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Final Hearing For Asia Bibi Today

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The following is an excerpt from ChristianToday.com. We encourage you to read the full article here and to pray for her trial which is happening today (Thursday October 13).

Asia Bibi, the Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, will on Thursday face her final appeal. It was announced over the weekend that the date has been set for October 13, after years of postponement.

Who is she?

Bibi’s actual name is Aasiya Noreen, though she has become better known as Asia Bibi through media coverage of her case. Bibi is a general term widely used in South Asia as a term of respect towards older women.

She is from Ittan Wali, a rural village in the Sheikhupura District of Punjab, eastern Pakistan – about 60 miles west of Lahore. She has five children, and before being arrested in 2009, worked as a farmhand to support her family. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, is a labourer.

What actually happened?

A row broke out between Bibi and a number of Muslim female colleagues in June 2009. They were picking berries together when the other women refused to drink from a water cup used by Bibi because she was a Christian and therefore deemed ‘unclean’. Bibi reportedly said: “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”

Reports vary as to what happened in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Her husband told the New York Times in a 2010 interview that Bibi was immediately accused of blasphemy by her fellow workers. “Suddenly she saw men and women walking towards her with angry gestures,” Masih said. “They started beating her and shouting that she had made derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad”.

Masih said the mob dragged his wife to the local police station where she was charged with blasphemy and jailed.

However, the BBC’s Orla Guerin reports that it was not until a few days after the argument at the farm that Bibi was accused of blaspheming.

Whatever the exact timeline of events, campaigners are united in the belief that the charges levelled at Bibi are trumped up, and that she was falsely accused to settle a score.

Judge Muhammed Iqbal sentenced Bibi to death in November 2010. In a memoir written by Bibi and translated into English in 2012, she recalled the moment she was told of her fate: “I cried alone, putting my head in my hands. I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: ‘Kill her, kill her! Allahu akbar!’

“The court house is invaded by a euphoric horde who break down the doors, chanting: ‘Vengeance for the holy prophet. Allah is great!’ I was then thrown like an old rubbish sack into the van… I had lost all humanity in their eyes.”

Is this common in Pakistan?

Sadly, yes. At least 95 per cent of the Pakistani population is Muslim, and Islam is enshrined in the constitution as the state religion. The US Commission for International Religious Freedom last year said the country represented “one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom” and accused the Pakistani government of failing to provide adequate protections for faiths other than Islam. It argued that repressive blasphemy laws in particular are used to target religious minorities.

These laws prescribe life imprisonment for the desecration of the Qur’an and the death sentence for “defiling” the Prophet Mohammad, and accusations of incidents have often prompted mob violence. According to the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan, more than 62 people have been killed in such incidents since 1990. More than 40 people are currently on death row for blasphemy, the majority of whom are members of religious minorities.

Bibi, however, is the first woman to be sentenced to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.

What can we do?

Campaigners are urging Christians to pray for Bibi’s release ahead of Thursday’s appeal. CSW has launched a 24/7 prayer for supporters, and Release International is calling on the Pakistani government to repeal the blasphemy laws – a petition can be signed here.

To read the full article click here.

Preschool Teacher needed in Cambodia

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The Hope International School in Cambodia is looking for a suitably qualified, passionate and creative Preschool teacher to come and join the team. The role would be working with the 3 and 4 year old programme as part of the elementary/primary team.

Hope International School is a vibrant, nurturing school community with a vision to see students impact the world for Christ. Hope School exists to support missionary and Christian expatriate families from over 20 countries, working with the people of Cambodia and surrounding regions.

You have the opportunity to come and serve these amazing families by using your skills and experience as an Preschool teacher. All of our teachers are provided with a living allowance to cover the costs of housing, utilities and day to day expenses.

Contact them now to find out more about this exciting opportunity!

 

Returning to Tanzania

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By David Close.

In June this year a celebration was held in Tanzania to commemorate the inauguration of the Diocese of Western Tanganyika 50 years ago. David Close taught at a school in the region from 1965 – 1971 and had the privilege of attending this Jubilee celebration. Below is his account of this recent visit to Tanzania.

Saturday, 9 July 2016. I was the only former CMS person attending the Jubilee, but I was not the only New Zealander. Robert Kereopa (Exec Officer, Anglican Board of Missions) and his wife Rachel were here too, and the trio of us were always introduced together.  Robert and Rachel have been here before and fit into the culture very well. I gave official greetings from Bishop Victoria, explaining that she had a prior commitment in England.

