in Jesus’ Name” and “reflective obedience to the word” (1 Tim.4:4-5) into an ordinary “Micah 6:8” lifestyle with minimal religiosity. To sustain this “love and good works” lifestyle, the only “habits of holiness (or grace)” or “spiritual disciplines” needed are three: (a) hearing God through prayerful meditation (Quiet Time) to turn His word (logos) into a word (rhema) to be obeyed; (b) making their own disciples and being discipled through participating in a “domestic (or house) church” with fellow believers in sharing life and Bible reflections together, and (c) doing friendship evangelism to share what they learn of God and His will with their nominal or non-believing relatives and friends.
This “making disciples in small groups” approach is not only pastorally effective, but also missionally strategic to restrain the natural development of movements to become institutionalized which usually result in nominalism.

2. Disciple-making through Participative Life-sharing
Yet sadly, in spite of renewal and discipling through small groups, the churched including those in Charismatic groups continue to honor and blindly follow strong leaders. The main remedy to advance more confidence in more dialogic and more democratic processes is to highlight the use of interactive discussion style of group dynamics in cellular systems. This is how disciples will learn how to turn conversations and discussions God-ward and Christ-ward. The millennials of our generation have already been inculturated to use post-modernity and its dialogic approach in the new “homes” and neo-tribes that are forming across social media. Will the hierarchy and clergy of the church catch up in using this life-sharing (bottom-up rather than top-down) As for those who would like to maintain big worship gatherings esp. on Sundays,[17] it is best to make the liturgies and homilies more participative and celebrative with a big family and fiesta atmosphere. But they must be alerted to the fact that attendance and participation in such praise and prayer services hardly count for preventing nominalism.[18] In fact, requiring such regimen has been a major cause of dropping out or backsliding into nominalism. Usually only 15-20% of church-goers live up to the heavy social and moral demands of “cell churches,” like attending seminars, joining various church activities, helping in church ministries, giving tithes and offerings, etc. Making people feel guilty that they are not fulfilling such requirements of “good churchmanship” may be bad for their spiritual health, esp. for the poor who cannot afford the dress code and transportation cost for “church-going”.

3. Transformational Development through Social Entrepreneurship
Further to prevent nominalism, the faithful must be discipled to mature spirituality so that they trust solely in our all-loving God and Him alone. People whose faith begin by contextually adapting to the majority religion (or non-religion) in their community must ultimately grow their faith into a simple yet profound religiosity, with each person living a “love God and love everyone” lifestyle that embodies the Great Commandment in obedience to his will (Mt.22:36-40; Rom.12:1-2), called “transformational development” or “integral mission” nowadays.
So discipled church members will grow “unto Christ,” liberated from sin to become more generous, more caring towards and sharing with their neighbors, which is the “agape” law of Christ (Gal.5:13-23; 6:1-2; Rom.13:8-10). They will develop a Christ-like, disciple-making lifestyle of “love and good works” (Heb.10:24; Eph.2:10; Col.1:28-29), as salt and light in the world (Mt.5:13-16; Phil.14-16), without having to “act religious” or do meaningless religious rituals (Jn.4:21-24; Lk.10:25-37; Mt.6:1-18). They are discipled in small groups to do acts of kindness and justice locally and globally (Mt.25:31-46, cf. Mic.6:8) in their various postmodern “homes.”
This biblical religiosity translates into discipling and transforming the global economic system. Many CDOs are already leading in building the third (other than capitalism and socialism) alternative economic order called the Solidarity Economy, which equips and empowers the poor through social entrepreneurship and fair trade, so each person can have their own land (Lev. 25) and their own “vine and fig tree” (Mic.4:4).

3. Evangelization and Discipling/Transformation of Asia and the World
Yet there must also be a big global vision to excite the faith and love of religious adherents. Asia remains the least evangelized continent with vast populations who are perishing and have no access to the Gospel. And around the world, there are still more than 6,000 people groups who have yet to hear the Name Jesus Christ. With the dominant majority of the Filipino diaspora (about 12 million today and counting), the CBCP can and should lead in fulfilling Pope John Paul II’s challenge for the Filipino church to be “God’s light for Asia.” As members of the only major Christian (= RC) country in Asia, Filipino Christ-followers must be involved in the evangelization of Asia and beyond.
The Filipino RC diaspora have been effective in bringing renewal to the various parishes wherever they have gone to work or live overseas. Those who belong to the CCR have extended new chapters of their groups in the countries they go to. But they have been less effective in working cross-culturally. Some groups have tried to send cross-cultural missionaries, but have had poor results due to lack of orientation and training. Hopefully they will reactivate such missional programs, with or without the guidance of the CBCP.
Since 2009, the Evangelical-led Philippine Missions Mobilization Movement has been working to equip and commission a million diaspora Filipinos by 2020 to serve as tentmaking missionaries wherever they live and work overseas, in time for Filipinos to celebrate the 5th Centennial of Christianity (the planting of the Cross and the baptism of first converts in March, 1521) among our people. Renewed RCs can join and lead in setting up an Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Assistance Center in each parish to cater to the holistic needs of OFWs and their families, and thereby be positioned to train returning OFWs on how to make disciples in small groups when they return abroad.

We have shown that by God’s grace, old denominations can perpetuate continuous revival by preventing nominalism through multiple renewal movements. Those interested in this thesis should carefully study the various revival or renewal movements throughout church history. By following the four lessons learned and recommended in this article, may the RCC with the CBCP lead her constituency and God’s whole church with zero-nominal and fully discipled membership to fulfill God’s whole mission in God’s whole world.


[1] Todd Johnson, et al, “Christianity 2017: Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 41.1 (January 2017): 48.
[2]In 2011, the RCC in the Phil. is reported to be 82.3% of the population, with 8,966 priests in 3,153 parishes, in International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37.1 (January 2013): 31.
[3]Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, Shaping of Things to Come : Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publisher, 2003), 49.
[4] Including the most recent by Gallup poll: http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2018/01/02/PH-3rd-happiest-country-in-world.html, accessed February 1, 2018.
[5] Most popular ones are the annual processions of the Black Nazarene, the Santo Niño (Holy Child), Our Lady of Peñafrancia, and Our Lady of Manaoag. Most gory would be penitents who get themselves nailed literally on the cross during Holy Friday to fulfil their vows made during a crisis in their life.
[6]Eleazar Fernandez, Toward a Theology of Struggle (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1994), 134.
[7]Cf. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Seabury Press, 1971).
[8]Cf. Leonardo Boff, Ecclesiogenesis (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1986).
[9]Paul Matheny, “Ferment at the Margins: Philippine Ecclesiology under Stress,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 25.4 (October 2011): 206. Among the major CCR groups are: Couples for Christ (with its subsidiaries: Singles for Christ, Handmaids of the Lord, CfC Youth for Christ, Kids for Christ) – the largest (perhaps 4.5 million worldwide); El Shaddai – perhaps about 3 million strong nationwide, and with branches worldwide; Bukas Loob sa Dios (BLD) – founded by Antonio de los Reyes, whose son “J.C.” ran as the presidential candidate of the Kapatiran Party (in 2004 and 2010) that has RC’s social teachings as basis of their governance platform; Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP); Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord); The Light of Jesus; Shalom Foundation; and Servant Community.
[10]From the start, some Evangelicals joined as members of these CCR groups and taught that these renewed Catholics or “converts to Christ” need not leave their Roman Catholic identity. This is similar to the culture-sensitivity of “insider movements” mentioned in Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment, Part IIC, Sec. 4.
[11]inda Woodhead, “Theology and the Fragmentation of the Self.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 1.1 (March 1999): 54.
[12]Ibid., 66.
[13]Ibid., 69.
[14]Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead, “Homeless minds today?” in Linda Woodhead, ed., Peter Berger and the Study of Religion (London & New York: Routledge, 2002), 70.
[16]This is highlighted in Howard Snyder’s study of historical renewal movements (Pietism, Moravianism & early Methodism) in his book Signs of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), which confirm the findings of L. P. Gerlach and V. H. Vine, People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), esp. that movements are founded on cellular organization.
[17]A few RC theologians have suggested that BECs are “the new way of being church” and do not need to have institutional ties with the Vatican (Rosemary Ruether, “The Free Church Movement in Contemporary Catholicism,” in Martin Marty and Dean Peerman, eds., New Theology, Vol. 6 (New York: Macmillan, 1969), 69-87; cf. Boff 1986). This is the ecclesiology of the global house church movement, which I view to be “the 4th wave of the Spirit,” where only simple expressions of faith are needed (David Lim, “Asia’s House Church Movements Today.” Asian Missions Advance 52 (July 2016): 7-12. Also at: www.asiamissions.net/asias-house-church-movements-today/.
[18]This was clearly discovered in 2008 by Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago when they made a study of the impact of their programs. See http://www.christiancoachingcenter.org/index.php/russ-rainey/coachingchurch2/..


David S. Lim
Dr. David S. Lim is the Executive Director of China Ministries International-Philippines, that recruits Filipino missionaries for China. He serves as a key member of the Facilitation Team that seeks to mobilize and train 200,000 Filipino missionaries to reach the unreached peoples of the world. He had previously served as Academic Dean at Asian Theological Seminary(Philippines) and Oxford Centre for Mission Studies(U.K.), and now serves as President of two schools: Asian School for Development and Cross-Cultural Studies (ASDECS) and Asian Center for English
Studies(ACES). His Ph.D in the New Testaments was earned from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, U.S.A.


The 20th century has witnessed tremendous progress and transformation through the rapid development of advanced technology and high speed of information expansion and exchange. Due to this progress, the planet earth has been termed by many as a “global village” where its inhabitants are living in such close proximity that it is impossible to carry out the Word of faith and the work of the ministry without a careful consideration of the changed and still changing ministerial context. In fact it can be easily observed that our society has become so increasingly diverse ethnically and racially that a Christian does not necessarily have to “cross the sea” to do missionary work, rather he can carry out the missionary mandate of the Lord right in the local neighborhood if he will “see the cross”. There are so many “Chinatowns”, “Little Italies”, and “Little Havanas” across the USA that Jerry Appleby has rightly concluded that world missions have come home to America. (see Missions Have Come Home to America: The Church’s Cross-Cultural Ministry to Ethnics, Appleby, 1986). To be effective in outreach, the Christian minister must know how to communicate the message of the Gospel and carry out the ministry cross-culturally. This is especially true of a missionary who lives in another culture.
In light of all these, this paper is purposed to present to missionaries, pastors and lay Christians who are called to minister cross-culturally a theocratic model of Christian counseling and to propose a theo-centric method/strategy for its implementation in an inter-cultural context. This paper will deal with several important issues: 1) What and why is Christian counseling? ; 2) What is currently going on in Christian counseling?; 3) Theo-centric counseling and its tasks ; 4) the model and method of theo-centric counseling and finally; 5) The application of theo-centric counseling in a cross-cultural context.

Throughout the years, the ideas of “Christian counseling”, “Christian therapy”, and especially, “Christian Psychology” have been subjects of debates and even ridicule. While many pastors and missionaries realize the importance and the necessity of counseling as an integral part of Christian “discipleship” ministry, others have labeled counseling simply as “psychological manipulation”, “infiltration of humanism”, and even “Satanic influence” in the church. The latter believes that all that the believers’ need in their Christian walk with God is “anointed preaching” and constant “revivals”. While it is important that we preach and teach the Word of God, preaching and teaching alone are not at all sufficient in dealing with the complexity and multiplicity of the problems in the lives of the individual Christians. Biblically based Christian counseling which honors the Lord Jesus Christ and edifies His church is urgently needed to deal with specific problems of individual believers.
Christian counseling is not the abuse or manipulation of psychology or a manifestation of humanist influence in the church. Instead, it is a relationship process where the person of spiritual and psychological insight seeks to help other individuals clarify issues, recognize, understand and attempt to solve problems in accordance with the teachings of the Word of God. The Bible has always put a great deal of emphasis on the necessity of counseling in the church. The very nature of God is that He is significant in wisdom and wonderful in counsel (Isa. 28;29); our Lord Jesus Christ is prophetically and rightly called “the wonderful Counselor” (Isa. (:6). The third distinct and divine person of the Holy Trinity is many times said to be “the counselor” whom the Father has sent to us (John 14:16;, 26; 16:7) and who will search the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2;10) and teach us the truth (Luke 12:12) so that we, being comforted and counseled by the joy and truth of God, can comfort and counsel one another in times of afflictions and tribulations (2 Cor.1:3-5). In this way, we must praise the Lord because He counsels us (Ps. 16:7). Therefore, the well known Christian counselor Dr. Gary Collins asserts forcefully that the biblical writers do not present Christian counseling (a people-helping, relationship-building process) as an option. Christian counseling is “biblically mandated” and “is a responsibility for every believer, including the church leader” (Collins, 1988, p.16). We are called by the Lord to counsel (see Timothy Foster’s called to counsel)., and the need for counseling has never been greater in the church.

Generally speaking, Christian counseling within the evangelical circle can be classified according to its basic assumptions and methodologies into four major camps (Seminar by Lawrence Crabb, Nov., 1992, pp. 4-6).

The Dynamic Integration Model of Christian Counseling
This is the most popular of all models. Many well-known Christian psychologists and counselors such as Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, Wayne Oates and Clyde Narramore, fall into this camp. They generally believe that Christian counseling is most effective when theology is combined with the latest progress in psychology. Christian counseling demands the combination of the expertise of the pastoral theologian and the pastoral psychologist who knows how the functions of the mind affect the human behaviors. They study the personality and the various disorders and try to develop a sort of pathology within the unconscious, and emphasize the volitional power in behavioral modifications. However, there is little place for true spiritual encounters, such as confession, repentance and reconciliation.

