In January I spent the week in Malaysia, at meetings of the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation. The APBF represents 60 different Baptist groups in 22 countries with over 33,000 local churches.
The conference was a meeting of three subcommittees within APBF – Theology, Mission and Development. I was there for the development meetings, but I admit I snuck into some of the others to see what they were doing!
The APBF region covers a huge area stretching from Korea, Japan and China across to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and down through all of Southeast Asia – Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines; into the Pacific – PNG, Vanuatu and Fiji were represented, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
- It is an area with a huge number of people – when you include China and India each with over a billion people, the region probably has close to half the world’s population.
- It is an area containing the largest Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist populations in the world – one of the series of seminars in the conference was around the issues of being a Christian minority in Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist countries.
- It is an area of linguistic and ethnic diversity, with resulting political and conflict issues, such as the Rohingya issue in Myanmar.
- It is an area of huge economic differences – from the wealth of New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Korea; through the booming economies of China and India, and the growth of places like Malaysia and Vietnam; alongside some extremes of poverty.
- It is an area on the Pacific ‘rim of fire’, subject to earthquakes and volcanic activity. We in New Zealand are a part of that, and know what it is like to be hit by major earthquakes. 2018 saw the volcanic eruptions in Vanuatu, and the tsunami effects in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
- It is an area that includes countries that will be particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Some of the most violent storms on record have hit countries in the region over the last few years. Low lying Pacific islands and countries like Bangladesh will become uninhabitable with rising sea levels.
My contribution was a presentation on SME Business as a tool for development. The paper I presented is on the Banzaid website, and you can read it here.
Christians are a minority in most of the countries of the region, but still with a strong presence. There were 172 of us there, all Baptists involved in leadership across the three areas of theology, mission and development, and it was encouraging to hear the stories of things experienced and things that are being done. The theme of the conference was “Stronger Together”, and that was certainly shown in many of the presentations. The group making DIY micro hydro-power systems for the ‘long house’ residents of remote villages in Sarawak. Support for Nepalese migrant workers working in countries across the Middle East and South East Asia. Groups working against situations of exploitation and trafficking. Rebuilding communities after disaster. Being the church in hostile environments.
ASIA PACIFIC BAPTIST FEDERATION
The APBF is a regional Baptist organisation of 33,000 local churches and 60 Conventions in 22 countries across the Asia Pacific region.
- To promote fellowship, cooperation and service amongst Baptists
- To assist in consultation and planning for various ministry programmes
- Aid and development through the APBAid Committee, working in relief, development and peacemaking through the region
- Missions – living and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
- Theological Education – assisting and guiding the training of leaders for the Baptist churches throughout the region
- Women – connecting women in fellowship across the region, and empowering women for leadership
- Youth – networking Baptist youth organisations
- Bringing oneness to Baptist people because we are stronger when we work together
- Living lives that are fully dependent on God in obedience to the Word and the Spirit
- Doing our best because it honours God and inspires others
- Integrity – committed to being honest, transparent and accountable