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GIRCD Leaders Attend China Bible Exhibit, Washington, D.C.

posted Oct 12, 2011, 12:16 PM by Dee Froeber   [ updated Oct 12, 2011, 12:19 PM ]

At the invitation of the China Christian Council and the Three-self Patriotic Movement, Dee Froeber, Jeff Wood and Sandra Haskins attended the September 28th opening in Washington, D.C. of a four-city tour of the China Bible Exhibit. The exhibit will also make stops in Chicago, Dallas, and Charlotte.

The exhibit titled "A Lamp to My Feet, A Light to My Path," highlights the history of the printing of Bibles in China. According to the China Christian Council, China’s Amity Press has printed more than 56 million copies of the Bible.

A delegation of 25 ranking Chinese Christian and government leaders accompanied the debut of the exhibit. Leaders included Elder Fu Xian Wei, Chairperson of the National Three-Self Patriotic Movement, Rev. Gao Feng, President of the China Christian Council, and Minister Wang Zuo’an, president of the China Religious Culture Communication Association and minister of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA).

During the exhibit a number of presentations and interchanges took place between Chinese and American Protestant leaders. Mr. Froeber and Mr. Wood were invited to meet with Minister Wang to discuss the current development and role of Christianity in China.

According to SARA and the China Christian Council there are an estimated 23 million Christians in China who attend China’s 56 thousand registered churches and meeting points served by 38 thousand pastoral leaders.

GIRCD Officers Meet with SARA and TSPM Leaders

posted Feb 11, 2011, 1:20 PM by Jeff Wood   [ updated Feb 11, 2011, 1:29 PM ]



On Sunday, January 30th, 2011, Officers from the Global Institute for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy met with officers from China's State Administration for Religious Affairs and China's Three Self Patriotic Movement.  The three groups met in Charlotte, NC to discuss details for an upcoming Summit on Christianity to be held in conjunction with the China Bible Exhibit in September of this year.

News Release - GIRCD Announces 2011 Plans and Projects

posted Jan 17, 2011, 3:15 PM by Jeff Wood   [ updated Jan 17, 2011, 3:22 PM ]

NEWS RELEASE


                From The Global Institute for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy (GIRCD)

www.TheGIRCD.org

 

GIRCD ANNOUNCES 2011 PLANS AND PROJECTS


          January 17, 2010 – Raleigh, NC - The Global Institute for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy (GIRCD) today announced its formal opening and its plans and projects for 2011 and 2012. Founder Davis E. (Dee) Froeber was named CEO. GIRCD was formed by Froeber in May of 2010 to utilize the power of faith-based citizen diplomacy to help nations, organizations and individuals understand, appreciate, and reconcile multi-faith religious and cultural differences by creating and organizing interfaith dialogues and people-to-people cultural exchanges. Three others were instrumental in GIRCD’s formation. Mr. Jeff Wood is serving as Vice President for Programs and Exchanges and brings significant experience in international relations and Chinese studies. Ms. Sandra Haskins, Consultant for Project Development and Execution, and Mr. Al Haskins, Senior Project Advisor, have been working along with Wood and Froeber since 2008 to develop present day initiatives.

 

“This new organization was founded based upon the team’s success in building strategic relationships locally, nationally and internationally and in planning and implementing influential international events,” Froeber said.  “We spent the final quarter of last year formalizing operations and structure and strengthening our international contacts so that we can make a strong start in the New Year. In addition, we have been formalizing our business and operational plan, recruiting the initial members of our Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, and working with the IRS to receive our designation as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization to assist in our fund raising efforts,” he said.

 

Froeber founded GIRCD based upon his thirty-year career serving as Minister to Internationals at Forest Hills Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC, where he built long-term trusted relationships with national level political and religious leaders from the United States, China, the Middle East, and North Africa. In 2008 and 2009, Mr. Froeber led bi-lateral exchanges of Chinese and U.S, multi-faith religious leaders, the first exchanges of this kind in Sino-U.S. history. Among other topics, these exchanges involved national level religious and political leaders in dialogue about the positive benefit of religion in society and the relationship of religion and government.

 

The 2008 multi-faith delegation of China’s religious leaders met with U.S. religious leaders and political leaders including members of Congress, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and with former President Jimmy Carter. A delegation of U.S. multi-faith religious leaders traveled to China in 2009 meeting with China’s Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, and Taoist leaders as well as China’s Minister of Religion, Wang Zuoan, and Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi.

 

“GIRCD has been created to serve as a nation-to-nation bridge between national level religious and political leaders, religious and cultural organizations, and citizen-to-citizen,” Froeber said. “Thus far we have been able to bring together influential Sino-U.S. leaders for dialogue about critical issues. One of our goals is to foster improved relations between China and the U.S. Dialogue is a path to this goal.”