My colleague in the teaching of English is a man called Lamech Bandiye, whom I taught in 1967-70.  He is now retired, but taught English for many years, mainly in secondary schools.  He has been teaching at the Bible College since February, but was unaware of the course that I had produced during my time here in 2012.   Enlightening him about the course was not difficult as I had brought it on a memory stick.  Printing copies was no problem because a helpful young man programmed my laptop to use the photocopier, which still works perfectly.  I am really pleased that I put the work into producing the course because the preparation does not have to be repeated and the materials are far more suited to our task – teaching an intensive course to men – than any of the primary or secondary school textbooks I have seen.  And the course is quite fun to teach, because I find I wrote a lot of humour, and a lot of relevant local content, into the grammatical exercises.  More important, the students are enjoying it.  Thursday was a public holiday.  When I asked on Wednesday if they were willing to come to class on Saba Saba (seventh day of the seventh month), they chorused, “We are willing.”

Lamech has been with me most of the week.  I have to use Swahili a lot for explanations and instructions, and it is very helpful to have him at hand when, literally, words fail me.  He is becoming familiar with the teaching style of the course, and I hope that he will be comfortable using it.  The real plus is that he sees the reading of lots of simple English books as essential to developing fluency.

Momentous changes are taking place in this country.  The economy has been growing at about 7% a year, the most obvious evidence being the huge increase in trucks and other vehicles on the road, the building boom, and the proliferation of small motorbikes.    However, the improvements in roads, schools and health services have been very slow coming.   People suspected that one of the reasons was extensive corruption among government officials and in the business community, but despite much anti-corruption talk, there was little effective action.

That has now changed.  A new president, elected last October, is cracking down on tax evasion. Two weeks ago four companies were charged with evading 29 billion shillings (2 million NZD) in VAT (GST); last week two small businessmen were fined 1.5m shillings (about $1000 NZD) for failing to issue VAT receipts.  A Cabinet Minister was dismissed for not declaring a conflict of interest, and, when the performance of 140 government officers in the regions was carried out, only 39 were reappointed.  The tough action is having an effect on behaviour; revenue from taxation has consistently run behind target but yesterday it was announced that tax revenue was running 7% ahead of budget. The president is very popular because of the tough measures he is taking against tax evasion and corruption.  However, he is also taking a tough line against political parties, including his own, criticising their negativity and restricting their activities.  For this he, in turn, is attracting criticism in the newspapers, especially the Swahili newspapers, which are very forthright.  He has shown no sign of restricting the press, which is remarkably free.

July 19.  A lot has happened since I wrote the above. Last Friday I went to Matiazo, high in the hills close to the Burundi border, and the site of a small local hospital, and an ‘orphanage.’  ‘Orphanage’ gives a wrong impression because it is more like a neo-natal unit.  It takes babies whose mothers have died in childbirth and who would be unlikely to survive without special care. Often the babies are premature, or severely ill from whatever has caused the mother’s death, or malnourished because of inadequate care between the time of birth and their arrival at Matiazo.  Effective treatments have been developed that are not dependent on expensive equipment such as incubators.  At the time of my visit there were 64 babies being cared for – and an abundance of baby washing drying in the sun.  Most of the babies stay for 18 months, at which time their fathers or other relatives are expected to resume care of them.  A few (some who were found abandoned at birth or were born to mothers with severe mental illness) stay on while adoptive parents are sought.

The amazing thing about Matiazo is the staffing.  A German woman is the only fully qualified doctor on site and an African woman is matron of the orphanage. There are trained nurses, of course, but most of the care of the babies is carried out by girls from local villages, each of whom has special oversight of about four babies.  The girls have only primary school education, but are trained on the job, spending part of the day in the classroom and the rest of the time caring for the children – and doing the washing!  They pay a nominal sum for board and have only one day a week free; their reward is that after two years they gain a certificate, which, while not a nursing qualification, is often sufficient for them to secure work at a local dispensary or health clinic, or to gain admission to a nursing course.

These cost-effective measures notwithstanding, Matiazo struggles financially, most of the support coming from the Neukirchen Mission in Germany. Matiazo is part of the Anglican Diocese of Western Tanganyika.  The church is not in a position to provide a lot of financial support but each of the 130 parishes is being asked to organise a special collection on a coming Sunday.  On my visit I was able to hand over $1.8m Tanzanian shillings (about $1200 NZD).  It will probably be used to pay for infant formula, which is a major expense.  It was very gratefully received.  Many thanks to those who contributed (church friends, LP friends, family).

