By Jude Corliss
Central China: This year has been a difficult one for race relations in Central and Western China. A spate of what have been called separatist terrorist attacks have left feelings between the majority Han and the dozens of (often Muslim) minority groups suspicious at best and icy at worst. At least 68 people are dead and dozens of others have been jailed or executed on terrorism charges in the last few months alone. Even in regions where the groups live and work together amicably - in keeping with the government’s policy of harmony - there is a reluctance to associate with one another. And Han Christians are not immune.
“I haven’t befriended them all these years,” one woman, Mei, told SIM worker, Daisy Wu, "and I advise you not to do so while you’re here either.”
Daisy, a paralegal born in Asia but trained in the West, had become friends with Mei because of their shared faith, shared history of living in Europe and shared profession - Mei is a retired lawyer. She had been a great source of support and encouragement to Daisy and her husband since their return to China to begin outreach work. Mei had even given them Chinese language Bibles for their friends. But Daisy felt her quiet racism had to be addressed.
“This is ok for non-Christians,” Daisy says “but a believer should have a higher standard.” They spoke with Mei at length about it and now, says Daisy, “she is working on the issue with the Lord.”
The house churches in Daisy’s city are equally hesitant about reaching out to their minority Muslim neighbors. The few minority people that are part of the church are an exception because they have, for one reason or another, almost totally “integrated” into Han society, Daisy says. Most people echo Mei’s sentiment that the minority groups are just too “different and complicated - difficult.”
But Daisy and her husband, Roger, are committed to not only befriending the minorities of that region themselves but to stirring up the Chinese churches to do the same. She is finding that teaching law at the metropolitan university is not enough - she must also become a teacher of that perhaps most unappreciated of New Testament ideas: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female - for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
*Personal details about the people in this story have been changed to protect their identities.