 

“We have already begun planning for several important exchanges with religious and political leaders in China and the U.S. later this year and into 2012,” he said, “that will focus on the role of Christianity in both nations including its function in providing social services. People-to-people and cultural exchanges are also being planned.” Froeber further commented, “And we are greatly encouraged by both the volunteer and financial contributions for this important effort from our supporters. We are confident that GIRCD will play an important part in encouraging dialogue and spreading peace and understanding in the world.”

 

More information can be found on The Global Institute for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy’s website at: www.TheGIRCD.org.

GIRCD Officers Help Facilitate Introductions at Annual Southern Governors Association Conference

posted Jan 10, 2011, 1:48 PM by Jeff Wood


Officers from the Global Institute for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy attended the 2010 Annual Southern Governors Association Conference from August 27 - 28, 2010.  While at the Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, GIRCD President Dee Froeber and Vice President Jeff Wood helped make key introductions between members of the North Carolina state government and members of the visiting Chinese delegation headed by former Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong.

GIRCD Recognized as Best Practice Faith-Based Citizen Diplomacy Organization

posted Jan 7, 2011, 9:11 AM by Jeff Wood   [ updated Jan 7, 2011, 11:16 AM ]

From November 16-19, 2010, representatives from the Global Institute for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy attended a Summit hosted by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy.  The Faith-Based Organizations Task Force of the U.S. Summit & Initiative for Global Citizen Diplomacy recognized nine organizations who exemplify the best practice of citizen diplomacy.   The Global Institute for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy has been selected as one of those best practice organizations.

GIRCD Officers Visit China's State Administration for Religious Affairs

posted Nov 11, 2010, 1:02 PM by Tayo Jolaoso   [ updated Nov 11, 2010, 1:45 PM ]


 In September, 2010 Dee Froeber and Jeff Wood met with Minister Wang Zuoan and other staff members from China's State Administration for Religious Affairs to discuss projects for 2011.  View the following link (in Chinese) for more details:

Multi-Faith Forum – Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

posted Aug 25, 2010, 5:59 PM by Tayo Jolaoso   [ updated Aug 25, 2010, 6:03 PM ]

ATLANTA — Dialogue and increased understanding were the results of the first leg of a 10-day, two-city tour by a delegation of Chinese religious leaders and their American counterparts that began in Atlanta Sept. 5.

The delegation included the leaders of the five government-recognized religions in China – Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism. Hosted by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Ministry to Internationals of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., and World Pilgrims of Atlanta, the delegation visited Atlanta religious sites such as the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Martin Luther King National Historical Site, Al Farooq Mosque and Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church.

The delegation also attended an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field; traveled to Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., to attend President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School class; met with Georgia Rep. Charlice Byrd, R-Woodstock, and Georgia Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, the Rev. Gerald Durley, pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church and chair of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s Multi-faith Council, at a business and civic leaders forum; and participated in a multi-faith dialogue at Mercer University with their American counterparts.

“People in the United States have stereotypes of the way religion is treated in China and vice versa,” said Davis “Dee” Frober, minister to internationals at Forest Hills Baptist Church and the chief organizer of the trip. “The best way to overcome these misconceptions is to meet face to face, eat together, sit at table together and build relationships.”

During the business and civic leaders forum Sept. 8, Byrd and Hill spoke on the way faith influences government and how religious belief provides a foundation for values. Durley, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, described the higher authority that leaders must answer to in order to be effective public servants.

“Any effective leader must realize they are human,” Durley said. “They will reach a point when they don’t know what to do. When they reach that point, they must call on a higher authority than themselves.”

Gao Feng, president of the China Christian Council, spoke of the ways religion contributes to a stable and harmonious society, allowing both government and business to prosper.

“Without the harmony in religions, they cannot have any positive influence on the society,” Gao said. “Harmonious religions should encourage their members to love the country and love the faith, to abide by the laws and regulations, to adapt themselves to the society and keep pace with the times, to stress the moral development and social services and care, to emphasize the cultural heritages and personal training, to tolerate and to set up dialogues and cooperation.”

The Multi-faith Dialogue Sept. 9 focused on religion and family. Moderated by Graham Walker, associate dean and professor at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, the dialogue featured presentations from Jing Yin, member of the standing committee of the Buddhist Association of China; Ding Changyun, deputy president of the China Taoist association; Abbott Michael Elliston of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center; and Monsignor Henry Gracz, pastor of Atlanta’s Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Exploring the impact of single child families in China on the well being, Jing said there was often a conflict between pursuit of wealth and happiness. He suggested religion and family can and should work together to achieve happiness and fulfillment.