Immediately after going to Matiazo, I went to Nguruka.  The place was well known to me because the train always stopped there in the middle of the night, but I had never seen it till last weekend.  In appearance it is not different from many similar African towns or villages. What makes it special is its history.  The visit was special too, because Bishop Sadock had decided to ordain three priests, not in the cathedral at Kasulu but at little, remote, out-of-the-way Nguruka.  We were welcomed in the open air in a very public space outside the church and the pastor’s house.  People, especially children, swarmed around us as we arrived, after which we sat under a large mango tree while three choirs sang specially composed songs of welcome, followed by more general Christian songs. (I should explain that, here, choirs always dance as they sing, sometimes gently, but on this occasion with great exuberance.)  There were perhaps 300-400 church people sitting or standing, and on the fringes a lot of townspeople, including Muslims, attracted by the music.  I found the occasion incredibly moving, because I knew that, on the very spot, only a few years ago, on a Sunday morning, a group of Muslims had attacked the church, pelting the building with rocks.  The Christians did not retaliate, showed no ill will to their Muslim neighbours and made a conscious effort to reach out in friendship.  Love worked.  Harmony was restored.  A good many Muslims have come to faith. The church is far stronger than it was.

On Sunday morning the ordination service was held in the ‘new church’.  It had no roof and a dirt floor, but, as I said to people in Kasulu the next day, the atmosphere made the venue more beautiful than the temple of Solomon.  I gave greetings from you people in New Zealand, and promised to tell you about ‘their way of sharing love all round’, an inspiration to us all.

On our way back, a petrol tanker which broke down in a steep, narrow part of the road held us up for three hours. It was a small price to pay for a memorable weekend.

May God bless you all.

David.

How are we doing (from Missions Interlink NZ)

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The following has been shared from the most recent Missions Interlink Bulletin

Is recent emphasis on “missional thinking” making a Kingdom difference? Alan Vink, National Director at Willow Creek Association NZ, recently shared some sobering statistics concerning Christian realities in Aotearoa NZ. He was the opening speaker at the ENGAGE Evangelism Conference in Tauranga, September 2 – 3 2016. By sharing the raw data with the church and parachurch ministers present, Alan wanted to encourage us to reassess how we are doing and therefore what we are doing to extend God’s kingdom in Aotearoa (and, by association, beyond).

Having “done the numbers”, Alan placed the number of churches in NZ at around 3,000. According the data he had access to (presumably the last NZ census), 10 to 12% of our 4.7 million NZers “regularly” attend a church, of any type. “Regular”, Alan clarified,”is about once every three weeks”. More number-gymnastics followed to expose how infrequently “regular” church goers are exposed to communal Christian life, potentially missing out on transformative disciple-forming teaching, worship and fellowship.

The point Alan rammed home was that the percentage had not changed in decades. His research showed a very short lived rise during the charismatic renewal of the 70’s/80’s but attendance soon returned to around the 10% mark. For all the resources poured into outreach efforts and community ministries, all the new churches planted and mega churches grown, and all the immigrant believers bolstering city church numbers, the percentages remain consistently low.

Furthermore, Alan noted that conversion rates (as determined by recorded baptisms) are even more lamentable. Selecting a reasonably representative denomination, he reported that in 2015 225 ‘average’ sized churches in this denomination baptised 500 people—that’s just over 2 per church per year. He claimed that 70-80% of the NZ population is now beyond the reach of a gospel witness. Drawing on research by Nick Thompson of Auckland University, Alan identified the most gospel-resistant sector as “middle-class NZ” declaring, “affluence is a clear barrier to the gospel.”

How are we doing? For all our community outreach initiatives and so called “missional” thinking, apparently we have a long way to go and much prayerful rethinking to do. Future mission from Aotearoa NZ is contingent on this situation changing.

Inviting People to Cross the Line

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In our Evangelism edition of Intermission last year, Sam Harvey talked about the importance of offering people an invitation to ‘cross the line’ and come to faith. We may not be aware of how many people in our churches and in our communities are actually ready to make a commitment to follow Jesus; they may just be waiting to be invited over the line.

We found the following article from Sermon Central provocative so thought we’d offer an excerpt. Read the full article by clicking here and if you’re a church leader, why not consider taking up the ‘Weekly Gospel Challenge’?.

By Hal Seed.

For a long time I’ve wondered if there is a relationship between the number of salvations a church experiences, and the number of times it offers salvation invitations. We’ll never know for sure, but I’m conducting an experiment this year.