The Moralistic-Obedience Model of Christian Counseling
Well-known names within this camp are the prolific writer Jay Adams, the brothers Martin and Deidre Bobgan and Dave Hunt. The model is highly confrontational in nature. There is nothing more important than imparting the knowledge of God and demanding the change of attitude and behavior of the counselee on the part of the counselor. The model often used by this school includes three points: 1) The counselor recognizes the counselee’s problem(s) based on the Bible; 2) The counselor points out the problem(s) to the client/counselee; 3) The counselor prescribes a plan for the counselee and demands concrete changes in the thinking process and the behavior of the counselee. The Bible is often considered as the only source that the Christian counselor needs for effective counseling. Other psychological theories are often disregarded as irrelevant or unnecessary. The Biblical passage in Matthew 18:15-17 is most frequently used as the key text and biblical basis for the method of confrontation. There seems to be a very shallow understanding of the complex background of the problem and force of evil/sin, and often there is little patience on the part of the judgmental counselor in his relationship with the counselee.

The Recovery Model of Christian Counseling
Prominent writers and promoters of this school include the highly prolific Paul Meier, Frank Minirth, Frank Wichern, Melody Beattie, and Robert McGee. At the core of its assumption is the fundamental problem of human low esteem, the loss of identity, shame, and the beaten-down low “self image”. Therefore, the need for Christian counseling is to help the believer (counselee/client) recover and realize his true self-worth according to the glorious image of God in the believer. The believer is “somebody” of value and of great importance to Christ because God does not create junks. The key to the human problem is the strong affirmation of 2 Cor. 5:17, where the believer will be able to find peace, joy, satisfaction, and self-confidence from shame and failure through living a life centered in Christ (McGee, pp. 122-123, 1990) However, this school has been criticized as one which has lead to over or distorted self-confidence and self-dependence, or a “Christian” version of the humanistic assertive training/self-actualizing psychology.

The Spiritual Warfare Deliverance Model of Christian Counseling
This is a model, although currently not so strong that is receiving more and more attention (see Neil Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker, and the writings of David Simmons and James Freeson) as more and more people internalize and experience the harsh reality described by Paul in Eph 6:12. This is especially true among foreign missionaries to whom fighting the spiritual warfare in Africa, Haiti and Taiwan is a daily affair. The model argues that we are indeed involved in a supernatural battle with the enemy and the evil spirits. The infiltration and influence of the devil is very real in the Christian life. Although the devil does not possess the believer of Christ, nevertheless he can still oppress and depress the Christian. In light of this, the Christian counselor must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and be well equipped with the necessary spiritual disciplines such as fasting, prayer, meditation and diligent study of the living and powerful Word of God to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12). The counselors of this conviction also believe that only the supernatural intervention of God causes true spiritual growth in the believer and the counselor is to be used of God as His instrument of divine deliverance in the intervention and growth process. The model has been critiqued for not recognizing the many other aspects of divine healing such as through therapy and the faith community.

While the four major camps of Christian counseling have, to various degrees, helped us in our understanding of the human nature and its problems, and have developed useful methods for Christian counseling, all of them fell short in various aspects. There is a failure to recognize the human being as an integral system of mind, soul, heart, body and spirit in relationship to his Creator and to follow human beings within a specific environment in terms of time and space. There is little emphasis on the centrality and originality of God, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the process of counseling. There indeed appears to be certain humanist influence with certain writers (the writings of Beattle) in regards to counseling.
There are essentially three centers in general counseling. The first center is the Client (what’s the problem/need of my client). The second is the counselor (what must I do to solve my client’s problem or meet his need?). and the third is the relationship between the counselor and his client (what must we do together to solve your problem or meet your need?). All of these focus on the search for the magic cure to achieve happiness for the counselee. What is missing essentially is the most important center – the presence and action of God (What God is doing in us and through us in the midst of, and despite of all these problems?).
The word “theo-centric” is a compound word which consists of “theo” – God and “centric” – centered around. Theo-centric counseling, therefore, is a theory and practice of Christian counseling which endeavors to recognize the centrality (Acts 17:28) and originality (Rev. 1:8) of God in the process and practice of counseling. The central focus of the Christian counseling must be the person, presence and power of God Himself through the activities of the Holy Spirit for both the counselor and the client. Theo-centric counseling does not attempt to use or utilize God as another available strategy to solve our problems and to obtain happiness. Rather, it uses our existing problems of affliction to help us get closer to the will and the way of God, who is the only true source of happiness, peace, and joy. God has called us to a communion of endurance and fellowship of suffering, and God in Christ becomes our model of the wounded healer and the suffering Savior. In His presence, there is always joy for the believers (Acts 2;28), and the joy of the Lord in turn will become our strength (Neh 8:10) so that we may receive consolation in the midst of afflictions (2 Cor 1;5). It is through our trials we realize the sufficiency of His grace and it is in our weaknesses, we learn to rely on His power and strength (2 Cor. 12:9).
According to the Word of God in 2 Tim 3;16-17, truly theo-centric counseling must be concerned uncompromisingly with five major tasks. They respectively deal with three areas of the believer: the head, the heart, and the hand (behavior). They are:

  1. TEACHING – the theo-centric counselor must be a faithful and competent teacher of the truth in the Bible so that people in affliction will get a sure hold on the powerful Words of God as their source of strength and hope (John 8:32);
  2. REBUKING – The theo-centric counselor must dare to expose the nature of sin and evil in the counselee’s thinking, feeling, behavior or relationships based on the Word of God
  3. CORRECTING – the theo-centric counselor must then take courage to call the counselee to repentance and belief in God (Mark 1:15)
  4. TRAINING – The theo-centric counselor must practice patience in educating the counselee about the righteousness of God and in establishing a personal relationship of love and discipline through devotion and structured activities
  5. EQUIPPING – through the process of constructive relationships of love, understanding, accountability and respect, the faith of the counselee produces good works in behavioral terms as a manifestation of the inward change.

In his teaching on theo-centric counseling, prof. Oliver McMahan identifies five areas and three levels of prevention and intervention in theo-centric counseling (lecture notes on counseling, fall, 1990)
The five areas are:

  1. The Theo-centric area – the presence and power of God in the counseling process;
  2. The Cognitive area – the mental functioning of the client;
  3. The Emotional area – the feeling, sentiments of the client;
  4. The Behavioral area – the lifestyle of the client;
  5. The Contextual area – the specific environment of time, events, people, relationships around the client.

And the three levels of problems are:

  1. need – provision of physical, emotional and spiritual support;
  2. risk – provision of relevant and useful information and necessary education for the purpose of prevention;
  3. crisis – active intervention through available human and material resources.

As in most any other counseling, theo-centric counseling as a method emphasizes three important factors:

  1. The goal of counseling – what we should do (to discern and do the will of God),
  2. The process of counseling – how can we best do it; and
  3. The evaluation of result – how well we have realized the goal as a result of the counseling.

In carrying out the theo-centric model, the following procedures must be applied:

Quantitative and Qualitative Pre-Evaluation of the Counselee’s Condition (mental emotional, spiritual, etc.)
A-1. use of standardized psychological test(s);
A-2. use of self-designed questionnaire;
A-3. personal discussion(s) with the client;
A-4. visiting relevant persons concerning the client;
A-5. prayer for spiritual discernment.

Determination of the Problems
B-1. Spiritual
B-2 psychosomatic
B-3. emotional;
B-4. behavioral;
B-5. Relational.
Determination of Strategy of Intervention
C-1. emotional, spiritual support, encouragement;
C-2. prevention
C-3. intervention
Prescription of a plan of solution
D-1. biblically sound
D-2. practically feasible
D-3. measurability
Quantitative and Qualitative Post-Evaluation of the Counselee’s Condition
F-1. use of standardized test(s)
F-2. use of self-designed questionnaire
F-3. observation of the client’s behavior
F-4. moments of devotion and discussion with the client
F-5. discussion with those close to the client

The Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ demands that we go to all tribes and nations to make disciples for Christ. The very concept of cross cultural discipleship implies the tremendous task of counseling inter-culturally. Cross Cultural counselors such as the pastor or the missionary must not only be filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, know and be able to teach sound doctrines, and apply relevant and effective psychological methods, they must also be experts in the art and science of cultural adaptation. In applying the model to a foreign or ethnic setting, necessary adjustments have to be made so as to produce desirable results. The following five areas are worth our observation and attention:

The Attitude of the Pastoral-Missionary Cross-cultural Counselor
The first task of a cross-cultural pastoral-missionary counselor, of great necessity, is to become a humble pupil of that foreign or ethnic culture. To do so, the cross-cultural counselor must remove from his head those “great American ideas” of how things “should be done” around here and learn to eat and dress like the natives, for to learn is first of all to unlearn what one has learned. This counselor should not assume or think that because the foreign culture is less developed, it must be an uncivilized culture where he is working with uncivilized people. This attitude, although not expressed orally, can be felt very easily because the natives are very sensitive in this area and they have a strong sense of pride as a culture or people in spite of their obvious poverty, lower educational level, and lack of technological advancement. The counselor has to constantly check his or her attitude and fight against this tendency because it is this attitude that will convey subtly but clearly a sense of superiority and thus will lead the cross-cultural counselor to impose his customs on the natives and belittle them. They do not want to be made into little North Americans. Therefore, fundamental to cross-cultural counseling is an attitude of humility and service.

The Cognitive Structure of the Pastoral-Missionary Cross-cultural Counselor
Culture manifests itself most apparently through the clothes people wear, the food people eat and the language people speak. However, deeply rooted in the culture is the way of thinking and reasoning within the cognitive structure. The cross-cultural counselor must try to learn and understand how differently the ethnic or foreign culture think and reason about various issues of life. What is often considered an important issue in the culture of the cross-cultural counselor may not be important in the ethnic culture in which he seeks to minister. For instance, to North Americans in general, getting things done on time is more important than anything else. They demand tangible results and have little patience with anything that comes in their way. This, however, is not so in Puerto Rico or China where the concept of time and task are of little consequence. Taking it easy in cultivating human relationships seems to be more important and relevant to life for the Chinese and the Puerto Rican. It is perfectly normal and acceptable to be half an hour “late” for almost anything. In China, being is much more important than doing, and one’s success is evaluated in terms of his establishment of quality relationships. In regard to time, a Puerto Rican friend said to a missionary counselor: “Slow down, my friend, why are you always in a hurry, looking at your watch? Isn’t there more to life than time?”
Furthermore, within the cognitive structure of the Christians, there exists a continuum between bipolar opposites of Word-orientation and Spirit-orientation (Irwin, 1985, p.221). The word-oriented Christians tend to be highly rational, analytical, objective and impersonal, while the Spirit-oriented Christians on the other hand, tend to be more emotional, personal and experiential in worship and lifestyle. The Chinese Christians generally, are the most rational and objective, while the North American Christians are less so. On the opposite of the continuum, most Puerto Rican Christians tend to be highly emotional and personal. Nevertheless, the pastoral-missionary counselor should not evaluate Christian spirituality based only on those manifestations. An understanding of the cognitive process is necessary. Remember that people in different cultures with different ethnic backgrounds do think differently and their ways of looking at the problems of life are different, and so are their methods of problem solving. The cross-cultural counselor needs to pay attention to this area by becoming a student before passing on suggestions and judgments.

The Accuracy of the Communication of the Pastoral-Missionary Cross-cultural Counselor
A pastor or a missionary truly called to minister among ethnic people must learn to communicate in the language of the people group. In fact he should try to learn the language so well so that he speaks without a foreign accent. Even if one speaks with an accent, the natives are delighted when they see that he is sincerely trying to be a student with humility.
There are various nuances and connotations within any language. Even when some words (molestar, esta/es rica) are of the same etymology in English and Spanish, they at times may mean very different things. In order to render worthy counseling that will bring glory to Christ and edify the believer, the cross-cultural counselor must not only communicate, but communicate with more accuracy. In addition to the written and spoken language, the cross-cultural Christian will be well advised to be also a student of the “body language” of the particular culture or ethnic group.

The Behavior of the Pastoral-Missionary Cross-Cultural Counselor
Human behavior is a manifestation of how the mind and heart function and how we behave conveys the most powerful message of who we really are. The cross-cultural counselor needs to be careful with his behavior. For instance, the normal way of greeting in North America is hand shaking. In China, shaking the hands of a woman is not acceptable, while a hello with a slight bow of the head is considered appropriate. In addition, the cross-cultural counselor must be careful how he touches people and where he touches them so that good intentions will not be misunderstood. For example, the laying on of hands on another person’s head during prayer is normal in one culture, while in another it is highly offensive and insulting.

The Contextualization of the Psychological Tests of the Pastoral-Missionary Cross-cultural Counselor
In his formal training as a Christian psychologist and counselor, the pastoral-missionary cross-cultural counselor is used to taking advantage of various well-developed research instruments (e.g. measurement of spirituality, role expectation differences between husband and wife, family harmony, attitude toward money, sexual awareness tests, etc.) in pre and post evaluations of the concrete counseling results. These instruments are necessary for determining the nature of the problem, the future direction of therapy and even the need for counseling referral. However, certain precautions must be taken in administering the tests. The following needs to be taken into serious consideration when using North American test materials on foreign fields:

  1. What is the designated purpose of this test?
  2. Who are the subjects in terms of age, sex and group characteristics?
  3. Does the test have cross-cultural biases due to its developers or authors?
  4. What is the time frame required for the test?
  5. Is the test relevant to this cultural group in light of its cognitive structure and the differences in traditions, customs and culture?
  6. Is the test translated accurately?
  7. Are the conditions met for administering the test?
  8. Is the normal way of interpreting the test results sufficient within the cross- cultural setting?

By taking these factors into serious and careful considerations, the pastoral-missionary counselor will be more relevant, accurate and effective to whom the Lord has graciously put under his care and trust. The counselor will be able to take wise decisions and take decisive actions to help the believers grow and mature in the likeness of Christ.

