Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and the China Forum liaise with Chinese partners. There is an ongoing dialogue with local and national church leaders in China, both Protestant and Catholic. Through partnership, we enable projects initiated by Chinese Christians, and adapted to local conditions, to find the appropriate interest, expertise and support from members of the China Forum in Britain and Ireland.
Our partners in China are involved in a full range of activities. Specific ways we support their work are:
- Theological education, including provision of scholarships for church personnel, help with the construction of training facilities and equipping theological libraries.
- Development projects – responding to appropriate Protestant and Catholic initiatives in social services and poverty alleviation schemes in rural China.
- English teaching – providing Christian English teachers from Britain and Ireland to work in predominantly rural tertiary colleges with the Amity Foundation and through AITECE.
Amity Teaching Programme
Summer English Programme
The Summer English Programme is an opportunity for short-term volunteers to discover China and to engage with Chinese people. Volunteers help create authentic English learning environments for Chinese English teachers, many of whom come from far-flung and impoverished parts of rural China.
Working in teams of three to six, the volunteers are sent throughout China for a period of three weeks. The majority of school teachers have never met native English speakers before, and the opportunities to engage with them and improve their language skills are considerable. In return volunteers uncover more about the ‘real’ China beneath the newspaper headlines. The range of experiences is truly extraordinary, which is why many volunteers sign on again year after year.
This is being co-ordinated by Friends of the Church in China.
Amity Urban and Rural
The Amity Foundation runs a number of programmes to aid people in China’s rural areas who are suffering through poverty, disability or from natural disasters. Amity has also established several urban projects to work with migrant workers and their families, who frequently find it difficult to access vital social services.
Amity’s Blindness Prevention and Special Education Division provides skills training for people with disabilities. It also provides mobility aids, job placement services and helps refer clients for medical assessments. The division also seeks better schooling opportunities for children with disabilities and monitors schools to see that the rights of children with disabilities are being upheld. Most of the work is done through over 50 trained field workers who have reached over 3000 families. Amity’s Community Based Rehabilitation programmes started in 1994, and were the first of their kind in China.
The Amity Foundation is involved in ten schools for the children of migrant workers in Nanjing. Admission is usually free or for a nominal sum, and Amity has worked hard to raise teaching standards and provide pedagogic equipment for the classrooms. Teacher training and leadership development are also essential components.
CCC Social Service Department
The China Christian Council (CCC) established a Social Service Department in June 2002 to facilitate local church initiatives and complement the work of the officially secular Amity Foundation.
The Social Service Department concentrates on educating Chinese Christians about the need to engage in serving their local community, encouraging and co-ordinating local churches in establishing projects and fundraising. Initiatives supported by the Department have included the provision of wheelchairs to people with physical disabilities in Henan, training carers of children with autism, working on an ‘English Language Ark’ for students in Hubei and rehabilitating recently released prisoners. During 2003 the Social Services Department also helped coordinate the collection of donations and relief equipment for provinces impacted by SARS.
Catholic Social Services Centres
Catholic Social Services Centres have been established in a number of provinces including Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin and Shaanxi.
The oldest of the centres, the Beifang Jinde Catholic Social Service Centre, was created in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, in 1997. Originating out of the Catholic ‘Faith Press’ which reported on cases of social problems or individual distress, Beifang Jinde was established by Father John Baptist Zhang Shijiang. Its scope included disaster relief, care for the elderly and scholarships to gifted students from poor families.
Its increasing prominence was reflected in 2006 when it succeeded in gaining registration (as Jinde Charities) with China’s Ministry for Civil Affairs. Jinde Charities has closely co-operated with the Amity Foundation in providing flood relief, responding to the destruction caused by typhoon Belis (2006) and in sponsoring two conferences related to social service issues.
In Shenyang, Father Zhang Kexiang established a CSSC in May 2004 following several visits to Catholic HIV/AIDS projects in Thailand. Co-operating with the local Centre for Disease Control, the Shenyang CSSC focussed on caring for people with HIV/AIDS. Since 2005, the centre has also begun work in rural communities, providing subsidies for education fees, vocational training for rural migrants, and constructing bridges and wells.
The centre has also begun a youth development programme. Since 2007, the Shenyang CSSC has been financially supported by CAFOD, which has also begun a partnership in the HIV/AIDS work.
Another expression of church service is to work with the YMCA, a uniquely placed Christian establishment at the heart of many of China’s major cities.
Several YMCAs are rediscovering their Christian heritage and are seeking to establish centres to manage social outreach projects. In Shanghai, there are already missions to elderly people, the unemployed, the youth centres and HIV/AIDS awareness programmes.