My friend Ron Forseth (long-time overseer of SermonCentral.com) recently challenged me to offer an invitation every Sunday for an entire year. For the past 25 years, my habit has been to present a salvation invitation about once a month in our church services, but I’ve often wondered, “If we offered salvation more often, would more people come to Jesus?” So I’m taking The Weekly Gospel Challenge.

Results So Far

I started my experiment on the July 3 weekend. One lady raised her hand in the Saturday night service. So cool! The next we hosted a high-profile guest for what we call a Wow Weekend. Lots of visitors were present. 32 raised their hands for salvation. The next weekend (July 17), 12 hands went up. Last weekend (July 24), 5 more indicated they had prayed to receive Christ with me. There’s no way to know for sure how many of these decisions will bear out as “seed that fell on good soil” (Matthew 13:8). But some God-honoring intention motivated each one of those people to raise their hands.

Without Ron’s challenge, I probably would have given invitations 2 out of those 4 weekends. God is sovereign, so He certainly could have saved all those people without my invitation. Yet I believe that my faithfulness to proclaim the gospel made a difference, so I’m going to continue this every-Sunday habit for the next 52 weeks and see what happens. Would you like to take the challenge with me?

 

The article then unpacks five arguments against offering an invitation every week. Here’s number 4.

Why present an invitation if there are no lost people in the room?

This is a good point. But what if there are no lost people in the room because your members think they have no reason to invite their lost friends? What if presenting the gospel 4 or 5 weeks in a row causes a mind shift in your members, so they begin thinking, “If I invite my friend to come this weekend, he will hear the gospel, and his eternity might be changed?” It’s possible that sharing the gospel will breed more lost people being invited to church.

 

Read the full article by clicking here. If you’re a church leader, why not consider taking up the ‘Weekly Gospel Challenge’?.

Reaching the Nations through Migrant Workers

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By Tan Kang San & Loun Ling.

The following is from a recent update by our sister organisation, AsiaCMS.

More people than ever are living abroad. In 2013, 232 million people, or 3.2 per cent of the world’s population, were international migrants, compared to 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990. In 2013, South Asians were the largest group of international migrants living outside of their home region. Of the 36 million international migrants from South Asia, 13.5 million resided in the oil-producing countries in Western Asia. In the UAE, 8 million out of its population of 9 million are migrants.

In the Book of Ruth, Elimelech and his wife Naomi were economic migrants seeking food and better living in the land of Moab. However, similar to the stories of contemporary migrants, Naomi suffered the loss of family and future hope. “Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.” (1:5).

While some migrants are skilled professionals, the majority of migrant labourers are hired to do the 3-D jobs (dirty, difficult and dangerous!). Like Elimelech and Naomi, many left their homes and countries to seek better life, but very few nations instituted legal and social frameworks which ensure just structures in welcoming migrant labourers who are cheated and oppressed in foreign countries.

The Book of Ruth holds out the practice of ḥeseḏ (loving kindness) as the ideal lifestyle for Israel. Christians often ignore their responsibilities toward the growing migrant population in global cities. When addressing the issue of migrant communities, churches often reduce their responsibilities to conducting migrant discipleship classes or worship services.

The Old Testament principle of hesed may be an important and rich biblical ideal that integrates Christian responsibility toward migrant communities as doing good, as addressing issues of injustices and oppression faced by migrants, and to love kindness. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (hesed), and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Reaching the nations through migrant workers in our midst is a biblical mandate as well as an effective mission strategy. The testimony of Maria below is one of many that bear out this truth.

There are tens of thousands of Asian migrant workers from the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. One of them could be in our home, our workplace, our church.

Maria writes:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Thank and praise God, about 26 years ago while working in Singapore as domestic helper, I was drawn by the heavenly Father to His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to His saving grace. My employers brought me to Grace (S.C.C) Church and I attended English Congregation, Bible studies and later I decided to join the Foundation of Faith class. I received much encouragement from my employers.

Indeed, God’s truth has set me free from wrong ways/practices of worshipping Him. Truly, God is just and righteous that He delivered me from idolatry. Although He allowed me to experience trials (anticipation of persecution from family members, clan and friends), He gave me victory through His words and encouragement from brothers and sisters in Church. I was baptised in 1989. After baptism I was asked a prayer request and my reply was about the need for evangelism back in my home town. From then I was more eager to study His word in order to prepare myself spiritually to defend my faith in Jesus Christ and be ready to go home.

Every day, I had my devotion before work and while doing my work I memorised Scriptures (written in small pieces of paper stuck near to me) until I decided to take a course at the Singapore Bible College inspite of the language barrier. I attended class once a week at night, with the support of my employers. Finally, God confirmed His call for me to go for full-time theological studies. I left to work in Canada knowing that the work there was only 8 hours a day which would give me time to study. When my church in Singapore knew about my calling and desire to study, they decided to support me.