This has been an initial attempt to apply the theory of theo-centric Christian counseling to a cross-cultural context. The need for Christian counseling cross-culturally, and the current approach in Christian counseling have been presented. The definition and task of theo-centric counseling have been given along with its model and methodology. Finally, a systematic plan for its implementation in light of the ethnic culture has been developed. It is the hope of the author that through this current endeavor, more interests will be stimulated among Christians for further study in this new area, and that through this important Christian ministry, the task of “making disciples among all nations” will be carried out more forcefully and effectively.



Hong Yang
Dr. Hong Yang is the Special Assignment Representative and the Director of Global Chinese Ministries, Church of God World Missions, USA. For over 25 years he has served as an adjunct professor of Intercultural Counseling and Christian Education and Practical Theology at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (PTS), Cleveland, TN. He also served as an adjunct professor of Leadership and Missions at the Asian Seminary of Christian Ministries (ASCM) in Manila, Philippines for over 20 years.


Bengal was the land of Hindus. Islam came to Bengal through the contextualized approach of Sufi Pirs. Later during the Mughols, economic and social privileges like tax exemption was given to the converts to Islam from Hinduism. Islam preached equality in the Hindu society under the challenge of caste system. There was also proselytization and many temples were destroyed and replaced with mosques. Now, there are 90% Muslims in the country, whereas the Christian population is less than 1%.

The capital city Dhaka is called the City of Mosques. Mosques are the sure gateway of heaven for Muslims. So Muslims worship in mosques and the construction of many mosques make them glad. There are family mosques, every housing society allocates space for several mosques, every market place has space for mosque worship, educational institutes have mosques, and government offices have to have spaces for mosques. There is the Ministry of Religious Affairs which donate money for repairing and building new mosques. That means public tax is spent for islamization of the country. The picture around the mosque during weekly Friday worship is like Christian churches in Korea or other developed countries. But Islam is still preached throughout the nation and beyond. During winter, you may see Islamic gatherings everywhere and every night in the whole country. People donate money for the mahfil and Islamic Jalsha gatherings. So these gatherings are most of the time, sponsored by political leaders as a bribe to solicit votes during elections. During Mahfil and Jalsha, political leaders are invited and announced as special guests. Even the secularist Awami League leaders are using these gatherings for political purpose. Christians can’t do anything with these situations.
So without any outside help, mosques are growing innumerously. There are Islamic businesses donating huge amount of money for building mosques. But in addition with the above, if foreign fund from the Middle Eastern government and charities in the West is given through individuals, clubs, madrashas, Islamic NGOs and Islamic societies, the growth would no doubt be exponential. On the other hand, temples are destroyed and decaying, no repair is done and many temples have become abandoned property or the grazing field for animals. Often we read news of temples being attacked by outsiders.
In a small Christian community in the heart of Dhaka City, there are 6 mosques and three Islamic institutes. In our area as a small village there are 5 mosques surrounding our mission. In fact, we have penetrated and built a church building and other facilities at 3-acres of land in the area surrounded by already existing mosques. We are trying to copy what Islam is doing.

Saudi Arabia is credited as Muhammad’s birthplace, but actually Saudi Arabia did not have any role in the islamization of Bengal presently called as Bangladesh. Wahabism is diminishing even in Saudi so in Bangladesh this is lessening but Sunni ideology is growing. On the other hand, since Osama bin Laden is from the Wahabi sect, so Wahabism is believed as the source of terrorism in Bangladesh like in the world. Wahabism is significantly affected due to Saudi Arabian Wahabism. The Bin Laden farm is constructing the tallest building in the world to be opened in 2019 in Saudi Arabia.
Recently, in 2017, Saudi Arabia has announced their donation of over 90 million USD for building 560 mosques in Bangladesh. There would be Islamic cultural centers with each of these mosques. There are 490 sub-districts in the country so each sub-district is getting at least 1 new mosque and cultural center. The budget for each mosque and center is about 160,715 USD [12,535,770 BDT]. Currently, there is no record of Christians getting a big budget for one church building. I know one person donates fund for rural house church and his budget is average 2,500-3,000 USD which is good for a worship-hut. In our mission, we face struggle to raise 30,000 USD for building a chapel and a school. So this Saudi one-time grant is the biggest strategic religious fund Bangladesh has ever received from an outside nation since the entrance of Islam into this land. Because of this big impact, the Saudi government created a significant influence over and in Bangladesh. Both in terms of the amount of money and the extent of the project are huge. This is not the first time and only donation from Saudi but one instance only. Millions of people living in the rural areas would sell their hearts for the Holy Land where Mecca lies. We would undermine if we take this fund for granted that only the interest of Islam is in Saudi’s heart. We should anticipate that more Islamic resources would arrive soon after the completion of the 560 mosques project. Bangladesh cannot say no if Saudi wants to send their scholars and imams to teach and stay. That is why some Islamic political parties are concerned of the growth of salafism, the seed of terrorism through this fund.
Bangladesh is in Saudi-led military alliance of security and the government is willing to send troops for the protection of Islam and Mecca. There are more than 5 millions of Bengalis in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royal family members have huge amount of investments in our country’s business. Saudi Arabia’s position would not change even though there is power change in Bangladesh. The leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party together with her family members, [the second largest political party] have good relationship with Saudi royal family. Every year, the BNP leader and her family go to Mecca for pilgrimage upon the invitation of the King of Saudi Arabia. So in the future, it would be expected that the Bangladesh politics is going to new policies influenced by the Middle East.
Islam in Bangladesh regards the land of the origin of Islam highly, so if there have been on-going changes and reforms in religious and social aspects, a sure-reflection would be followed in Bangladesh. But our nation is emphasizing on the orthodoxy of Islam rather than radicalism. So the future of Islam would depend on how we cope with Saudi Arabia’s influence.

Almost all Muslim countries in the Middle East [ME] and in other parts of Asia give money to the Islamic charities in Bangladesh. You can easily find fabulous and gorgeous mosques and madrashas established by such countries. Apart from the ME governments, there are individual sheiks giving money to repair and build mosques. The funds continue flooding from the Middle East countries and the Bangladesh government cannot stop them. The government rather needs to be strict to trace the source-flow of the money for terrorism. The flow is privatized and beyond government control. For controlling ME money coming for terrorism, Christian missions are suffering due to the money-laundering and anti-corruption banking laws.
Bangladesh may not be able to maintain the balance in relationship with all Muslim countries because of the complexity of geo-politics. The present government has already taken the side with Saudi Arabia whereas Iran has been leading a separate ally with other Muslim and non-Muslim countries.

Bangladesh is known as a moderate Muslim majority country in the world. The government is proud of that status. Historically the Muslim population is known as non-communal except for few occasions when riots have been devastating. But still Bangladesh is trying to maintain its secularism so the nation is not communal but secular which does not exclude religion. The religious status is secular and not religionless promising the freedom of other religions.
Saudi Arabia is lessening their dependence on oil business since they know that some day their oil would be gone. So they are expanding their business in the outside world for their GDP and Bangladesh is a good location for them. Because of Mecca, Bangladeshis have respect for Saudi and the Holy Arabia. In the near future, the Middle East would withdraw their deposit from the Swiss Bank and other banks in the West but would invest those funds in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government is pursuing the investments of these petro-dollars. Bangladesh economy is dependent on the remittance from Middle Eastern black-dollars. The government believes that Bangladeshis in the West do not remit much but the laborers in the Middle East do.

In the last 60 years, the rate of migration of Hindus to India is horrible which resulted to a decrease in Hindu population rate from 40% to less than 10% according to Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishod [a national unity council of Hindu, Buddha and Christian]. Migration is still in continuation. After the division in 1947, Pakistan passed Enemy Property Act by confiscating Hindu property when Hindus left their lands and homes in both East Pakistan [now Bangladesh] and West Pakistan. The name of the act proved the hatred towards Hindus as it is defined as “enemy property act”. The business and professions of the Hindus were taken by the Muslims. After 1971, the independence of Bangladesh was declared. The Enemy Property Act has been termed as Vested Property Act but the essential spirit is still the same – even now after 45 years, the Hindus did not get their property back. No government is taking dare steps for restoring Hindu properties to the genuine inheritance-claimers. Many of these properties have been occupied by mosques and madrashas. Hindus and their generations would not forget and forgive these unresolved losses. So Hinduism has been in oppression severely – and the number of Hindus has gone down significantly. The issue on Hindu property is not the only problem to be solved, Bangladesh has lost a huge number of intellectuals and leaders. Many members of the Indian national politics, statesmen and culture are from Bangladesh in origin.
What does Islam says about Hinduism? There are teachings about infidels, Jews and Christians in the Quran. So the readers of the Quran can say what the Quran thinks of Christians. But there is nothing about Hinduism even though Hinduism has been existing many ages before Islam. So if Muslim scholars say that Islam is the religion of peace, religious harmony and tolerance giving freedom to all ethnic and religious groups, they would have hard times to prove that. Because not only polytheism but pantheism in Hinduism is taken as the religion of infidels.
Once the Bengal of Hindus has now become the nation of Hindu minority – even though the second largest population are Hindus but still very insignificant. The existence of Hindus is not even felt by many. The patriotism of the Hindus is questioned too because their one leg is in Bangladesh and another leg is in India. They are accused of earning money here but depositing into Indian banks. In the next 50 years, the existence of Hinduism could be a history. Once the most powerful Buddhist existence during the Pal dynasty has gone into extinction. Buddhist monasteries have become the ruins and now used for tourism. So Christianity could be the next target of Islam – there is a reason for it. Christians are viewed influential because of the foreign West despite having less than 1% population. Islam is successful to eradicate Buddhism, then Hinduism is in the challenge of survival and the next target would be Christianity.

Tough time for Bangladesh Church is coming soon. Christians are going to face challenges they cannot afford. Muslims view Christians as a negligible minority now. But they still raise their voices very high by saying that the West is patronizing local Christians. They create mob if there is one conversion by saying the Christianization is going on. Many Christian leaders are leaving the country and their children are already in the West or Christian-majority nations. Last year, many mission groups have stopped their mission works or limited their works because of fear when few Christians have been attacked and also killed.
Islam does not give any room for being criticized. Any aspect of Islam is above criticism. Even the Prime Minister of our nation says that bloggers or open thinkers must not hurt the sentiment of other religions i.e. Islam. Islam does not tolerate criticism because they are scared. Christians should learn that Islam is intolerant because it is in fear of its ground of faith and traditions. On the other hand, Christianity is criticized randomly everywhere by everyone.
If the churches in the West stop supporting nations like us, then the church would be crippled. Bengali church is a vulnerable 400-years old baby surviving in the midst of pressure. One of the greatest weaknesses in our church is that if we are persecuted, we show our mercy and practical assistance through foreign money. Christian Church in Bangladesh become known as the agent of mercy. We are sharing mercy from others but not ours. Muslims expect mercy but not Christianity.
Bangladesh church should keep the Rohingya crisis in her mind. Bengali Muslims may be interested to exercise similar atrocity over Bengali Christians. Or think of Israel how it has been a surviving nation in the midst of Islamic enmity – excommunicated nation by the Middle East region. Even Bangladesh, a secularist nation does not have a diplomatic tie with Israel for fear of loosing support from the Middle East. What if the situation of Bengali church become like helpless and empty-handed neo-Israel. There are sporadically and even organized rehearsals of attack going on. Many Hindu converts can leave the country and some would embrace Islam like what happened in the past, in the year 1971 when many Hindus have become Muslims to save their lives from Pakistani army. Christians converting to Islam are believers who lost their Christian identities. Many Christians from mainline churches would want to leave the country rather than convert to Islam.
Geo-politics is changing rapidly and Bangladesh would not be left untouched when its surrounding people groups –would be formed as separate nation because of their cultural bond with their tribes in India. Islam by the backing of the Middle East fund will spend for the islamization of these Bengali and Indian tribes. And Christianity will find them as competition in the Eastern and South-Eastern borders of Bangladesh. Christians in this nation would become the prey if it sits idle just observing the ongoing changes.

In the world, there is no Christian nation that declares Christianity as their state religion. But there are many countries where Islam is the state religion. One of them is Bangladesh. That means that Bangladesh, by the Constitution is a Muslim nation. There are similarities between the Constitutions of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Since there is no nation who claims Christianity as their state religion, like Muslim nations claiming Islam as their state religion, and the secularist West does not believe in such things, there is nobody or no organization to heed to the cry of Christian minorities in the world. Christian rights fall under the category of freedom of speech and religion of minority in general. The Western churches of course care.

There are funds for charities received from governments in the West but those funds were used mostly for the Muslim beneficiaries. Government policies in Bangladesh had driven the organization like World Vision and Compassion to sponsor more Muslim children than children from Christian families. Christian NGOs are under strict government monitoring so that money could not be used for any religious activities esp. Christian activities. Even in our church, we are spending more than 20,000 USD from donations, every year to educate Muslim children with only a few Christians. Our expectation is to have the support from Christian countries or organizations for our continued existence in the future when these children would grow and if they remain grateful to us and stand beside us in our trials. Because we are starting our new Christian and cultural ministries in Islamic villages. On the other hand, we are under some obligation to show to the government that we are doing works for our nation building. This is church money and what are we achieving with it? NGOs are ordered to recruit Muslims not only Christians so more Muslims staff are joining in Christian NGOs.
I believe that some nations with Christian majority population are still richer than the Middle East. But these nations do not have any agenda for Christianization of other unreached nations. They are after political and economic agenda. Saudi Arabia depends on US military weapons but is engaged in the islamization of Bangladesh. They are not only purchasing weapons but spending for strengthening Islam worldwide. Like Bangladesh, they might have plans to donate many more mosques and Islamic cultural centers in other Islamic nations. Even though in fear from other Islamic sects, but they did not forget their religious duties. Saudi Arabia is making religious friends, more powerful to them than weapons.

