Refugee doctor to receive human rights award

Cynthia Maung, a medical doctor who has devoted nearly 30 years to providing healthcare to refugees from Myanmar living on the Thai-Myanmar border, will be the 2017 recipient of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.

The award is given for significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights as stated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other declarations on human rights.

The award presentation will be made by the General Council, which convenes during the BWA Annual Gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, from July 2-7.


Maung was among the displaced Karen who fled to and settled in Mae Sot on the border between Thailand and Myanmar.

Since 1949, the Karen people, an ethnic minority group in Myanmar, have been fighting for an independent Karen State. Hundreds of thousands of Karen and others from various ethnic groups have been killed in the conflict and many Karen have fled across the border into Thailand.

In February 1989, five months after escaping Myanmar, Maung established the Mae Tao Medical Clinic with a staff of six in a dilapidated building in Mae Sot. In the early days, she sterilized her medical instruments in a rice cooker. At its original location, the clinic was frequently affected by natural disasters such as floods. It has since relocated to a safer building.

The clinic was opened in response to the prevalence of infectious and other diseases such as malaria and pneumonia in Mae Sot and other refugee camps. It received support from Baptists in Thailand and elsewhere, the Karen and residents of Mae Sot.

Using donated medical supplies, the malaria epidemic was brought under control. Trauma victims with gunshot wounds and injuries from landmines received treatment, as well as those who needed maternity care and HIV counseling.

By 2003, the clinic was treating more than 42,000 patients per year and had a staff that included six doctors, 86 health workers, 150 other medical and administrative staff members and 20-40 international volunteers per year. 

The clinic, which now has a staff of more than 600, delivers up to 15 babies per day and fits 250 new and replacement prosthetic limbs each year. It treats between 300 and 400 patients daily, or up to 150,000 annually, including refugees, migrant workers and locals.

In addition to medical treatments, the Mae Tao Medical Clinic trains medical interns, nurses and hygienists. Its social programs include feeding more than 500 people twice each day.

Maung’s clinical interests in obstetrics and women’s reproductive health have broadened to include issues of domestic violence and human rights.

More than 50 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, educational institutions and individual donors have supported the clinic and its programs.

Maung, the fourth of eight children, was born into a Baptist Karen family near the city of Moulmein, Myanmar, in 1959. “Dr. Cynthia Maung is a woman of faith who has committed her life selflessly for the welfare of the poor and oppressed,” the BWA Executive Committee was told. ”She is a member of the the Kawthloolei Karen Baptist Churches and involved with the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation women’s work.”

She entered the Institute of Medicine II in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the medical school in which Karen, Mons, Arakanese and other minority students in Myanmar are concentrated.

After graduating medical school in 1985, she worked in a private maternity clinic in Bassein, operated by her great-aunt, a nurse, in the beginning of her specialization in obstetrics and gynecology. She left that facility and worked at a clinic in the village of Eaim Du to be near her ill mother. Political crisis and unrest in the country in 1988 led to her and others fleeing.

Maung had previously received the Jonathan Mann Award, sponsored by Swiss and US health organizations, in 1999; Southeast Asia’s Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership in 2002; the Sydney Peace Prize in 2013; and the South Korean POSCO TJ Park Prize in 2015. She was named one of Time magazine’s Asian Heroes in 2003.

 Baptist World Alliance®
©March 8, 2016

 

A Baptist World Alliance statement on refugees

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) reaffirms its biblical stance concerning refugees, vulnerable people who are oftentimes victimized for their faith.

In a resolution approved by its General Council in Vancouver, Canada, in July 2016, the BWA calls upon its "member bodies, affiliated churches, and individual believers to actively embrace opportunities for Christian ministry and witness that exemplify the biblical teaching to love the stranger (Lev. 19:18b) and Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40), being salt and light in ways that bring the values of our Lord into our culture.”

The resolution further encourages Christian believers "to personally engage with all refugees and displaced persons, generously showing God’s love and care as we demonstrate the sufficiency of God made known through Jesus Christ.”

In light of this resolution passed a little more than six months ago and previous resolutions in 2011 and 2013, the BWA decries recent actions by the United States Government to issue a blanket travel ban on seven countries that specifically targets refugees and that seems to especially affect Muslims.

These actions are already having a negative impact on the lives of families. It has adversely affected service providers who work directly with refugees and has created unexpected difficulties for Baptist institutions in the United States, such as universities and seminaries, with students enrolled from the seven named countries.

While the BWA recognizes that a government has a right to create and maintain conditions that provide for the safety of its citizens, there is a temptation to give in to fear and to hastily pursue misguided policies that will have deleterious long-term effects and that undermine freedom of religion.

We accept this is not a situation that has emerged quickly and is in part a response to longstanding problems in these seven countries. We decry unjust actions that are too often left unaddressed and conditions that are allowed to deteriorate.

We note that in Iraq, Christians, Yazidis and others face genocide at the hands of the Islamic State. Over the last decade, the Christian population in Iraq has shrunk from 1.5 million to less than 200,000.