Eventually I returned to the Philippines. By God’s grace, I was bold to share my faith and gave Bibles to my family and relatives. The Lord opened the door for me to study at Doane Baptist Seminary and I graduated after 2 years with Bachelor of Religious Education.

I volunteered to serve in the church in my home town, Cabatuan Fundamental Baptist Church, during the 2 years of seminary training. After a year I was called to work as Bible woman while staying at home with my parents, brother and sisters. My parents have now gone to be with the Lord together with my eldest brother. Almost all the children and grandchildren of my family members attended our Church Kindergarten.

As a Bible woman of the church, I am also the Sunday School superintendent, teacher, and full-time worker in charge of the various church ministries. These include visiting Elementary Schools and Secondary Schools, hospital, prison, prisoners on parole, pawnshop employees, home Bible studies. The Lord has given me a burden to reach many lost souls. Every summer our house is one of the venues for Children’s Vacation Bible School. Sometimes we even have 15 children attending. With all these ministries, the Lord granted me a desire and opportunity to be further equipped through attending a Master’s class. He enabled me to graduate in December 2010.

In my journey of serving Him, God allowed me to go through many trials and challenges. In May 2012, I was hospitalised and had an operation. For 3 months I was unable to work. Grace Church in Singapore again responded in helping me financially and comforting me. After recovery I was more eager to serve Him. I now have less responsibility at the church but am involved with a government programme to help the poorest of the poor by conducting their Family Development Session. Every month I have the opportunity to minister to more than a thousand people from different barangays or villages. My desire to witness for Christ in the 68 barangays of our town is almost fulfilled. All glory and honour to God!

Celebrating Janet Close

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We give God thanks for the life of Mrs Janet Close, who died in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Sunday 14 August, aged 78.  Janet served the Lord with NZCMS at Livingstone College, Kigoma, Tanzania, from 1965 – 1971.  Henry Paltridge writes, “Janet was mainly a home maker, though she did some teaching at Livingstone College. She was married to David Close, who taught English there in Kigoma, Tanzania in the days when Gerald Clark (also with NZCMS) was Headmaster. In recent years she has been very active in mission promotion in the parish of St Christopher’s, Avonhead, Christchurch, and on Vestry. She had also been part of a Golden Oldies NZCMS short-term mission to Fiji.”

Janet’s funeral was held on Thursday 18 August at St Christopher’s Church. It was led by the Vicar, Rev. Mark Hood, who wrote, “Janet died full of confidence in the Lord Jesus, assured of her eternal future with him, and praying and urging on those near who do not yet trust in Christ to do so. As in life, so in death, Janet was always holding out the grace of God. Praise God for this dear saint.”

We praise God for the life and Christian witness of Janet and pray for all who mourn her passing and for those who gathered to honour her and give God thanks for her life.

The Women’s Mosque Movement

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By Moyra Dale.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.

 

A female religious scholar of 15th century Hadramawt, Yemen, al-Shaykha Sultana bint ‘Ali al-Zubaydy was well known for her piety, knowledge, and teachings. One of her male counterparts, expressing the conventional opinion that religious scholarship and teaching were the domain of men, challenged her in verse: ‘But can a female camel compete with a male camel?’ She completed the couplet, responding: ‘A female camel can carry the same load as a male, and produce offspring and milk as well.’[1]

As I approach the mosque in a Middle Eastern city, my all-covering full-length coat and headscarf clothe me anonymously among dozens of other women who are entering through the gates and across the yard, past the places for men to wash, away from the spacious main door of the mosque, to pass behind the curtain hung between the corner of the building and the surrounding wall. The curtain conceals the small side door, which opens to a set of carpeted stairs. Wooden shelves are at the bottom of the stairs and on the landing, and we remove our shoes and leave them in the shelves, making our way up the stairs in socks or stockinged feet.

There is not much furniture in the upper meeting hall: the carpet, some shelves for books at the back, a few plastic chairs, sponge mattresses to sit on around the side of the room, and a desk-and-seat for the speaker. Framed pictures of Arabic text hang on the wall. This is the hall where women come and go for the different meetings, do the ritual prayer (salah), greet friends, softly recite pages of the Qur’an or just sit quietly on the floor. The hall opens onto the balcony overlooking the main mosque area where the men pray. Theirs is the high roof, sense of space: here there is more limited space, a lower roof, looking through balustrade or windows onto the main men’s part below—behind, seeing, and unseen.