The Bangladesh Christian church cannot undertake all and every measures with its very little or almost no resources. So it needs to research what measures should they consider as priority and most effective. Here are some Christian Strategies that can be considered:
Unity & Patriotism – When we talk about Bengali Christians, we mean Bangladesh church. But the church is divided because most of the Christians are from lower caste Hindus and different tribes. Even though all of them speak Bengali, they are bound in their own distinct cultures and traditions. They are Christians in Bangladesh, but they are a small fraction because their main tribal population is in India. By nationality, they are Bangladeshi, but politically they are considered as risky if they ally with their majority tribe living in India. These tribes are culturally and mentally Indian even though they defy this reality. Currently, Christianization among the Bengali is not yet successful. Bengalis are more than 90% while the total Christian population, including tribes are still less than 1%.
Example of Christian & Biblical lifestyle of Christians for Muslims – The small percentage of Christians and churches should live according to the Christian ethics. Our position should be like the Israelites in the Bible. We can survive and grow. Christian ethics can bring people into Christian faith.
Visible Church Buildings – Unless there is revival, evangelistic rallies for mass conversion should be avoided, but visible Christian churches with good facilities for ministries need to be set up in different parts of the country. We should talk less but work more quietly. What are we going to do when Saudi Arabia gives funds for 560 mosques and Islamic cultural centers? Do we have any agenda to defend ourselves? Can we at least construct 100 visible churches in coordination with evangelical denominations? Can we assume what the next plan of the Middle Eastern nations is? The number of churches we want to establish are big buildings and facilities visible to residents and not only small family-based churches with almost no influence which would not be able to face islamization.
Writings to defend Christian faith and promote evangelism – In the midst of pressure, more literature should be written and distributed. This is frustrating that Bangladesh church has no money for printing millions of tracts and literatures for evangelism.
Platform for Freedom of Religion and Christian rights – There is some little effort going on but there is less cooperation and involvement from the local church.
Establishing Cultural Centers – Church does not have any thought on this yet. Our church should think of the aggression of 560 Islamic cultural centers. Christian churches should establish centers for culture and ethics before we become targets of Islamic culture.
Strengthening local missionary movement – Strong mission movement with skilled and specialized manpower is a need. The church is not there yet. Christian Educational Institutes: hub of mission outreach.
Building and sending qualified officers in the government – Even the government expects more Christians should work in government agencies and serve regionally and nationally. But there are only very few. Christians as minority should demand for government jobs and at the same time they should compete with others on the basis of their qualifications. So they can influence the work areas and the people working in government offices with Christian values and examples.


Edward Ayub
Mr. Edward Ayub is a Presbyterian minister in Bangladesh. He is the moderator of Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh. He is one of the five initiator of Bangladesh Missions Association.

EDITORIAL: With God All Things Are Possible

Our God is a missionary God. He does not leave us alone. He actively works with us. When God calls us for His kingdom ministry, He provides us necessary gifts. If God looks big to us, the world will look small; if you look at the world as big, God will look small. It is true that implementing Christ’s Great Commission is not an easy task, but it is not an impossible task.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”(Matt. 19:23-24) When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 25). To their question Jesus answered: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (v. 26).
The problems addressed in this 60th issue of Asian Missions Advance look big and difficult. But remember that God is great and nothing is impossible with God. The issue of reunification of two Koreas raised by Dr. Philo Kim is a big issue and it does not seem to be easy. The clash in the past between nationalism and Christian faith in Japan as written by Dr. Esther Maxton may still be experienced at present and points out that it is something we need to deal with seriously nowadays. The practice of theo-centric counseling in a cross-cultural setting raised by Dr. Hong Yang is also an important issue. As written by Dr. David Lim, overcoming nominalism in Christian countries like the Philippines is also a huge issue. Surviving and flourishing of the church in Muslim countries such as Bangladesh by Mr. Edward Ayub is also a big issue in missions.
Proclaiming the sovereignty of God and God’s rule in Egypt was not an easy task, but Joseph, though he went there as a slave, made it. Moses, who was a fugitive, proclaimed successfully the rule of God in the world in Egypt. He did what he could not do when he was an Egyptian prince and powerful in speech and action. (ACTS 7). A young girl taken as a captive from Israel witnessed the living God to Naaman and eventually Naaman saw the salvation of God and confessed: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:15). The rule of the sovereign was powerfully proclaimed in Babylonian and Persian Empires by the war captives such as Daniel and his three friends. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (v. 26). Our God is a missionary God. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1: 6). Halleujah!

Timothy K. Park,


“. . . . I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22)

The Apostle Paul, a great model for missionaries, confessed that he became all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. Do we become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel? Are we truly incarnational to communicate the gospel effectively? The Apostle Paul was very strict to the law, but was so flexible when it comes to communicating the gospel.
Today’s mission environment is so complex. A Missionary’s approach to the Muslim world, the Hindu world, the communist and socialist communities, the Confucian culture, and the nominal Christian world cannot be the same. Missionary approaches must be different. Inflexible approaches could be a great hindrance to effective communication of the gospel. People do not reject the gospel because of its content, but mainly because of inappropriate methods of communication.
Let us pay attention to what Paul said in 1st Corinthians Chapter 9 verses 19-22: 19. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
The theme for this 59th issue of Asian Missions Advance is effective communication of the gospel. Apparently, each article contributors deal with different topics, but all of them address the issue of communication directly or indirectly in different context of mission. John H. N. Chung’ paper is about ‘The Issue of Replacement Theology of Christian Zionism, Tu Thien Van Troung wrote about “Leadership Development in Vietnam’s Communist Context”, S. David Park on “Developing Disciple Making Self-Theology Through Integrating Evangelism and Mission: Towards Shaping Christianity in Asia Truly Asian and Biblically Global”, Esther L. Park on “Cross-Cultural Communication in Asian Context” (particularly in the Philippine context), Sandy Day and Gibbs Mweemba on “The Strategic Contribution of Media in Africa,” and Thir Koilala wrote on “Communicating the Gospel in Nepal”
Thanks to the article contributors and readers! May His kingdom come and may His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Hallelujah!

by Timothy K. Park, Editor



This paper will first present the context in which the Vietnamese Communist Party came into being in the North of Vietnam and its governing system of the entire country after it took over the South in 1975. The next part will review briefly the Vietnamese Protestantism and the forms by which the churches do their leadership training. The last part will talk about the objectives that the churches in Vietnam set forth for their leadership development.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were a period of turmoil for Vietnam. In this period, two powerful families partitioned the country: the Nguyễn Lords ruled the South and the Trịnh Lords ruled the North. The Trịnh-Nguyễn War was not only disastrous for the Vietnamese people but also provide European traders the opportunity to support each side with weapons and technology. In 1784, during the conflict between Nguyễn Ánh, the surviving heir of the Nguyễn Family, and the Tây Sơn Dynasty, Nguyễn Ánh sought advice from a French Catholic Bishop, Pierre Pigneaux de Behaine (Bá Đa Lộc), who advised him to seek military backing from France. Nguyễn Ánh wrote to France asking for military assistance; in return, Nguyễn Ánh promised to concede the town of Hội An (Faifo) and Côn Lôn island to France as well as allow France to conduct trade in the South.[1] With help from France, Nguyễn Ánh defeated the Tây Sơn at Quy Nhơn the first time in 1793 and completely defeated the Tây Sơn in 1802.[2]
After Nguyễn Ánh established the Nguyễn Dynasty in 1802 under the name Gia Long, he tolerated Catholicism and employed some Europeans in his court as advisors. However he and his successors were conservative Confucians who resisted Westernization. Considering the Westerners, especially Catholic missionaries, as a threat to the security of the country, the next Nguyễn emperors, Ming Mạng, Thiệu Trị, and Tự Đức (1833-1883), brutally suppressed Catholicism and pursued a closed-door policy.[3] Tens of thousands of Vietnamese and foreign-born Christians were persecuted, and trade with the West seemed to be almost discontinued during this period.
These acts were soon used as an excuse for France to invade Vietnam.[4] In 1858, French gunships attacked the port of Đà Nẵng and assumed control over the whole of Vietnam before the dawn of the twentieth century. French Indochina was formed in October, 1887, from Annam (Trung Kỳ, central Vietnam), Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ, northern Vietnam), Cochin China (Nam Kỳ, southern Vietnam), and Cambodia, with Laos added in 1893. Within French Indochina, Cochin China had the status of a French colony, Annam was a protectorate where the Nguyễn Dynasty still ruled in name, and Tonkin had a French governor with local governments run by Vietnamese officials.[5]
As the French had established its domination throughout Vietnam, most of the Vietnamese people were living under double layers of oppression: the French government with its capitalists, and the Vietnamese feudalist system with the landlords as its representatives. The peasantry in Vietnam, who were already poor, now became poorer and lost their lands because of the policies favoring the landlords which were made by the feudalist government at the end of the nineteenth century. Đào Duy Anh, a famous Vietnamese historian, wrote, “Hồng Nhậm (King Dực Tông, 1847-1883) planned to cancel the equal distribution of land (quân điền) which was carried out under the Phúc Đảm dynasty in Bình Định, that proved that he only took notice of the benefits of landlords and the local wealthy and paid no attention to the benefits of the peasantry. Trickeries of the landlords and the local wealthy developed freely.”[6]
This situation continued into the twentieth century. Under the oppression of French colonizers and Vietnamese feudalist landlords, the miserable life of the majority of Vietnamese people was also intensified by drought, failure of crops, and famine. In this situation, tens of thousands of people left their homes to find jobs or become beggars in other places. Many of these landless farmers eventually became workers in French mines, factories, and plantations, which were built upon “no owner” land in the country under French control.[7] On these plantations, miserable farmers from Tokin came to work … with the hope that they could earn their living and save some money to bring home. But after three or four years, they become decrepit with malaria and odema…. Most of these people have no chance to see their families again. Those who could come back to their villages were only lifeless bodies without money and worn-out. They come back to die. But before they died, they scattered and disseminated the seeds of disease and hatred.[8]
Against this socio-political background one can easily understand why there were many violent uprisings during this period. Some were inspired by the revolution in Russia and China and began to turn to radical paths. This period also witnessed the forming of political organizations to resist foreign invaders such as Việt Nam Quang Phục Hội, Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng, Hội Việt Nam Thanh Niên Cách Mạng, and Tân Việt Cách Mạng Đảng. Eventually, many of these uprisings converged, with the interference of the Communist International, into one organization, Đảng Cộng Sản Việt Nam (the Vietnamese Communist Party), which defeated the French troops at Điện Biên Phủ in 1954, leading to the signing of the Geneva Accord in July, 1954. It is this Geneva Accord that paved the way for France to leave Vietnam. The Geneva Accord also partitioned the country into two sections with the promise of democratic elections to reunite the country. But that election never took place, instead giving way to the so-called Vietnam War between the North and the South. It is important, however, that we understand the Vietnam War within a larger, international frame. The historian Robert Buzzanco, one of the U.S’s leading authorities on the Vietnam War, maintains that to American officials in the White House and Department of State it was crucial to support France and stop Asian communism at the time. This policy was necessary for three interrelated reasons: to maintain French support in the European Cold War, to contain communism in Asia, and to encourage economic development. Whereas U.S military officers looked at conditions inside Vietnam and saw great risks, civilian officials had a global outlook and saw Vietnam as part of a much larger contest: the Cold War.[9]
In this context, the North of Vietnam was supported by the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union, and the South was supported by the United States and its allies. The war was escalating from the early 60’s, then reached its climax in the last years of that decade. American troops withdrew from Vietnam in March, 1973, and the war ended with the capture of Sài Gòn by the North in April, 1975.[10]
After the reunification of the country in 1975, the Vietnamese Communist Party established their ruling system over the country. They put former South Vietnam soldiers into re-education camps; many of those soldiers never returned. Many Southern people could not stand the draconian policies of the new government and sought to escape overseas, even though such attempts involved the threat of death due to severe sea weather and rape and robbery by pirates.[11] Though these escapers were first called betrayers by the communists, they contributed a good part in the development of the present day Vietnam.
The ensuing economic life of Vietnam became stagnant due to the “closed door” and “self-providence” policies of the government. Farmers were forced to give up their private lands, join co-operatives, and collect all crops in public storehouses. They were told this was a fair policy of the Party, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” a slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1857 Critique of Gotha Program. As it was seen in China, this utopian policy, no matter how great it was in theory, was unpractical and went bankrupt at the end of the 80s since farmers did not want to devote themselves to what they were not allowed to possess. The workers also experienced difficulties since factories, which were using out-of-date technologies, could not make high quality products and lost the confidence of domestic consumers. As a result, money was put into circulation very slowly. In addition, the slow-moving economy was also damaged badly by bureaucracy and corruption. At the same time, foreign trade was very limited due to an American trade embargo and the low quality of available goods. To make matters worse, the national budget was largely spent on compensation for the financial losses of state-owned corporations. Subsidization (bao cấp) was the main characteristic of the Vietnamese economy in the first half of the 80s. From the 90s, especially when the embargo against Vietnam was lifted, the Vietnamese economy gradually became a market economy though the Communist Party still remains the monopoly political party in the country.
The government’s policy toward religious bodies remained a very complex issue after 1975, as the communist government tried to maintain control of the religious life of the people of Vietnam. All religions in Vietnam had a tough time, and many worship centers were closed or confiscated by the government with no intention of returning them. Many spiritual leaders and believers sought to escape the country, while the remainder lived with anxiety and the fear of persecution. Almost all religious institutions were forced to establish patriotic associations. These associations functioned as bridges between the central committees of religious institutions and the government. However, many leaders in these associations were believed to be government agents. While some associations complied with the government’s demands, some, such as Protestant groups, did not. Regardless, leaders and followers in every religious institution were suspicious about each other since there were insiders who reported internal affairs to governmental authorities. They could not know for sure who were genuine followers and who were undercover agents. It was reported that there were Buddhist monks protesting the South Vietnamese government during the so-called Vietnam War. After the war, however, people soon realized these monks were communist undercover agents who tried to stir up an anti-war spirit among believers. This might explain why the Vietnamese government today pays so much attention to religious affairs. Unlike Karl Marx, who considered religion’s only function to be the opiate of the masses, Vietnamese communists understood that religion could pose a deadly threat to any political regime, especially their own.[12]
One of the measures of religious persecution by the new government was to close down churches and confiscate a number of them for government use: It is estimated that right after 1975 about ninety percent of local churches were closed or confiscated.[13] The persecution became more severe when the government applied forms of control such as getting the names and addresses of church members and printing their religious affiliation on their ID cards. This threatened many Christians, because they could be inhumanely discriminated against, and young Christians could be denied access to a college education or jobs. The government tried to control the national executive committee of the Protestant groups, thinking that through these committees they would be able to control all the Protestant churches in the South. Nevertheless, it failed to prevent or to destroy the development of the local churches because the system of administration and management of Protestant groups in the South were very loose, the leaderships of the national executive committees were very weak, and the local churches were self-sufficient.[14]
The government exploited every reason to attack the local churches. It often exploited the close link of Vietnamese Protestants to the U.S. to justify persecution. For example, in order to confiscate the Nha Trang Biblical and Theological Institute, many articles appeared in the government Đại Đoàn Kết (Great Unity) magazine accusing it as an “institution of the American government to train Vietnamese to serve the imperialist America.”[15] This suspicion is described clearly by Mai Thanh Hải, former editorial director of the Chính Nghĩa (Just Cause) newspaper,