In his presentation, Gracz described the media as replacing the family and religion in imparting values to successive generations. “The role of faith as lived in the context of the Christian church, of course Catholics, is paramount in the modern age. All humanity function with certain paradigms, that is, those principles that are the very basis of their decision, which form their values.”

From the Taoist perspective, Ding said family and society benefit from the principles of selflessness and “curtailing desires.”

“We say ‘no crime is greater than having desires. No calamity is greater than not knowing contentment,’” Ding said. “Same as Buddhism, Confucianism and other world religions, Taoism is aware of the different demanding levels on life, and indicates the danger that the material desires destroy human nature…”

Elliston, a Buddhist, expanded the idea of family and applied the principles to society in general. 

“Buddhism is adapting to the American culture and vice versa,” Elliston said. “Imagine Buddhism as American as apple pie… The Buddhist family, or community, is a legacy of optimistic inclusion. All are invited to join.”

The Chinese delegation will be in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9-14, where they will be hosted by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. There they will participate in several forums on the intersection of religion and government in the United States and China. U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., will serve as honorary co-hosts for an event sponsored by the Faith and Politics Institute, The Interfaith Conference for Metropolitan Washington and the Ministry to Internationals of Forest Hills Baptist Church.

Also, Ambassador Jeffrey Bader of the Brookings Institution will host a forum where representatives of the China Christian Council, State Administration for Religious Affairs and numerous other Chinese religious leaders will speak and allow questions following their presentations. The event is from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Thurs., Sept. 11, at the Brookings Institution at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington. The Deputy Administrator for the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Wang Zuo’an, will provide an overview of religious policy in China, and the general secretary of the China Christian Council, Kan Baoping, will give an overview of Christianity in China, including the influence, major challenges and trends of Christianity in the country.

“Trusting relationships are being formed in these few short days,” Frober said. “Dialogue about substantive issues has taken place, and vision and dreams for the future are being cast that will form new realities to help us accomplish these goals.” 

CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.


Lance Wallace, CBF Communications

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

posted Aug 21, 2010, 4:49 PM by Tayo Jolaoso   [ updated Aug 22, 2010, 12:00 AM ]

This past October, I visited China as a part of an American-Chinese Multi-Faith Religious Exchange that was sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., and the Baptist Joint Committee. For nearly two weeks, 13 of us — Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Muslim and Buddhist — met with our counterpart Chinese religious leaders as well as governmental officials to discuss religion and religious liberty both in China and the United States. I also welcomed the opportunity to present two papers on religious liberty and pluralism in the United States to Chinese scholars in Beijing and Shanghai.

Evaluating the state of religion and religious liberty in China is a dicey endeavor. 

It is often said that everything you hear about China is probably true somewhere in China. China’s 1.3 billion population with 56 ethnic groups strewn across the Asian continent with several millennia of history almost defies generalization.

Religion, qua religion, is thriving. We have seen dramatic growth in numbers and vibrancy of religion generally and Christian churches specifically— both registered and house churches. Believe it or not, today there are more Christians in China than members of the Chinese Communist Party. Clearly, the Gospel has burgeoned in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and the re-opening of churches in 1979.

 But what about religious liberty? Here, there is bad news and good news. The bad news first.

The Chinese constitution protects only “freedom of religious belief” and “normal religious activity.” This generally means state-regulated “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant) have the right to worship unmolested and to proselytize within the four walls of their house of worship — but not on the street corner outside of it. The extent to which various folk religions, other denominational traditions and unregistered religious organizations are free to worship varies from region to region. All of this is to say that some religion is sometimes “tolerated” in China; there is no right to unvarnished religious expression and proselytizing in the public square or to level a robust religious critique of government. Religion is permitted to exist and is sometimes actually promoted (the state often pays for the purchase of land for churches and seminaries) when the state judges it will spawn what the Chinese call the “harmonious society.” Beyond this, groups the state considers “evil religions,” such as the Falun Gong or ones that are deemed to be splitist, like the Tibetan Buddhists, or supporting terrorism, like Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, are often persecuted.

 But here is the good news. China has been working on religious liberty for only about 30 years; in this country, we have been at it for nearly 300 years and still do not always get the church-state equation right. Chinese culture throughout its history has been hierarchical, authoritarian and communal. As a result, the Chinese are not used to thinking about individual rights. They will always be more interested in promoting the “harmonious society” over the sometimes cacophonous clash of individualism, but progress is being made. Seminaries in China — including the Jinling Seminary in Nanjing that we visited — enjoy a modest degree of academic freedom. The printing and distribution of Bibles is rampant. The Amity Printing Company, which we also toured, puts out about 1.5 million Bibles each month, as well as other religious literature. Although retrograde forces exist in the Chinese Communist Party and the State Administration for Religious Affairs, some government officials are  working within the system to help expand the vistas of religious liberty. That our delegation was invited in the first place and given fairly wide latitude to promote religious freedom by critiquing the Chinese system is evidence of this fact.