Women in the history of Islam

Women in mosques are not new in Islam. Traditions (Hadith) that refuse to forbid women from mosques are ascribed to Muhammad, Prophet of Islam. They support stories that women attended the mosque in Muhammad’s time, including Friday sermons and feasts. However, over the centuries as Islam expanded, men went to the mosque and women stayed at home to pray.

There have been women leaders[2] and teachers throughout the history of Islam. Aisha (Muhammad’s wife) and Fatima (his daughter) are often mentioned, along with some of Muhammad’s other wives and companions, as muhaddithat—women who taughthadith to others. A number of religious histories mention famous women scholars and teachers, women who were active in Islamic law (fiqh), interpreting the Qur’an and giving legal rulings (fatwas), exercising the same authority as men scholars.

Women scholars flourished more in the 7th-8th centuries (the early days of Islam) and 12th-16th centuries (times of disruption and invasion from the Crusaders and Mongols).[3] These women were often taught by a male relative such as their father, and sometimes also had private tutors. Education, a male patron, and often, social class were important factors.

A recent influential example was Zaynab al-Ghazali (1917-2005) in Egypt, who founded the Muslim Women’s Association (Jama’at al-Sayyidaat al-Muslimaat) when she was 18 years old. She claimed it had a membership of 3 million throughout the country by the time the government dissolved it in 1964. She gave lectures to thousands of women who attended each week at the Ibn Tulun Mosque. Her association offered lessons for women, published a magazine, maintained an orphanage, offered assistance to poor families, and mediated family disputes. Al-Ghazali worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood, and spent six years in prison until released in 1971 by President Anwar Sadat.

The women’s movement in Islam today

The women’s piety movement has roots in the history of women scholars within Islam. However, it is also a contemporary movement, with unprecedented numbers of women involved in the Islamic revival movement, which has spread through the Muslim world since the 1970s. It has become more visible through the increasing number of women wearing hijab. In the 1980s and 1990s a new wordmutadayyinat, ‘religious women’, was invented, to describe the growing piety movement among women.[4]

Women’s literacy worldwide has increased at the same time as expanding access to Islamic teaching through pamphlets, cassettes, radio, TV, satellite, and Internet. These two factors have helped to grow the Islamic revival movement and women’s part in it. Some women preachers are self-educated; but increasingly religious institutions in the Muslim world are offering training to women.[5] Al-Azhar University in Cairo began training women preachers in 1999.

Where they face social restrictions, Muslim women have always used religious occasions in the home, such as Qur’anic recitations or recitative prayer (dhikr) to gain blessing. So religious practices provide support for the chance to gather and talk together over a glass of tea or a meal. Women began to organize religious lessons in their homes to learn the Qur’an and other religious materials. Increasingly, homes and special gatherings became used as places where women were encouraged to make sure that their behaviour and clothing fit with what Islam teaches. A birthday party might include a time to urge all the young women attending to wear hijab.

Throughout the world

In the Middle East in the 1990s and early 2000s, women began to move more into mosques for their gatherings, and to become involved in public religious teaching, including on television. Mosque classes train women how to behave as good Muslims, and also how to teach others at community events such as weddings or births. Furthermore local neighbourhood mosques are used as centres to organize activities including both religious instruction and medical and welfare help for Muslims in need.

Elsewhere in the world, in Indonesia from the early 1900s, both the reformistMuhammadiya and traditionalist Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organisations have offered Islamic education to women as well as men, from grassroots informal religious classes up to Islamic training schools (pesantren). So now large numbers of women are equipped to discuss and teach about Islamic texts and legal rulings.[6]

In China, the growth in women’s mosques and women’s religious culture among the Muslim Hui people has been connected to China’s move in the 1980s towards reform and openness to the outside world.[7] In the Indian sub-continent, the efforts of the conservative Tablighi Jama’at was at first directed at men. However, women are now included among those who travel for shorter or extended periods to promote reformist Islam (while maintaining the rules of purdah).[8]

A new space for women

This has led to a generation of women literate and competent in the Qur’an and the traditions, and able to interpret them with regard to the issues of women’s everyday lives. A growing number of publications by women give women’s perspectives on reading the Qur’an and its teachings. In Malaysia, the Sisters of Islam draw on the religious texts in their effort to enable women and to help them get justice in issues of family law such as divorce.