America’s Christian and Missionary Alliance opened an office in Sài Gòn and focused on supporting Vietnamese Protestantism with financial assistance, media communications, training, and overseas visits and studies. When the Vietnam War escalated with American deep involvement, Vietnamese Protestantism also received abundant support sent from the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The National Board of Directors of Vietnamese Protestantism officially celebrated a National Assembly and quickly structured the organization into three levels: national, regional, and local churches. They intentionally organized two special regions for ethnic people in the Central Highlands, creating a specialized agent named “Agent of Minority Ethnic Evangelicals” under direct management of Americans[16].

The Roman Catholics started their work in Vietnam in the sixteenth century—and succeeded in building a strong presence as early as the seventeenth century[17] through pastoral and theological work. However, Protestant missionaries paid little attention to Vietnam, even in the nineteenth century, which is often considered the “great” century of Protestant missions. Vietnamese Protestant Christianity came into being in 1911 upon the arrival of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) missionaries. The first Vietnamese Protestant Church that appeared on the scene was the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (the ECVN). Other Protestant groups entered Vietnam in the following decades, such as: the Seventh-day Adventists, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Mennonites, the Church of Christ, and the Quakers. By the end of 1972 the ECVN had 45,287 baptized members and total adherents of about 127,505 with 490 congregations and 424 official pastors.[18] By the time of the fall of Sài Gòn, it is estimated that the ECVN had about 48,000 baptized members.[19] Other Protestant groups, except for the Vietnam Christian Mission,[20] the Seventh-day Adventists, who operated on a small scale, and the Southern Baptists, who had only one local congregation, stopped their activities. Beginning again in the late 80’s, these groups resumed their operations.
After the first few years of bewilderment and struggle, Protestant groups recuperated and began to grow. Instead of destroying the church, persecution helped it grow faster, made it stronger, more mature, and more productive. Furthermore, every faithful church leader or Christian had to stand on his/her own and develop a personal resilience. The total estimated number of Vietnamese Protestant Christians in both the North and the South at the present time is about 1.5 to 2 million.[21]
As mentioned above, when the Communists from the North took over the country, many Vietnamese Protestants could not endure their rule and sought to escape the country. A majority of them settled down in America, Canada, Australia, and other European countries. These believers found Vietnamese churches and sought affiliations with various denominations, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, and Baptist. According to the Vietnamese Christian Fellowship Directory, there are about 350 Vietnamese churches of all denominations in America alone, and another 150 in Canada, Australia, and other European countries.[22]

After 1975, churches’ activities had to be reported and organized within the churches’ facilities. Local churches developed their young leaders with Bible study evenings. In this form churches could only train leaders for children and youth groups. But church leaders, especially newly trained ministers were much needed. New leaders were needed for new churches that were established in the Highlands, and they were also needed to help ministers in the existing churches in the cities and the country. Thus, underground training was the only form for leadership development in this period. Underground trainings were organized in parks, in farms, and also in jungles. These trainings were initiated by Christians in Vietnam or with the help of overseas Vietnamese Christians, and lately of Christians from other countries.

Leadership Training With the Help from Outside Vietnam
As mentioned above, with the fall of Saigon many southern Vietnamese people left the country and migrated to other countries. A significant number of these refugees came to the United States, resulting in the establishment of a substantial Vietnamese-American community. As a result, many Vietnamese Protestant Churches were founded in the United States and around the world. The increased number of Vietnamese Protestant Churches has created a sizeable need for well-trained Christian leaders and ordained pastors to minister to the Vietnamese churches. Therefore, a number of theological schools emerged to meet this need. And these schools also extended their operation to Vietnam.
The first institution was the Vietnamese Theological College (VTC), now its name is Union University of California (UUC). This school came into being in 1978 by the efforts of a number of Vietnamese pastors and leaders to train lay leaders for Vietnamese-American churches. In 1986 it was officially established as a non-denominational and degree granting theological school under the leadership of Dr. Spencer T. Sutherland, a former CMA missionary to Vietnam. In 1991 UUC offered distant learning courses for Christians living in Vietnam. Some years later UUC organized onsite classes in Vietnam and sent teachers for the Associate and Bachelor of Theology programs. Graduates from these programs are now serving in local churches in the country. However, because these programs did not have government permission, many times the classes were cancelled or moved from one place to another. In 2003, in the realization of the need of higher theological education, UUC organized intensive, master-level classes in Cambodia and brought students from Vietnam to take the courses twice a year, one month at a time. This intensive program lasted for nearly four years and was stopped when the police threatened to confiscate students’ passports without which they would not be able to go to any other countries. Although lasting only a short period, this program equipped a good number of people and now many of them are serving as leaders of house churches or faculty members in theological schools and training centers in Vietnam.
In 2005 UUC began to offer online courses for both the bachelor and master programs. UUC is now offering many programs such as the Bachelor of Arts in Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry and Master of Divinity.
From 2013, UUC opened a Diploma in Ministry program. This program is equivalent to a high school program, and materials have been written by the Vietnamese. UUC offered classes of this program to churches in the highland and mountainous areas. Each month we send teachers to villages, and students in the villages get together for 4 days to study. There are about 300 students studying in 15 study centers.
Besides online, onsite and intensive classes, UUC also brought students from Vietnam to other countries to study theology. From 1997 UUC brought about thirty students to the USA to study and four of them graduated with doctoral degrees from prestigious schools and many others graduated with master degrees. Later UUC helped about another thirty students to study in McGilvary College of Theology in Thailand since 2006. Many of them graduated with the Master of Divinity program and came back to serve in the country.
The second school established outside of Vietnam was the Alliance Evangelical Divinity School (AEDS). This school was founded in 1998 as a denominational school. Like UUC, AEDS offered Bible training inside Vietnam with a six session program called Cuộc Đời Chúa Cứu Thế (The Life of Jesus Christ). Students receive a certificate of completion after they complete this program. AEDS offers this program via local churches inside Vietnam as Bible classes. Like UUC, AEDS organized intensive classes in Thailand for some years and brought students from Vietnam there to study. AEDS also brought students from Vietnam to the USA to study but only for intensive courses offered by AEDS. Right now AEDS offers programs such as a Diploma in Theology, Associate of Biblical Studies, Bachelor of Christian Ministry, Bachelor of Theology, Master of Christian Ministry, and Master of Biblical Studies.
Besides UUC and AEDS, some other schools and training centers were established in the USA and other countries and have their operation in Vietnam, but they are small scale and/or low quality.

Official Schools Established Inside Vietnam
As mentioned above, all Protestant theological schools and training centers were closed down by the Communist authorities after the reunification of the country in 1975. In 1988, the ECVN (Northern) got the government’s permission to open only one class with 14 students in Ha Noi, and it got permission to reopen its theological school in 2013.
The ECVN (Southern) got legal recognition in 2001 and about a year later it got the government’s permission to reopen its theological school, the Viện Thánh Kinh Thần Học (Institute of Bible and Theology, IBT). IBT was allowed to recruit 50 students for the first year and 100 students every two years from a second recruitment. Applicants need to pass the entry examination and then get the government’s approval in order to be accepted into the Bachelor of Theology program which is the only program offered. However, when the previous school was closed in 1976, the ECVN (Southern) still tried to find ways to maintain its theological training. In the early 1990s, an underground program was organized to help theological students to finish their program because their studies were stopped with the closing down of the school in 1976. Then this program became a training program for lay leaders who volunteered to serve as the heads of worship service centers or chapels that did not get the government’s official approval. This program became official with the name Supplementary Theological Program (Chương Trình Bổ Túc Thần Học) when the ECVN (Southern) got permission to reopen its school in 2003. Hundreds of lay leaders got trained through this program but this program was closed in 2008 by the ECVN.
Other recognized churches are also preparing to reopen their theological schools though like the ECVN (Southern)’s situation they had underground training programs to meet the needs of their local churches. Some churches got the government’s permission to open their training centers though they do not have the permission to open their schools yet. For example, Hội Thánh Báp-tít Việt Nam Nam Phương (Vietnam Southern Baptist Church), which got the legal recognition in 2008, had permission to open Bible Training Center for Pastors and Bible Training Center for Leaders.
From the 1980s to this day, the house church groups have established underground training programs to train local church leaders and evangelists. Most of these churches are locally established and often associated with churches in other countries. These local churches receive help financially as well as with other resources from foreign churches or organizations to do training. Some churches cooperate with schools in other countries such as South Korea or the Philippines to offer degree programs.
Besides, several individuals opened underground theological training centers by themselves or with the financial dependence from foreign churches or organizations. Some of them receive help from a number of people or churches from South Korea to establish underground theological schools or training centers.

For their survival and development the churches in Vietnam have set the following three main objectives for their leadership training:

To Build Up a Spirit of Evangelism
Though developed significantly in the last several decades Vietnamese Protestantism still remains minor in Vietnam. When the Communist government took action to eradicate the Christian faith the churches had to respond in order to survive and grow. Following the CMA’s premillenial perspective Protestant Christians in Vietnam are taught that their most important task is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others because Jesus will return very soon. They believe that faith in Jesus Christ not only guarantees salvation in the age to come but also helps the believers find out true meaning of life on earth. Leaders, therefore, are needed to help Christians to share the Gospel so that people can be saved in this life and in the next. Socially, Vietnamese Protestants believe that the more people believe in God, the less social problems the society will face. For this reason, leaders need to be trained to equip church members to share their belief with people around them. They need to consider the task of sharing the Gospel the reason for their life. As church leaders they are taught to sacrifice their time, money, effort and even their lives to do evangelism, and to help other Christians to do the same things.

To Build Up Personal Moral Life
It can be said that the building of personal moral life within the Vietnamese Protestant circles is the first thing to discuss in leadership training. Vietnamese Protestants are taught that God not only controls the destiny of institutions and nations but also looks at the individual’s life. God’s justice requires a righteous way of living. Vietnamese Protestants always try to live up to the standards of Christian ethics in public as well as in their private lives. The belief in righteousness as well as in God’s love helps Vietnamese Protestants stay away from thoughts and actions that are negative and destructive, and pursue a good life. Therefore Christian leaders must be examples for this ethical, moral life. The task of leadership development in relation to this aspect is not only easily seen in training programs in theological schools, but also expressed in worship services on Sundays, in Bible studies, and in church conferences. Not only are Vietnamese Protestants taught not to participate in evil things but also in bad and destructive habits such as drinking and smoking. This is not to say that Vietnamese Protestants are always successful in living up to standards of an ethical and moral life. However, the Vietnamese Protestant efforts to live an ethical and moral life are widely recognized in the society of Vietnam in the present day.

To Replace Retired Ministers and to Help Church Growth
The training of new leaders to replace retired ministers is indespensable to leadership development program of any churches, and the churches in Vietnam are not exempted. But to replace retired ministers only will lead a church to shrink and eventually disappear, especially when it lives in an inimical and hostile situation. In order to survive and grow a church has to train more leaders than what it needs to replace retired ministers. It needs more leaders to plant new local churches. Under the Communist government’s persecution, churches in Vietnam could survive and develop in the last several decades because they understood the importance of leader development. And churches in Vietnam have done the work though they were not allowed to do so. Even when churches got permission to admit limited new students each year, they found ways to train leaders unofficially by organizing short-term trainings in local churches’ facilities and also in provincial short-term trainings. Leaders trained in these short-term trainings are crucial for the development of the churches.

Leadership development is of leading importance to any Christian church, especially when a church has to live in a persecuted context. Leadership development will help a church to survive and grow. In a communist context, leadership development can take the form of training programs in Bible colleges and seminaries. But mostly it is done unofficially and/or underground. Generally speaking, it can be said that the Protestant churches in Vietnam have done a good job in their leadership development in spite of persecution.

*This paper was presented at the ASM Forum in Thailand, 2016.


Tu Thien Van Truong

Dr. Tu Thien Van Truong graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, and completed Doctor of Philosophy in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union University, California. He is serving as Academic Dean for the Vietnamese School of Theology in Union University of California. He, his wife Hannah, and their two sons reside in Da Nang, Vietnam.


