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The photo on top is my spouse Muriel on the left and my sister Taeko on the right taken in South Africa. Picture on the right is me, Tad Mitsui and my cat, George.
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IS THERE UNIVERSAL VALUE? OR IS IT A MERE MIRAGE?
I watch an old Marilyn Monroe movie recently and was surprised by her figures: she was voluptuous, unlike today’s’ Barbie doll anorexic standard. Another example in a similar vein: When I went to Africa in 1968, people were worried that I my wife was not happy and I was not treating her well because she was slim. African standard of a happy wife has a well endowed body, well fed and ready to bear many children. These examples tell us that people’s taste in values shifts constantly with time and place.
A Chinese colleague of mine in the United Church of Canada, who like me recently arrived to Canada from Hong Kong made a terrible faux pas at a women’s missionary event. When asked his impression of Canadian women, he answered, “They are wonderful people, they are fat and look old.” In China, like in Japan, old people were respected and considered to be wise. You always ask elders for their opinions. Also only successful people could afford to be fat. They congratulated fat people for their success in business. In Japanese you congratulate successful people saying, “Kappuku ga i-idesune” meaning, “You look filled up, you must be successful. Congratulations! Fat and old mean successful and wise. Things could have changed since I left Japan. But the point is: you must be careful not to read antiquity and understand it according to our norm.
The Bible describes Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as a very beautiful woman, who charmed Pharaoh instantly. When you run into a passage like this, question is: does this give an image of a person who can be understood as a beautiful woman according to our standard? Surely not. Our views change as times change.
SOME CHRISTIANS ARE PERSECUTED FROM MANY SIDES
I usually like what Gwynne Dyer says, but I take exception to his emphasis on Islamicpressures in Sudan, Iraq, and other Arab countries causing demise of Christians. However, in other parts of the world other factors are also responsible.
One example I know well is in the Holy Land. There are more Palestinian Christians living in Canada and the U.S. today than those who still live in Israel and Palestine because of their exodus. Traditionally close to 20% of Palestinians were Christians. I don’t know the statistics today, but I know there are fewer than a few thousand still living in Jerusalem. Christians have lived in the Holy Land for millennia but they are leaving in droves. Leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalem have been appealing to the Worldwide Christian community for help drawing attention to the demise of Christian population in the Holy Land. Many of them go back a long way: their history is older than any Christian church in the world. Some of them can go back their family histories to the original Christians of Jewish converts at the time of Jesus and his brother James. I know personally at least two such families in Gaza.
Pressure on the Christians comes from many sides, not just from Muslim community. Israel is suspicious of them because they are Palestinians and support the P.L.O’s position on a secular state, which goes against the notion of the Jewish State. Of course, there are pressures coming from Muslims too. The Christians are the target of suspicion from them because of the activities of some American Evangelical Christians, who are the most enthusiastic supporters of the State of Israel. Some of us call them “Christian Zionists.” Thus they are seen with suspicion by both sides. They are like Orthodox Christians who had lived in the Holy Land at the time of Crusade. Crusaders did not distinguish different peoples who had lived there. So they killed Muslims, as well as Orthodox Christians and Jews in order to gain Christian control of the Holy Land. This is why the Palestinian Christians leave the land where their faith tradition began.
Let us think seriously about the persecution on religions as a human rights issue, not a political football.