Women’s authority in Islam has traditionally been in the home and at times of rites of passage, family transitions. Now they are taking up authority in the area of religious texts and teaching. It is still within conservative Islam, and women support their place in mosques and teaching, by conforming to conservative religious practices of dress and general behaviour. By reading the Qur’an and traditions for themselves, to answer the questions from women’s daily lives, they are reforming the role of women within Islam.

Implications and suggested responses

We recognise that Muslims and Christians may both meet questions about the place of women in a conservative reading of our faith and our books. We have common cause in working for women who face unjust marriage or divorce laws, or violence. So there is a place to meet and work alongside women in the Muslim piety movement. We need to bring a robust understanding of the place of women in Christ to our meeting.

It is good to be able to interact with the discussions around the Qur’an, the nature of the Messiah, the authenticity of the Bible—the arguments in which they have been trained. Going beyond argument to telling the stories of Jesus, of his interactions with women—including the place he gave them in his ministry (Lk 10:39, Jn 4); his power to purify (Lk 8:26-56); his refusal to condemn (Jn 8:1-11)—speak right into the aspirations and longings of women in the piety movement.

We can share from our own hopes and struggles, and how Jesus meets and answers us. As we pray, they may encounter the Messiah who is powerfully present to hear and answer our petitions.

The women’s mosque movement reminds us that within the Muslim world, there are different understandings of the place of women, just as there are different understandings of violence and its use. In the end, the basic place of meeting between Christian and Muslim is our shared regard for Jesus the Messiah; and the most fundamental point of difference is not the place of women or of violence, but who we believe the Messiah to be.

 

Image: ‘Enjoining the mosque’ by Giuseppe Milo (CC BY-NC 2.0). 

Opportunity in Cambodia

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The New Hope School in Battambang, Cambodia, is looking for volunteers from all over the world to teach students English and Scripture as well as expose students to different teaching methods. You’ll also be helping with Sunday services. This can be either a part or full time position, and basic accommodation is available on site. The person would need to pay a small contribution towards food and utilities.

New Hope is a Christian school that provides education for underprivileged students by teaching English and Khmer languages, moral values and various vocational skills. By teaching general knowledge and vocational skills, they believe education can change people for the better and offer them a brighter future.

For more information please contact Mr Outh Sarith on outhsarith@gmail.com

 

The Hospital

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The following is a blog written by Beth Goodwin who volunteered with Anne McCormick in Cambodia for a month. Here she shares her reflections from her time with Anne. The original blog can be read here (and includes many more photos).

The World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang – this is where I’ve been for most of the last month [ending in April], helping Anne McCormick with her activities programme. It’s a lovely hospital, with restful greenery and bougainvillaea gardens. There are two big wards of about 32 beds each, one for men, one for women and children. Then an infection ward, and ICU, plus a few rooms for private patients. The main cases that come here are amputees and broken bones. Cambodia still struggles with unexploded landmines, so there are more amputees. It wasn’t too gory, mostly things were nicely bandaged up.

It’s a Japanese funded hospital (Handa Foundation) – though minimally. There are a few expat staff in there, which apparently means fewer mis-diagnoses, because their qualifications were most probably a lot more in-depth, their degrees earned not purchased. Cambodia is still suffering significantly from the Pol Pot regime, and education has a long way still to go.

Nurses didn’t seem to have much to do! Surprisingly. Same as restaurant staff. How do we find so much to do in New Zealand. Surely there are the same tasks? Nurses here were usually congregated at the end of the ward, on their phones. They blocked facebook on staff wifi for obvious reasons. But the ward was clean, wounds dressed, nobody died last month (I think). Maybe there’s less paperwork and peer pressure. They get US$1 an hour. Rent is upwards from about $50 per month as far as I can tell. I find myself thinking, well, if you’re in a DINK situation, that’s just enough for eating, maybe, you can survive. But then, all it takes is one emergency, a broken leg, a stolen motorcycle/bicycle, a funeral or wedding. What then? Not to mention kids at school, needing clothes etc. It’s tough.

Every patient at the hospital had a family member or a friend there 24/7 to help them with bathroom tasks, food etc. Its tough on the family member if they had to stop work! They sleep on the floor by the patients’ beds, but apparently they’d mostly sleep on a mat on the floor at home anyway, so its no different.

Anthony & Anne – so lovely to stay with a kiwi couple. They have been so kind, helping me with how to get around, lots of lifts, some ice-creams, and the loan of some useful items like a kettle and chilly bin to help when I moved into a guesthouse in town. Thank you both.