[1] Trần Trọng Kim, Việt Nam Sử Lược (Short History of Vietnam), (1st print in 1921; reprinted, NXB Văn Hóa Thông Tin, 2002), 378.
[2] Ibid., 418-33.
[3] Đào Duy Anh, Lịch Sử Việt Nam: Từ Nguồn Gốc Đến Thế Kỷ XIX (History of Vietnam: From Beginning to XIX Century) (NXB Văn Hoá Thông Tin, 1955, reprint 2002), pp. 472-4.
[4]  Trần Trọng Kim, Việt Nam Sử Lược (Short History of Vietnam), 515.
[5] Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA.: University of California Press, 1995), 42ff.
[6] Đào Duy Anh, Lịch Sử Việt Nam: Từ Nguồn Gốc Đến Thế Kỷ XIX (History of Vietnam: From Beginning to XIX Century), 479.
[7] On May 1, 1900, the French authorities in Vietnam issued a decree that vetoed the right of ownership of land in Vietnamese feudalist law. Nguyễn Quang Lê, Từ Lịch Sử Việt Nam Nhìn Ra Thế Giới (From History of Vietnam to History of the World) (Hà Nội: NXB Văn Hóa Thông Tin, 2001), 262.
[8] Andrée Voillis, Indochine S.O.S. (Paris: Les Éditeurs Francais Réunis, 1949), 115-6; quoted in Nguyễn Khánh Toàn et al., Lịch Sử Việt Nam (History of Vietnam), vol. 2: 1858-1945 (NXB Khoa Học Xã Hội, 2004), 238.
[9] See Robert Buzzanco, Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life (Blackwell Publishers, “Problems in American History” Series, 1999), chapter 2.
[10] The year 1975 has different meanings for different groups of Vietnamese people. For Vietnamese Communists, it was the year of Victory and Liberation from the Imperialist America and the puppet regime of the South. For people of the government of the South and those who supported it, it was the year of losing their country. For most of other Vietnamese people, it was simply a year that marked the change in regimes.
[11] See The Vietnamese American 1.5 Generation: Stories of War, Revolution, Flight, and New Beginnings, ed. by Sucheng Chan (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.
[12] For a good discussion of the many functions of religion, see K. H. Ting, “On Religion as Opiate,” in Love Never Ends, edited by Janice Wickeri (China: Nanjing Amity Printing Co., Ltd, 2000), 223-33.
[13] Directory of the ECVN, 1993 (Sài Gòn, 1993), 33; quoted in Nguyễn Hữu Cương, “The Growth of Certain Protestant Churches in Saigon under the Vietnamese Communist Government from 1975”, 65.
[14] Nguyễn Hữu Cương, “The Growth of Certain Protestant Churches in Saigon under the Vietnamese Communist Government from 1975”, 78.
[15] The Fatherland Front, “Invisible Prison,” Đại Đoàn Kết (Great Unity), No. 41, 1977; quoted in Nguyễn Hữu Cương, 80.
[16] Mai Thanh Hải, Tôn Giáo Thế Giới và Việt Nam (Religions in the World and in Vietnam) (Hà Nội, NXB Công An Nhân Dân, 1998), 161.
[17] Peter Phan, Mission and Catechesis: Alexandre de Rhodes and Inculturation in Seventeenth-Century Vietnam (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998), 202.
[18] Reginald E. Reimer, “Protestant Directory, Churches, Missions and Organizations in Vietnam” (Saigon: Office of Missionary Information, 1972), 5; quoted in Nguyễn Hữu Cương, 13.
[19] Nguyễn Hữu Cương, “The Growth of Certain Protestant Churches in Saigon under the Vietnamese Communist Government from 1975”, 13.
[20]   Its Vietnamese name is Cơ Đốc Truyền Giáo Hội, locally established in 1956 by the CMA missionary G. H. Smith who disagreed with the CMA’s policies on social work. See Nguyễn Thanh Xuân, Bước Đầu Tìm Hiểu Đạo Tin Lành Trên Thế Giới và Ở Việt Nam (Towards an Understanding of Protestantism in the World and in Vietnam), (Hà Nội: NXB Tôn Giáo, 2002), 436f.
[21] This number is the unofficial statistics of church populations circulated among church leaders. Official statistics of this number is not available.
[22] Directory of Vietnamese Christian Fellowship, 2013-2014.



The following media ministries: Bible translation and Scripture use; Communication (radio, audio scriptures, television); and use of Films have different focuses that play particular roles in contributing to the unfinished task of discipling nations in Africa. Much work is being done here, some of the work being done in Southern Africa is highlighted.

Zambia: The Bible Society conducted a survey worldwide in which it was discovered that only 20% of the body of Christ read their Bibles. Those 20% were usually the ones to do most of the work in churches and were regular givers but less than 10% read their Bibles systematically. Reasons for this were varied but some common reasons were that people were too busy to sit down and read, work demanded so much energy that they were too tired to read.
Globally, something was needed to get people back to the Word of God. The Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) programme was begun and its aim is to get people back into the Word of God and to see lives changed as they interact with the scriptures. In Deuteronomy 6:3-9, Moses exhorts a practice that runs through the Bible – listen to the Word of God. FCBH developed the Proclaimer. It is a recording device that uses modern microchips and rechargeable batteries run off solar power to play back the Word of God. In partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators the whole New Testament of the Bible has been recorded in various languages, which are the mother tongues of the listeners amongst whom the Proclaimers are distributed.
In Zambia, where oral dissemination of information is popular, listening groups were formed by the Bible Society in various churches, orphanages, schools, colleges through ZAFES, villages, professional organizations such as the Police and Lunch Hour Fellowship and para-church organizations such as Scripture Union. Today there are 3,113 groups with 130 new listening groups added in 6 months almost every year. The Bemba region has seen the most growth but other groups are reported in Nakonde, rural Kasama, Isoka, Serenje and Kabwe. Listening groups are planned for the Southern Province. This means that more than 3,999 people have been introduced to the scriptures bringing the total listeners in monitored groups to 54,459.
This method of scripture distribution has overcome the challenges of poverty where many people are illiterate and also cannot afford radio receivers and batteries. It has meant people are hearing the scriptures in their mother tongues of Bemba and Chichewa and soon Tonga, which has been translated, will be added to the list. English is also available and is used as an interim language e.g. in Livingstone, while mother tongue recordings are being produced. Partnering with radio stations has also increased the dissemination of scriptures.
The Bible Society in Zambia also produces and distributes Bibles, Bible portions and other biblical literature from original languages into local languages. They have 11 Bibles and New Testaments translated and they would like to see all the languages of Zambia plus its neighboring countries translated. They would like to see another project that uses scripture get off the ground. It uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as the basis of a workshop to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which mainly affects the 13-49 age group.
As with any work, anywhere in the world the challenge is to ensure it is self funded. The past affected societies and how they view the importance and value of items. Some feel the Bible as been similarly affected. Surveys in Zambia show that neither rich nor poor are wiling to purchase a Bible even though they are amongst the least expensive books. There are many factors involved in this view such as lack of understanding of the gods of the original people and how they were served and appeased. Some feel that because the Bible was historically given free of charge by missionaries to new converts, the perception that it should not have to be purchased remains and now affects the advance of the distribution of scriptures because insufficient finances are generated to pay suitable personnel, undertake translation work and print the scriptures. There is a need to break this yoke and to change the attitude of people towards the Bible. There is a need to create an awareness of the word of God that leads to it being cherished and worth spending on. Where people have a sense of ownership.

COMMUNICATION – radio, audio scriptures, television, etc
Audio Scriptures: Audio Scriptures have played a great part in spreading the word of God here in a continent that is largely illiterate and with a tradition of orality. Good News Media, SA, suggests that 90% of non readers will never have the chance to learn to read and write and there is a need for more than a quick fix Gospel presentation as people need to be won and built up spiritually. GNM material covers Genesis through Revelation in 40 pictures and also has a two-minute teaching that is prepared especially for people that have received little or no teaching in the past. Bridging material is necessary to prepare people to receive and engage the Bible.
Working in partnership to produce materials on request for specific needs, they have Audio Visual Bible teaching available in 65+ African languages. Audio programmes in 128+ languages for Sub Saharan and Indian Ocean languages. Cassettes and MP3 players that work without power or batteries form part of their portfolio and also weatherproof backpacks to protect the teaching tools.
GNM feels there is need for more research studying cultures, values and communication methods in different areas and how languages relate to one another in order to create a more effective and cost effective outreach method.
They ask the question “ are high distribution figures proof that a particular evangelism tool speaks to the heart of a person in such a way that this person hears and understands the message so that it has a life-changing effect on him/her?
They are committed to learning from partners and coworkers so that together they can serve the church in Africa, better. Partners include Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Indian Ocean Islands. They are looking for more partners to prepare material in the other towns and cities. They are also working on an aids script for Malawi.
Television: Television has seen some new initiatives in South Africa. The Association of Christian Broadcasters is encouraging more, local initiative, TV stations, both satellite and Community terrestrial especially as the local licensing body, ICASA, is looking more positively at Community TV. There is a new Christian satellite TV station, WOW TV (Walking on Water). They have been licensed and should be broadcasting by 2008.
Film: Film is a creative way to reach people with the Gospel. Heartlines in South Africa produced 8 films designed to impart Godly values, that were aired to 24 million people over 8 weeks on national television. The films are multilingual and can be used by many religions who share a desire for moral regeneration. They aim to engender hope against a backdrop of high levels of crime and HIV/AIDS. The films come with a discussion guide that churches can use in conjunction with the films to bring about discussion of Godly values.
Campus Crusade continue to distribute the Jesus Film in Sub Saharan countries using this medium to orally and visually display the Gospel.
Radio: Radio is described as the communications medium of Africa today. It overcomes the lack of infrastructure, speaks the local language and understands the culture of the listener. It is cost effective and popular. Radio is the means by which many countries find out what is happening and how it can affect them. It is the means of providing community programming such as primary health care and education. It is also the means of spreading the Gospel in a relevant manner to the listener. It reaches the listeners in the privacy of their own homes, at the point of their needs. It is said that more homes in Africa today have radio than have access to clean water.
In the countries that MANI is focusing on, South Africa, Botswana (limited to 3 commercial stations), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia community or private broadcasting are allowed. Zimbabwe has recently allowed a private radio station but Angola, and some other countries are not yet licensing private radios. Good work has been done by international radio organizations to cover Africa with Satellite and SW broadcasts in many languages so that people hear the Gospel in a language they understand. Through the World by Radio initiatives these and other organizations who develop programming in local languages, have produced programs that provide least reached people groups and large population groups with Christian programming in their mother tongues and with programming that address their felt needs. These efforts along with local Fm radio initiatives are ensuring that people are hearing the Word of God in a relevant manner.
In using technology as means of communicating the gospel there is a need to ensure that new and developing technology is being utilized where and when possible. Our young people want to use the technology their counterparts across the world are using. We find ourselves in a strange dichotomy where some people have almost no technology and others are demanding its use.
Botswana is one example of this. Licensing for Christian community stations is not available at this time and some are testing the waters by opening, unlicensed stations. Soul Fm has been waiting for years in anticipation of deregulation of the airwaves. Finally, new technology presented an opportunity to use the studio of equipment and the training they had prepared themselves with, quite legally. Internet is not regulated so it allowed them to stream their broadcasts. They feel that this experience will allow their staff to explore the equipment and bring the station to functionality before the anticipated license is granted, thus making it easier to compete with the licensed, commercial, secular stations, which have national licenses.
The challenges they face are a lack of easy access to internet, particularly broadband as it is expensive. Apart from audience affordability the station has to pay a monthly connection fee and these increase as more service is provided. Something they are keeping an eye on is the copyright laws which may affect music broadcast over the internet.
Rural Radio: The rural areas of Mozambique face the challenge of many other rural radio operators and people investigating planting rural radio stations. One such station started by a local church, operates in an area without electricity. Starting the station was a challenge as it first had to be determined how the station transmitter and studio would be powered before it could begin. Solar power backed up with generators has been the answer coupled with FEBA Radio’s new studio in a suitcase kit. This station has trained local men to present the gospel to the least reached Yao community. As more stations are allowed in urban areas the challenge for Christian radio will be to use the airwaves to present the gospel in rural settings where infrastructures and resources are not easily available.
Africa By Radio (AbR Media): Africa by Radio now called AbR Media, a chapter of World by Radio, is an association that was formed in 2004 as a further means of ensuring dialogue and providing a mechanism for those involved in the continent to meet together to discuss new initiatives and form new strategies to ensure every man, woman and child on the continent is receiving at least 30 minutes of Christian broadcasts in their own mother tongue each day. Also, looking at where the gaps are for planting radio stations. AbR Media works closely with Africa Media Trainers (AMT), another association that, through ICTI, the International Communications and Training Institute in the UK, provide accredited training and curriculum for radio training. AbR and AMT are associations, there are no fees involved in joining, the purpose is to gather as many associates as possible from the continent so all continue to dialogue, support each other, grow, help and encourage African Christian stations to become the best, most effective broadcasters or producers of programmes that they can be.
AbR Media supports the Lausanne Media Engagement plan ( http://engagingmedia.info/media-engagement-as-a-lausanne-theme/) and seeks to work together with Churches, Missions and other Christian Ministries. Radio is an effective medium to spread the Gospel and can even be used in disciple-making, by working in conjunction with the church, benefits can be found on both sides. Radio is an effective tool for spreading the Gospel and even disciple making to some extent, however, the church can help identify people groups to reach and offer advice on the right approach to that group.
Today, it is recognized that people reached through media can benefit if the media, Disciple-making Movements and Church Planting organizations work together. Media can help share the message of DMM movements and Church planting movements, help converts to continue to be discipled and grow in their faith. This can influence whole communities.
At this time AbR Media has more than 240 associates including local stations and production houses across Africa as well as regional associations plus radio trainers.
– VISION: AbR Media is a body of Christian broadcasters unified by an agreed strategy, supporting God’s plan for Africa. We are committed to seeing that every man, woman and child in Africa is provided the opportunity to turn on a radio and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way and language they can understand, so they can become responsible members of His Church.
– PASSION: As part of the body of Christ, AbR Media shares the goal of extending the Kingdom of God on the African continent, particularly by co-operating in strategic broadcasting issues and co-ordination of efforts in the area of broadcasting of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
– CHALLENGES: To have enough co workers and partners who will join and share the load to do the job quicker and most effectively.
– SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: Continent of Africa, local, regional and continental radio related organizations as well as grassroots radio workers. Radio planting, broadcasting, programming, training.

