Monthly Archives: January 2008

Distance Theology and Karen Refugees

Stephen (of Greenflame) sent me the URL of an article by Terry Veling of the ACU School of Theology: “A Reflection on Karen Refugee Students on the Thai-Burma Border” it is an account of teaching Karen refugees a practical theology paper by distance learning, with a tutor who visited for three weeks. ACU are apparently offering courses by distance in the camps. The article was not only interesting for its insights into the plight of the Karen in and outside Burma, but also in modelling a different approach from that taken by the Kaw Thoo Lei Karen Baptist Bible School and College.

Photo of KKBBSC graduation ceremony from KarenConnection

Graduation at KKBBSC from karenkonnection.orgThe ACU have opted to offer the best of Western theological teaching, and an Internationally recognised qualification, by distance in the camps, enriched by visits from tutors. KKBBSC seems to be a home-grown Karen initiative,

[9 Feb 08 – Following the helpful comment by Sam, below, I realise that I expressed what followed badly, I wrote: “taught (as I currently understand it) mainly by Nagas from NE India.” I should have written something like:]

the teaching provided by the Karen leaders of the college is supplemented (as I currently understand it) mainly by Nagas from NE India.

Since the Naga people have culture and history that is more similar to the Karen this is likely to lead to a more contextually appropriate theology, but it probably therefore lacks some of the rigour of Western education and gives a qualification that will not be as recognised if the student is resettled to a Western country.

Clearly there are advantages to both approaches. It will be interesting to compare them more when we have been to KKBBSC and also to reflect if there are ways we can assist Saw Simon and the others to achieve the best results without betraying their huge achievements!

Video for the trip

In the expectation that we’ll meet interesting people, and see strange sights, while we are away, and in the hopes of sharing some of the experiences with you we will be taking a Canon TX1 with us.

It’s a nifty little gadget, fits in my shirt pocket, takes still or video images, with a good (10x optical) zoom. It will record video in either normal or HQ mode, and we hope to be able to upload some (compressed with Flash) while we are away and more (maybe better quality) when we get back. As a test of what’s possible, here is a pretty good version of a short clip I took out of the study window (just handheld, so jerky, sorry).

Getting ready

We’ve entered the last phase of getting ready. The check-lists are getting ticked off:

  • notes and digital reader/anthology sent to CTS  
  • tickets arranged and bought
  • flight details sent to CTS (BTW we’ll have a cell phone while there and the number will be +94 724210739)
  • arranged with Karen Bible School that they will find us at the Guest House in Mae Sot on 3rd March
  • visas (we have just discovered that to stay more than a month in Thailand we’ll need visas, yesterday the Royal Thai Consulate was still closed for Christmas/summer holidays…)
  • vaccinations – we have most of them but need blood tests to check some are still working (they took the blood this morning)
  • anti-malarials (at least, we have arranged to get the prescriptions)
  • water treatment (we are wondering if one of the neat new UV pens will do the trick)
  • first aid kit

So, we are getting there. It feels a bit like being missionaries again, preparing to go to places very different from home. So far despite our rather disorganised and last minute approach God has been gracious and no major problems.

Sri Lanka: the year of war?

The BBC published a discouraging article yesterday about the official breakdown of the Sri Lanka ceasefire, and other worrying recent trends in the conflict between the government and the Tamil Tiger movement. The article began:

  It had been widely predicted that “2008 would be the year of war for Sri Lanka”. The current escalation of violence since 1 January supports those fears…
With some 5,000 people killed in the last two years, the ceasefire was nothing more than a piece of paper. Now there are fears that a full-fledged conflict is on the cards.

There have been asassinations and at least one bomb in Colombo not far from CTS. If you are following our journey, please pray for peace in this beautiful country which has known conflict for so long.

Sri Lanka progress and concerns

Since I started back after New Year I’ve been finishing off the reader for the students, I posted the CD yesterday, and making interactive notes on the textbook for the introductory sessions to get students started thinking on narrative lines. However, the closer we get to departing the more the troubled political situation (the long-running war between the Tamil Tigers and the government) is a concern, first there was a bomb quite close to the college, now more recently an official reopening of hostilities. We’d be glad of your prayers for the places we’ll be teaching, both are troubled and in need of lasting and just peace.