China does not turn on a dime. It never has in 4,000 years and will not now. Nor will China respond to dire threats and embarrassing diatribes about its shortcomings on the religious freedom front. It must “save face” at all costs.

We need to continue to build relationships with the Chinese — religious leaders and government officials alike. We should press for more religious liberty. The message that I promoted in China is that when religious people are a demonstrable threat — splitist, terrorist or otherwise harmful to the well-being of others — then government can legitimately take steps to rein it in, but carefully and not before. In the end, full fledged religious liberty will actually promote a “harmonious society” more than divisive governmental intervention into the religious demography — favoring some, disfavoring others and persecuting many.

Religious liberty is good for both religion and the state — and that goes for China, too.


J. Brent Walker, BJC Executive Director

Business and Civic Forum - Global Atlanta

posted Aug 21, 2010, 4:16 PM by Tayo Jolaoso   [ updated Aug 21, 2010, 4:57 PM ]

The U.S. and China trade like old friends, but as their economies have become more intertwined, both sides have realized the need for cultural understanding on issues like faith and ethics.

Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics highlighted this gap.  Activists scolded China for not living up to the religious and social openness it promised when rewarded the Games.  At the same time, China wowed the world with dazzling ceremonies and evidence of its economic rise.

From Sept. 5-9, Atlanta, an Olympic city with a history of civil rights activism, became the epicenter of a new effort to reconcile China’s mystifying economic promise with what many westerners see as its spotty record on religious freedom.

The first-ever American-Chinese Multi-Faith Religious Exchange brought top leaders from China’s five government-recognized religions—Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism—to the Georgia capital for four days of meetings with government, civic and religious leaders.

They aimed to foster conversation on a wide range of interfaith issues like the role of religion in society and its ability to fend off corruption in government and business.

The issue has gained as more Chinese have begun to turn to religion.  A study conducted by the Shanghai-based East China Normal University concluded in 2007 that some 31.4 percent of Chinese citizens over the age of 16 are religious.

That’s a total of 300 million, three times more than the official government estimate had been, according to a Pew Research Center report issued in May.

A Sept. 9 forum at Mercer University’s Atlanta campus linked the delegation with two Georgia lawmakers who have been influential in promoting the state’s trade relationship with China.

For two straight years, State Rep. Charlice Byrd, R-Woodstock, and State Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, have sponsored resolutions in their respective houses to recognize the country’s importance to the state’s economy and cultural community. 

The lawmakers spoke on the role of religion in creating the societal conditions necessary for business to take root. 

“The effect of religion on business is much like that effect on government.  Positive influences and good practices taught in religion are most beneficial to an economy,” Ms. Byrd said.

Religions agree on the existence of a moral code, which creates stability that sustains economic development and advances society, she said.

Mr. Hill spoke candidly of his own Christian faith and suggested that a leader without faith in some religion is like “a ship without a rudder.”  In business or government, strong leadership requires deep-rooted values that don’t “shift with political winds,” he said.

“If you have the ability to choose leaders, it is very important to determine the values they possess because it’s those values that determine how they will rule, lead and how they will conduct business,” he added.

The groundbreaking exchange was organized by the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other organizations under the auspices of the Chinese Embassy inWashington.

The visit stemmed from a meeting last year between Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhongand Dee Froeber, an international minister at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.

Mr. Froeber told GlobalAtlanta that Atlanta was a good place to host the event because it’s the only city in the South with a larger Chinese community than Raleigh, where he estimates that about 15,000 ethnic Chinese live.

After its time in Atlanta, the delegation spent Sept. 9-14 in the nation’s capital, meeting with legislators and institutes to discuss religious freedom in China and the role of faith in public life.

In a speech preceding Mr. Hill and Ms. Byrd, Gao Feng, president of the Shanghai-basedChina Christian Council, spoke on how religion contributes to the construction of a harmonious society. 

The “Harmonious Society” has been a buzzword in the highest levels of Chinese government, a sort of mantra that President Hu Jintao coined to guide many of the ruling Communist Party’s policies.

In an unprecedented gesture by the highest leader of the officially atheist party, Mr. Hu last December recognized that religion could play a positive role in China, where rapid urban migrations and economic growth present some of the world’s most complex social challenges.


Trevor Williams - Reporter

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