Often, radio works in partnership with Bible translators and Bible Societies to ensure that the Gospel reaches as many as possible in languages they understand. These organizations also lend their skills to assist in language translation for works like Gospel Recordings. Without the research and translation work of Bible translators, programming in different languages would be impeded and the Word of God would not be in the hands of as many people as possible. All this work contributes to the greater work of the Lord on this continent to bring people to salvation and to disciple them.
There is need to keep abreast of technology and changes in a changing world to meet the demands and expectations of developing society and to use them to the fullest to proclaim the Gospel.
Partnerships can play a key role in involving diverse groups working together to speed up work and avoid duplication of effort while using Kingdom resources effectively. When each lends their strengths to the project the work is advanced.
There are challenges in the various media genres as well as opportunities. We have much to learn from each other. Dialogue is helpful to identify areas of growth as well as challenges and dialogue identifies partners as well as solutions.

* This is a revised paper (by Sandy Day) from the original article taken from MANI 2008.


Sandy Day and Gibbs Mweemba

Ms. Sandy Day is the Administrator of Radio Africa Network and the Secretary of AbR Media.
Mr. Gibbs Mweembe passed away in 2012.


Many nations in Asia and Africa won their independence from the super strong imperialists in the 20th century. These countries also have been through times of political convulsions under the military regimes and historical transitions to democracy. The wounds of these nations from the past, especially from foreign exploitations are not completely healed. Even, today, the people from these hurting nations, somehow show their suspicions or overly sensitive reactions toward foreigners, including missionaries. I hope this article will contribute some thoughts for the cross-cultural workers, how important knowing the culture and the people of the countries where they are working. My observations and studies are confined in South-East Asia, particularly in the Philippines where I served as a missionary for 17 years. The following is an exemplary study of the Philippines.

A. Effects of Colonialism
Colonialism affected every area of the Filipino life. Everett Mendoza, points out the outcome of colonization in this country: “the external pressures of colonial imposition distort existing mechanisms of resources allocation, disturb traditional patterns of social relationships and interactions, and break down structures of ideas that give order, orientation and meanings to every aspect and the whole of social and personal existence.”[1] For that reason, the Philippines became one of the most cosmopolitan in culture among Asian countries.[2]
– Lack of National Identity: The Philippines suffered from long history of colonization. Some critics argue that even though the Philippines became politically independent in 1946, earlier than most of its neighbours, the country and its people still lack a strong identity as a nation. For an explanation, a foreign writer named Niels Mulder rationalises the lacking allegiance to the nation as, “of all things, independence was not the fruition of nationalism. It was not a product of struggle.”[3] By transferring state leadership to the Filipino elite from the government of the United States without much involvement from the majority of ordinary people, neither event had a chance of having a nation-building impact nor did it lead to popular mobilization.[4]
– Regionalism: Bautista points to two negative traits that in his view explain the weak national consciousness among Filipinos: strong regionalism and the colonial mentality. Tujan, on the other hand, identifies two social structures Filipino society suffers from: the system of patronage and a colonial mentality.[5] Bautista continues, “regionalism is the tendency of a person to be strongly attached and exclusively protective by the members within his group”.[6] Constantino explains that this regionalism, especially by demographic and cultural segregation from each other, enabled easy conquest by both Spaniards and Americans.[7] Tujan points out the ill effects as “that in spite of the fact that the Philippine state has been liberated from their colonizers, but allowing foreigners’ domination on economy, politics and culture causes a politico-cultural system of patronage that has no concept of individual self-worth or self-determination but only of one’s position in relation to the patron”.[8] This regionalism became an obstacle to build a national identity and a barrier to cross for missionary work.
– Fusion Religion: Despite the predominant Catholicism in this country, some indigenous, pre-Magellan, religious traits have been embedded deeply in Filipino religious concepts and practices, both in sacred and daily life.[9] Mulder notes that when speaking generally of Southeast Asian religions, the focus is not on morality or salvation or liberation, but rather an animistic quest for power, potency, and protection (protective blessing — safety from danger and misfortune).[10] He continues, “implicit in this view is the conviction that power is near, tangible, and accessible.”[11]
– Christianized Bathalism: As is commonly known, folk-Catholicism, or Christianized animism, is the dominant belief system of the majority of the Philippine northern and middle islands (Luzon and the Visayas) while the southern Philippines is dominated by Islamized animism or Christianized Bathalism (from Bathala ‘God’).[12] However, overlaid on these synthesised religions, Filipino religious psychology can be found in traditional, indigenous, Anitism (from the word anito, an ancestral god), and it is deeply rooted in various aspects of life.[13] Mulder gives an example of Filipinized Spanish Catholicism in anito worship: ‘this fitted nicely with the local belief in the active role of the recently deceased in the lives of the living. Even today, departed parents and grandparents are often supplicated, and supernatural intervention in human affairs is “naturally” expected in many areas of life’.[14] He continues by explaining the Filipino concept of honouring deceased parents and grandparents, since they were sources of blessing while alive or even after death. Mulder puts it this way: ‘the only line between life and death is as fluid as the line between the visible and the invisible. These are not separate realms but interpenetrate each other, religious manifestations being pervasive and present to the senses…’.[15]
Therefore, outwardly, the majority of Filipinos say they are Roman Catholic as Spanish orientation lies in their culture. Henry describes the fusion of animism with Hispanic Catholicism as ‘the fusion of two separate thought and behaviour systems and the coexistence of two religions in the same person without inconsistencies’.[16] The similarities were well adapted in Filipino religiosity and practices.

B. The Voices of Missionary Moratorium
In the 1970s the voice of “missionary go home” in Africa and Asia shook the Christian community. The causes were several factors, but one thing was clear about a sullen word regarding missionaries’ attitudes. Unconsciously or unintentional attitudes of missionaries who engaged the missions in those areas were provoked by the Christian national leaders. The voices were loud enough that some Western mission organizations ended up withdrawing their missionaries. However, Korean missionaries, after the Western missionaries—were poured out in these areas as replacements. Due to this, I would like to discuss about the cultural clashes in this section which is the main cause of miss-communication happens in general.

C. Cultural Clashes among “Doing Culture” and “Being Culture”
Growing up and residing in a community, people inevitably internalize the commonly shared practices of the group, values that form the basis of their ways of thinking, expressing, and evaluating things in their surroundings.[17] Ultimately, these values also become their own standards for certain ways of decision-making and behaviours when they are a part of organisations.[18] For that purpose, I aim to explain the different value systems and behaviors in both “being culture” and “doing” culture societies. Interestingly, some scholars claim that even among Asian countries there is a clear distinction between Confucian and non-Confucian societies. For example, Jack Scarborough distinguishes ‘doing’ culture from ‘being’ culture like this: “the primary difference is that the Confucian culture is a ‘doing’ culture, whereas the non-Confucian is a ‘being’ culture.”[19]
We need to study both cultures in order to compare and evaluate without passing judgment on others. For instance, in order to reduce the perceived differences between cultures, the technique needs to focus on the individual level rather than the cultural level and functionality of differences. And differences should be addressed in a contextualized way. Providing a reason for their existence makes for better cognitive acquisition of concepts rather than simply stating cultural differences.
Here I will compare two distinctive cultures: Korean culture as a ‘doing’ culture and Filipino culture as a ‘being’ culture. Scarborough continues with a further description of the uniqueness of these world views:

‘Doing’ cultures are more individualistic, are more masculine and competitive, and have smaller power distances. Very much different from ‘being’ cultures, wherein people tend to be weak in uncertainty and tries avoidance, not out of submission to fatalism, but rather because they are conditioned to bring about change proactively. They want to build a more perfect world rather than enjoy the world as it is. ‘Doing’ people tend to define themselves according to their occupations and measure themselves by their achievements. ‘Being’ cultures tend to be more relaxed, more holistic in their world view, more relationship-oriented, and more accustomed to yielding power; view time as a continually recurring cycle; feel less able to control their fate; and want work, which at best can be enjoyed and at worst can be tolerated as a necessary evil. ‘Being’ people define themselves by their collective affiliations. They ‘work to live’, whereas their ‘doing’ counterparts ‘live to work’. ‘Doing’ people see ‘being’ people as lazy, unproductive, and irresponsible. ‘Being’ people see ‘doing’ people as cold, compulsive, and unable to enjoy life.[20]

1. An Example of “Doing Culture” Background: Koreans (missionaries)
– Confucius world view: Confucianism and Koreans cannot be separated. George Paik, a Korean Christian historian, testifies as

…it was Confucianism that formed the character of the people and shaped the course of the ancient civilization of Korea. Korea accepted the imported system and made it part of the bone and fiber of the people. In return, Confucianism made distinctive contributions to the development of Korea.[21]

The effects of Confucianism, Paik writes, had many deplorable results: “it nourished pride, taught no higher ideal than that of superiority,[22] and was agnostic and atheistic in its tendency; it encouraged selfishness, exalted filial piety…and it imbued every follower with a hunger for office.”[23] The effect of Confucianism on Korean society was controversial: some say its systematic higher and lower concepts have been a hindrance to their becoming a healthy democratic society. Others say it created a balanced life from a fast-paced and changing society. However, most people observed that one Confucian heritage, enthusiasm for education, is undoubtedly a main contributor to the modernization of Korea. Foreign observers conclude that the traditions of Confucianism and the needs of a modernizing society coincide for “not only natural but perhaps even inevitable that Koreans would transfer their traditional respect for learning to the task of mastering new technologies from the West.”[24] This positive influence from Confucianism is from a ‘self-cultivation’ to reach virtue: It provides the fundamental source of insight and strength to rule orderly within oneself, one’s family, one’s country, and abroad.

2. An Example of “Being Culture”: Filipinos (local church leaders)
– Equilibrium-maintenance worldview: As I mentioned earlier that the effects of long history of colonization made the definition of Filipino difficult. The general notion of ‘Asian is Asian’ becomes confusing when it is applied to Filipinos.[25] Historically, the Philippines has been under the influence of Western contacts for a long period. The Filipino is Asian but cannot be considered entirely Eastern.[26] The complexity of defining the Filipino is, as Bautista writes, “in a highly stratified country like the Philippines, defining the members of the set of Filipinos can itself be a problem.”[27] Therefore, this study will focus more on the indigenous psychology of Filipinos that has survived throughout the centuries: their basic temperament and lifestyle. Mercado employs the phrase pagkakapantay-pantay,di pagkakatalo “equilibrium-maintenance” as the Filipino concept of being in harmony with nature. They calmly accept the continuation of natural catastrophes such as storms, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions and learn how to adapt in this harsh environment. Therefore, if this balance is disturbed, the Filipino expects suffering and other forms of misfortune.[28] This equilibrium-maintenance with nature also applies to everyday life and interpersonal relationships. Well-known Filipino communication skills such as avoiding conflict, smooth interpersonal relationships (SIR), and group consensus are ways of coping with the disruption of peace and accepting pre-ordained destiny.

3. Comparison
It is evident that two people raised in different worlds easily become judgmental toward those from the other culture. Management practices in an office can become problematic since two groups of people follow different work ethics and hold a different general world view. Filipino anthropologist, Landa F. Jocano emphasizes the art of Management By Cultural awareness (MBC): “In the office, the tasks may be technical in nature, but motivating people to peak performance is cultural”.[29] He goes on to say that MBC is the new key to achieving teamwork and cooperation:

“…foreign techniques may be academically attractive, but they are seldom suited to the Filipino cultural temperament; effective management is the function of fit or match in the perceptions and expectations managers and workers have of each other.”>[30] I think that comment also can be applied to missionaries who work in cross-cultural settings.

In Korean culture and management, it is almost impossible to escape the hierarchical structures which have been embedded in Korean homes and society. Therefore, for people who were born and raised in this environment, Confucius’ five-fold proprieties would obviously be a dominant theme between leader and subordinate; it is a monolithic, regimental management style. Even if the subordinate is more knowledgeable and able to handle things better than the boss, the position is territorial and cannot be crossed over. Scolding a person in public (during meetings) in a Philippine setting — a common and expected practice by the boss in Korea — can provoke anger among Filipinos. Therefore, in the Philippines, communication is always indirect and non-adversarial. Under the Filipino cultural norm where everything is relational (Smooth Inter Relationship, SIR), Korean missionaries’ unconscious actions stemming from their Confucius psyche produced a rather poor acculturation outcome. This exogenous relational gap could affect the competency of the mission work: its performance, quality, and productivity.
The following three steps are the traditional ways Filipinos use to communicate and arrive at decisions for the group: “pagsasangguni (consultation)”, “paghihikayat (persuasion)”, and “pagkakasundo consensus).”[31] An example, the reclusive planning of the growth strategies by Korean missionary executives, without inviting their local counterparts—only requesting them to join at the implementing stage instead of the brainstorming stage—has been the usual practice by foreign mission leaders and has created resentment against missionary leadership by the majority of national leaders. Therefore, the practical use of “consultation” seems to be the only solution to remove clashes at the top leadership level. Jocano continues that this functions more than just as consultation, but it shares the responsibility by getting people to participate in planning. Also, “consensus” can be a helpful tool to boost team spirit since everyone agrees in the group, but it can become a sumbat (may be translated as reprimand or reproach) or moral censure if planning is not done as a consensus.[32]

D. Misunderstandings and Improvement of Culture Sensitivities For A Better Communication
Culture can be observed on a surface level related to language, food, and behavior, while on the deeper level they relate to beliefs, feelings, and values. As Hiebert points out “misunderstandings are based on ignorance of beliefs, feelings and values of another culture”[33] :

  • Ideas, the cognitive aspect of culture, have to do with the knowledge and wisdom shared by members of a group and provides the conceptual content of a culture.
  • People’s feelings, notions or standards of beauty, likes, and dislikes, etc., are the affective dimension of culture reflected in most areas of life.
  • The evaluative dimension of culture has values to judge human relationships:- moral values such as ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’; cognitive beliefs to determine ‘true’ or ‘false’; emotional acknowledgment of ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’. Also, this stage of the dimension contains each priority in values and primary allegiances.