Anthony’s role there has been to start a Social Work department. This has had challenges, since social work isn’t really a ‘thing’ in Cambodia. It is now! I don’t know too much about what’s involved, but it’s such a helpful and necessary gap being filled! He’s been training up a fantastic team, who have benefited from all his NZ Social work training and experience. The department is practically running itself now, which is a huge achievement. It’s the funny role of most mission work – to make yourself redundant. I’ve so enjoyed Anthony’s humour, good sense, cheeky grin, and strong faith.

I’ve spent most of the time with Anne with her activities program at the hospital. I’m so impressed that she’s built it up so much over the years. There’s now a room with cupboards, heaps of books and resources, and one paid staff member to help. A few years ago, it had no walls even. I can’t imagine it with no aircon, and no cupboards to lock, trolleys to push etc. Thanks to all overseas suppliers and fundraisers of good things.

Anne is a librarian by trade, so unsurprisingly, everything works highly efficiently, and is well-categorised, numbered and labelled. She used to lend the books out for a few days at a time, but found many were going missing, hence the trolley system. It takes 1-1.5 hours to take the books round in the morning, let them choose, write down the number. They are collected after 4pm. Patients definitely perk up when the books and puzzles trolleys come round. We do games in the afternoons 1-3 times a week.

You might think it doesn’t sound like much, taking round books and puzzles. From a western perspective, maybe it seems unnecessary. But here, when there are no libraries and games are unaffordable, it’s a huge blessing to have these things to pass the time, get your thinking away from your pain, and also it helps bonding between patients and their family caregivers. It’s helping them to heal faster, I reckon. Plus, they get to know Anne and Sokhim, and often will share struggles. It’s easier talk to the ones with the books than the ones with the needles…

I would really have loved to get to know the patients more. There’s time to banter with them, ask them how the day’s going, how they enjoyed the book, what sort they’d like next, what they do for a job, how they broke their arm, the list goes on. I felt very restricted by the language barrier. I managed a few stock phrases by the end, but that’s not enough. If I do decide to stay overseas longterm, language is top priority – I didn’t realise just how vital it really is.

It was heartbreaking to see adults and children needing to be shown what a puzzle is, how you do it. They all loved them once they got going, but didn’t have the reflexes of looking for matching colours, straight edge pieces, and matching the puzzle to the picture. It’s just practice. Reminds me of me trying to play a computer game last year. My flatmates challenged me to ‘judge not’ without trying them. So I tried a few for the experience. They were fairly patient with me, but I could see the frustration – can’t she see, the score’s right there, so’s the map, so’s the treasure count or whatever, she’s going right into the danger zone! From my perspective, I found it took all my concentration to focus on one part of the screen, and try to walk and not to get eaten (which I never managed to avoid). I didn’t have the visual clues and trillions of hours of practice.

I began to wonder, all these things we take for granted like puzzles, are they all actually learning tools? Learning not only colour matching, and little pieces forming a whole picture, but even critical thinking. The thought processes of – what if I turn this round, will it fit? Critical thinking is hugely important in life (in my opinion), and I just started to wonder if it’s taught in more subtle ways than we think, like through puzzles, for instance.

Probably my favourite day was when we realised some of them were saying no to books because they couldn’t read. I am beginning to realise Anne has everything! She even has a box of pairs of cheap long-sighted glasses, which we brought out, and they were SO happy! The laughter and disbelief of suddenly being able to see clearly and read again! Their kids found it hilarious too, watching their mums suddenly sporting a pair of glasses.

My most terrifying day was the last day, when I played some viola to two of the wards. I really, really don’t enjoy playing solo to people. I’m a viola player for goodness sake, which is a group harmony instrument, gregarious even, enjoys safety in numbers. I don’t even like practicing when anyone’s in the house! I have learned to play with 4 pegs on my bridge to dampen the sound somewhat. BUT, I am here for reasons other than just what I feel like doing, and I thought it might be fun for them, you definitely don’t see violas every day here. So, I braced myself, and played some appalling renditions of Bach suites and Monti’s Czardas. Thankfully, I have no idea what they thought – language barriers have positive moments, too. Some of the kids enjoyed trying it afterwards.

We made paper! To buy more books, expand the activities for the patients, Anne has been making paper to sell, and to make into cards and books. The paper is made with a machine built by Mark Lander in Amberley, Christchurch (see http://marklander.org/hollander-beaters). It works like a dream, on paper, cloth, and natural fibres. After home attempts with substandard equipment in my childhood, I was so impressed at how Anne and Sokhim managed to easily do 50 large A3 sheets of beautiful paper in a day. Sure, the occasional one wrinkled, but by and large they were all beautiful!