In Yemen, a Global Alert from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network indicates that Yemen is at risk of the highest level of food insecurity.

Syria is one of the most complex conflicts and humanitarian situations in our world that has devastated the country, which faces a future of trauma and rebuilding.

Baptists, fellow Christians and all people of goodwill should work to reverse conditions that lead to displacement in these and other countries and for peace, harmony and justice to prevail.

The BWA commends Baptists in countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Germany, Sweden, Croatia, Serbia and elsewhere, who have embodied the biblical mandate to stand with the vulnerable and to extend Christian hospitality. We support Baptists in the United States who offer welcome and provide assistance.

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 3, 2016

Callam to be honored

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) will host two events and establish a special fund to honor General Secretary Neville Callam for his decade long service.

Callam announced his intention to retire from the position come December 31, 2017. A Jamaican, he is the first black person and the first from the Global South to lead the international umbrella organization for Baptists. He was elected in Accra, Ghana, in July 2007.

A dinner will be held in his honor on Thursday, July 6, during the Annual Gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, and a special event will be held in the state of Virginia in the United States in October.

In addition, the Callam Unity Fund is being established to strengthen the bonds of oneness and unity among Baptists and beyond.

Contributions to the Callam Unity Fund may be made online at www.bwanet.org/give. Online donors may select “Callam Unity Fund” from the campaign dropdown menu inside the donation system.

For check donations, persons should write “Callam Unity Fund” on the memo line. Send check to:

Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046, USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 25, 2017

 

World Baptists and Methodists dialogue in Jamaica



Members of the BWA-WMC dialogue teamsThe Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the World Methodist Council (WMC) will engage in the fourth session of the international theological dialogue between the two Christian World Communions in Runaway Bay on Jamaica’s north coast, from February 1-8.

The 2017 theme is, “The Call to Discipleship: Faith Working through Love.” Special attention will be given to global Baptist and Methodist practices and beliefs.

Presenters and discussants will explore the relationship between grace and faith; worship and preaching; and the spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading, fellowship, service, hospitality, witness and mercy.

Worship conducted at the meetings will include reflections on stories related to the theme and topics.

The BWA delegation comprises dialogue Co-chair Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke University Divinity School in the United States; Deji Isaac Ayegboyin, professor of Church History and African Christianity at the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan in Nigeria; Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of biblical exegesis at the Catholic Institute, Paris, France, and director for its Institute for Bible and Orientalism; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in the US; Stephen Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland; and R. L. Hnuni, principal of Calcutta Bible Seminary in Kolkata, India.

Methodist representatives are dialogue Co-chair Tim Macquiban, minister of Wesley Church and superintendent minister in the United Kingdom; Paul W. Chilcote, academic dean and professor of historical theology and Wesleyan Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in the US; Christine Gooden-Benguche, secretary, Jamaica District Conference, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas; Lauren Claire Matthew, minister in the Umngeni Circuit, Natal Coastal District in South Africa, district supervisor of studies of the General Committee of Education for Mission and president of the Youth and Young Adult Committee of the WMC; Ulrike Schuler, professor for Church History, Methodism and Ecumenism at Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany; and Malcolm Tan, pastor, Barker Road Methodist Church in Singapore.

BWA coordinator for the Division on Mission, Evangelism and Justice, Trisha Miller Manarin, serves as BWA staff liaison at the meeting.

Previous sessions of the BWA-WMC dialogue were held in the United States in 2014, Singapore in 2015 and Germany in 2016. The final session will take place in February 2018.

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 1, 2016

Interim Baptist women’s director appointed

Moreen SharpMoreen Sharp, a Canadian and president of the North American Baptist Women's Union (NABWU) and a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance Women's Department (BWAWD), has been appointed interim executive director of the BWAWD.

Sharp currently volunteers part-time as BWAWD acting executive director and will become full time interim executive director in November. Her appointment lasts until July 2020.

She succeeds American Patsy Davis, who retired December 31, 2015, after working as BWAWD executive director for 17 years.

Sharp has had longstanding involvement in women’s ministry. From 2008-2010, she was president of Women in Focus, the women’s group for Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. During that time she was also on the boards of Canadian Baptist Ministries, Canadian Baptist Women and NABWU, one of seven continental unions of BWAWD.

 

In 2012, Sharp was elected NABWU president for a five-year term that ends October 2017. She is a member of the BWA General Council and the Commission on Human Rights Advocacy, as well as the General Council of the North American Baptist Fellowship.

“Moreen has an excellent testimony of Christian character and is recognized by the Baptist family as ‘capable, organized, relational and visionary,’” said BWAWD President Ksenija Magda of Croatia. “She will be a great Women’s Department advocate and a gracious colleague to the BWA General Secretary and staff.”

She and her husband, Paul, have been ministry partners for more than 30 years in several countries. Moreen has led teaching, music and drama ministries in Japan, India and Canada. The couple has engaged in transitional ministry, serving various congregations in Canada on a short term basis.

She holds a theological degree from Regent College, an international graduate school of Christian Studies in the city of Vancouver in Canada.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 19, 2017