These three cultural dimensions are indispensable for understanding the nature of each group or society. Therefore, this cultural study between Korean and Filipino cultures focused on these cognitive and behavior dimensions. So, it is a necessary process for national leaders to constantly interact with their foreign colleagues to develop a learner attitude in understanding missionaries in order to improve communication and achieve common goals. Ideas, the cognitive aspect of culture, have to do with the knowledge and wisdom shared by members of a group and provides the conceptual content of a culture. Also Scarborough suggests that both the ‘doing’ culture and the ‘being’ culture learn from each other on how to modify for the harmony of the organisation: ‘we may need to be satisfied with simply learning from one another. Although it is assumed widely that those from “being cultures” could do with a little more “doing”, it may well be that those from “doing cultures” could benefit from being a bit more “being”.[34] Heibert suggests that the solution to misunderstandings and premature judgments toward cultural differences is empathy: one needs to learn to appreciate other cultures and their ways of life.[35] This sense of openness leads to a deeper cross-cultural sensitivity that allows individuals to think as members of the other culture.

1. Need for Improved Missionary Cross-cultural Training
In interpersonal matters, many missionaries were unprepared. This has raised concerned voices from missiologists, especially those who have served as missionaries themselves and specialize in the field of cultural-anthropology. For example, Kraft suggests that the main focus should be to have a learner’s attitudes: to learn how to learn. He talks about the problem of our school experience where we are pressed to learn how to be taught, not how to learn.[36] Our general system of education there is no room to ‘add’ once you complete the education. It is a different skill to learn. He emphasizes that if a missionary has a learner’s attitude, they will then carry this attitude to the field. He adds the suggestion that during a regular furlough period, missionaries could spend at least part of their time in analysis and reflection. The chart below is Kraft’s suggestion for percentages of time a cross-cultural worker should put into learning compared to how much time into ministry; I believe this would be definitely profitable for the cross-cultural workers.

2. Self-awareness and Self-directed Cross-cultural Training
Dale Kietzman points out that the first step in the cross-cultural training is self-awareness. He writes of the importance of cross-cultural training as follows:

Cross-cultural training cannot prevent cultural shock, nor bypass the experiential unease of actually living with people of a different culture. Cross-cultural training can, however, point the way to becoming a self-directing person, able to learn from life in the new foreign context. Cross-cultural training can increase awareness, provide a foundation for understanding another culture, for developing skills through experiential processes, and reducing the anticipated anxiety of living and working in a new cultural context.[37]

Kietzman is also vocal against missionaries having leadership roles in projects involving international teams if they have failed in their adjustment to other cultures.[38] It is also a common sense that if leadership is defined as ‘influencing others’, then a person who has not developed leadership skills recognized first within his own society, he probably will not develop as a leader in cross-cultural contexts. Kietzman continues, “the characteristics of a leader, the sensitivity to followers, the ability to take initiatives and to do strategic planning, however, should all be transferable to another cultural setting, if the leader’s cross-cultural training has created a true cultural sensitivity and a desire to be a life-long self-motivated learner.”[39] This claim seems logical, yet many Korean churches and mission agencies neglect a very basic and simple screening process that acknowledges that people do not change easily. A careful selection of individuals through their histories of performance in their homeland should be considered in the missionary selection process.

3. Selection of the Cross-Cultural Trainers
One of Kietzman’s notable suggestions relating to cross-cultural training is about the selection of trainer. He suggests that the best trainer is the one who comes from the same culture as the trainee.[40] He mentioned earlier that the first step of the training is self-awareness: ‘Self-awareness involves being conscious of one’s own world view, beliefs, values, and cultural biases acquired through enculturation to our native culture.’ He emphasizes that having a conscious knowledge of the assumptions of one’s own culture, its customs, values, and biases provides a framework for interacting with a new culture. It is most crucial for first-time missionaries to be disciplined in learning about their host’s new culture. Kietzman points out that first-term missionaries should direct their learning and adaptation, so that they will be accountable for their own learning. This requires self-motivation and a directed-learner’s attitude.[41] He suggests that trainees should focus their readings and reference work specifically on the country where they will serve. This includes researching comprehensive information about the target country and its culture, as well as the specific people group. I believe this suggestion needs to be considered for inclusion in general anthropological sessions of pre-field training programs, so that missionaries can spend more time and effort, even before arriving on the mission field, studying the assigned or targeted culture and people.

4. Minimizing Intergroup Conflicts
To resolve intergroup conflicts, a variety of strategies to remove sources of competition are needed, thus limiting their competitiveness or derogating their members, and avoiding or denying social comparisons between groups. The following suggestions are applicable for the process of initial training and during years of missionary service where missionaries live in the field among cross-cultural workers.

  • Recognise that our cultures are biased; be open to recognise these biases.
  • The need to study both the culture in which we minister and our own in order to compare and evaluate the two. For that reason, this study gave a good deal of space for that cultural aspect.

KS Lee, who has been working in the Philippines as a mission practitioner, suggests developing a new curriculum for pre-field missionary training. The following are some of his suggestions:[42]

  • Set clear communication channels between the sending body and receiving body and provide clear job descriptions for the new missionaries;
  • Learn how to handle meetings and agreements in the field through culturally- accepted etiquette and proper communication skills;
  • Cross-cultural and customs studies: comparative study of her/his own culture and adaptive culture; and
  • Analyse success/failure through field case studies.

5. Biblical Based understanding
Hiebert suggests an elucidation worth knowing by all Christians who are working with different cultures:

The dialogue between us and our national colleagues is important in building bridges of cultural understanding. It is also important in helping us develop a more culture-free understanding of God’s truth and moral standards as revealed in the Bible. Our colleagues can detect our cultural blind spots beter than we can, just as we often see their cultural prejudgments better than theirs. Dialogues with Christians from other cultures help keep us from the legalism of imposing foreign beliefs and norms on a society without taking into account its specific situations. It also helps keep us from a relativism that denies truth and reduces ethics to cultural norms.[43]


In the current ‘global village’ situation, daily cross-cultural activities are inevitably increasing and it is expedient to learn how to minimize conflicts and misunderstanding between different cultural groups and individuals. For this reason, a compelling priority is to increase the ability to understand and to respond well to conflicts for the survival, peace, and accomplishment of a common goal. Efforts, especially by intercultural program designers and trainers, can actually help trainees who wrestle with cross-cultural issues. I hope that cross-cultural organizations can take steps to plan programs in which both missionaries and nationals learn to cope with and adjust to their differences and move towards integration. The programs do not necessarily have to be formal ones, like large gatherings of denominational meetings, but rather they can also be small group interaction events such as sport events, potluck lunches, outings, and etc.


Esther Lee Park

Dr. Esther Lee Park is currently an Associate Missionary serving with Glocal Leaders Institute, CA, USA as Director of Research and Development. Esther received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies in 2014 from University of Wales, United Kingdom.


[1] Everett Mendoza, Radical and Evangelical: Portrait of a Filipino Christian (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day, 1999), p. 9.
[2] Tuggy, p. 7. He describes it as “Philippines today may be called either the most Western of the Eastern countries or the most Eastern of the Western!”
[3] Neils Mulder, Filipino Images: Culture of the Public World (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day), p. 6, p. 182.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Bautista, VV (1988) “The Socio-Psychological Make-up of the Filipino”, In E Miranda-Feliciano (ed), All Things to All Men. Quezon City, Philippines: New Day, p. 9; Antonio Tujan Jr, ed, Transformative Education (Manila: Ibon, 2004, pp. 5–6, quoted in Glicerio Maniquis Manzano Jr, ‘Developing Appropriate Training Programs for Filipino Intercultural Ministry Workers’ (DMiss diss, Asia Graduate School of Theology, Philippines, 2008), p. 56.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Renato Constantino, A Past Revisited (Manila: Renato Constantino, 1975), np, quoted in Bautista, p. 10.
[8] Tujan, A (ed) (2004) Transformative Education. Manila: IBON. pp. 5–6, quoted in Manzano, p. 57.
[9] Teodoro Agoncillo, Filipino Nationalism 1872–1970 (Quezon City, Philippines: RP Garcia, 1974), quoted in Virgilio G Enriquez, From Colonial to Liberation Psychology: The Philippine Experience (Quezon City, Philippines: University of the Philippines Press, 1992), pp. 1–2. Historian Agoncillo claims the unique argument that the dominant home-grown religion is the Iglesia ni Kristo (consider it as a cult). He continues that even if Catholics comprise over 80% of the total population, the genuine Catholics probably do not comprise 0.5 % of the whole population, while those who belong to the Iglesia are devoted followers and loyal to their Church.
[10] Niels Mulder, Inside Philippine Society: Interpretations of Everyday Life (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day, 1997), p. 130, 133.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Enriquez, VG (1992) From Colonial to Liberation Psychology: The Philippine Experience. (Quezon City, Philippines: University of the Philippines Press, 1992), p. 2.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Mulder, Inside Philippine Society, p. 18.
[15] Ibid. p. 131.
[16] Rodney L Henry, The Filipino Spirit World: A Challenge to the Philippine Church (Manila: OMF, 1986), p. 11.
[17] Deborah Terry and Michael A Hogg, eds. Attitudes, Behavior, and Social Context: The Role of Norms and Group Membership (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2000), p. 97. The argument is “the social norms often produce public behavior that is inconsistent with individuals’ private attitudes. Social norms are properties of situations and groups, not of individuals. They develop thorough processes that have only an indirect and partial connection to the characteristics and views of those who are influenced by them. Therefore, the normative behavior that is exhibited in public settings is frequently counter-attitudinal for some or even most of the people who are enacting it.”
[18] Dadkhah Asghar, Susumu Harizuka, and Manas Mandal, ‘Patterns of Social Interaction in Societies of ASIA-Pacific Region’, The Journal of Social Psychology 139.6 (December 1999), p. 730. They argue that personal goals are subordinate to the goals of the group, particularly in collective societies. Moreover, the socio-centric (collective) nature of Asian culture like Philippine society suggests that interpersonal interaction regulates behavior patterns: self is defined as an aspect of a group.
[19] Jack Scarborough, The Origins of Cultural Differences and Their Impact on Management (Westport, CT: Quorum, 1998), p. 74.
[20] Ibid.
[21] George Paik. The History of Protestant Missions in Korea 1832–1910 (Seoul: Yonsei University Press, 1971), p. 25.
[22]  Martha Huntley, Caring, Growing, Changing: A History of the Protestant Mission in Korea (New York: Friendship, 1941), p. 8. Huntley summarizes this Confucian world order, and the duties and attendant virtues of inferiors, clearly: Father and son — filial piety; Sovereign and people — loyalty; Husband and wife — deference; Older and younger brother — obedience; Friends — faithfulness.
[23] Ibid.
[24]  Lewis R Lancaster, Richard K Payne, and Karen M Andrews, eds., Religion and Society in Contemporary Korea (Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1997), p. 49. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=9980815 [accessed 20 March, 2008].
[25] Jack Scarborough, The Origins of Cultural Differences and Their Impact on Management (Westport, CT: Quorum, 1998), p. 74.
[26] Theodore Gochenour, Considering Filipinos (Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural, 1990), pp. 7–8.
[27] Violeta V Bautista, ‘The Socio-Psychological Make-up of the Filipino’, In All Things to All Men, ed. Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day, 1988), p. 1.
[28] Leonardo N Mercado, Elements of Filipino Philosophy (Tacloban City, Philippines: Divine Word University, 1976), p. 110.
[29] Landa F Jocano, Management by Culture (Metro Manila: Punlad, 1999), p. 8.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Landa F Jocano, Management by Culture (Metro Manila: Punlad, 1999), pp. 72–74 .
[32] Ibid.
[33] Paul G. Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1985), p. 34.
[34]  Scarborough, p. 268.
[35] Paul Hiebert, “Cultural differences” In R Winter and SC Hawthorne (eds), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. 3rd ed. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, p. 378.
[36] Charles Kraft, Charles H Kraft, Anthropology for Christian Witness (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996), pp. 32–33.
[37] Dale Kietzman, “Effective Cross-cultural Leadership Development”, In Timothy K Park (ed), New Global Partnership for World Mission (Pasadena, CA: IAM Institute for Asian Mission, 2004), p. 91.
[38] Ibid. p. 90.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Ibid.
[41] Ibid.
[42]  KS Lee, “Missionary Work in Partnership: A Case Study of the Korean Presbyterian Missions Working Together in the Presbyterian Church of the Philippines”. Unpublished Thesis (DMin), Fuller Theological Seminary,2004. p. 154.
[43]3]  Hiebert, “Cultural Differences”, p. 380.