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This self-critical approach implies on the other side an affirmation of the liberative thrust of biblical faith in such a way that struggles for the transformation of society can be fought in solidarity with non-Christians,

Groups like the Christian Workers' Fellowship and the Devasarana Collective Farm in Sri Lanka have developed forms of celebration and dialogue in which different religious traditions which matter to people are articulated side by side in such a way that people do not feel threatened but mutually encouraged. The ways in which non-Christian activists have been relating to such groups and to theological thinkers like M. M. Thomas, Sebastian Kappen and Samuel Rayan in India show what is possible.

This points to the crucial task of liberation theology in Asia: to speak from the core of the biblical messages in such a way that the solidarity between Christian and non-Christian Asians in their sufferings and struggles gets expressed and enhanced, without obliterating their specific identities-

One of the most striking elements of such a theological response to the Asian context is the reflection on God's suffering and its relation to the sufferings of people. The response to the suffering from colonialism and war, from poverty and disease, from discrimination and repression, from death on a mass scale is central to all liberation theology, which starts with listening to the cries of those who suffer and the attempt to understand the causes of their sufferings. But in Asia the concern with suffering and liberation from it strikes at the same time a chord with the core theme of one of its greatest religious traditions, namely that of Buddhism. The Buddha came to see life as suffering, and Asia knows of the yearning of the heart for liberation from suffering.

The Taiwanese theologian Choan-Seng Song takes up this theme by reflecting on the pain-love of God in view of human suffering and the threat of evil forces. Listening to the great Asian traditions and to the poems and stories of people, and avoiding treatises in the rationalist style of Western theology, he speaks of God as Creator and Redeemer using existential categories of the heart rather than rational categories of the mind, C. S. Song's concern in dialogue with Buddhist traditions is to take the reality of suffering seriously in such a way that in the midst of it meaning can be found and hope can be articulated which enables people to involve themselves in protest and struggle. Traditionally Buddhism may tend to seek a way out of suffering by reaching nirvana - as many pious Christians do by their longing for heaven - but the practical involvement of Buddhist monks in protest actions against the dictatorial regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam in the early 1970s, when some of them took to self-immolation in the streets of Saigon, suggests to Song that the Asian tradition of facing and accepting suffering can become part of people's struggles against tyranny and exploitation. Cross and Lotus symbolise different religious spiritualities, but they must meet.

The lotus still looks as peaceful as ever. But it symbolizes peace in the midst of unrest and fear. It still appears as tranquil as ever, but its tranquility is surrounded by the fire of destruction. It still looks toward Nirvana as the destination of human striving, but its Nirvana is forced to take history seriously. Here the cross can and must meet the lotus/

The involvement of Christians in protest movements in South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan, bearing the risk of imprisonment, torture and death witnesses that a deeper understanding of the implications of Christian faith is bringing them close together with the suffering masses of Asia, and thus closer to the aching of God's heart, whose pain-love affirms life against the forces of evil and death.

The Korean Minjung theology is the strongest example in Asia of a liberative theology born in the context of people's suffering and corporate struggles.1 It is not the theology of one theologian but indeed a people's theology worked out by a number of theologians connected with people's organisations. In it suffering people find a voice. The Korean people have gone through many sufferings: under the rule of the Yi dynasty over five centuries, under the imperialist rule of Japan (1905-45), from the traumatic post World War II division of the country and the devastating war of 1950-3, and under dictatorial rule both in North and South Korea, be it in the name of communism or for the sake of technocratic capitalism. Under all these regimes the Minjung, the common people, suffered and rose in rebellion, long ago, 111 the Tonghak Peasant Revolution of 1894, in the March First Independence Movement of 1919, and in the struggles for democracy in the 1970s and 1980s,

The Protestant Mission which entered Korea 111 the 1880s got rooted among the lower classes due to the translation of the Bible not into the Chinese language of the ruling elite but into the - neglected - Korean vernacular script of the common people, providing them with a language of liberation of oppressed people. The biblical stories, parables and symbols rather than the abstract doctrines of the missionaries appealed to the people who recognised in them their own story of enslavement and suffering, and their hopes and longing for freedom and well-being. The missionaries tried to keep the Korean Christians away from political involvement in opposition to Japanese rule. But the Christian community based among the poor at the bottom of society attracted more and more people who found in it spiritual and moral resources for the regeneration of the nation. The Christians shared the aspirations of the Korean people at large for


h national independence. And they suffered for it, both as Christians and as Koreans, and thus the Christian language of suffering got related to the suffering of people at large, The biblical stories of the Exodus and of the trial and passion of Jesus interpreted what happened in the present. Once again the Exodus symbol became a revolutionary paradigm.3 The Japanese government even banned the book of Exodus. However, the kairos of involvement in 1919 was followed by a long period of withdrawal into a church ghetto which lasted till the end of the 1950s. The emergence of the student movement in i960 and the military coup in 1961 followed by the brutal Park Regime {1962-79) drew Korean Christians again into social and political action, at the price of harassment and imprisonment. Continuity was provided by Kim Jai-Jun {born 1901), an Old Testament scholar who related the prophetic vision of a just society and the suffering servanthood of Christ to the mission of the Church aiming at the transformation of Korean history,4 Students, workers, community workers and clergy were involved through such organisations as Urban Rural Mission (URM), Korea SCM, the Seoul Metropolitan Community Organisation, new institutes for mission and theological study, and new congregations and communities such as the Galilee Church for squatters, the House of Dawn, and ecumenical fellowship groups. Tremendous inspiration came from the Catholic poet Kim Chi-ha5 both through his writings and through the courage with which he suffered torture and years of solitary confinement in prison. In his poems and ballad-plays the suffering Korean people, Minjung, and the suffering Christ are central.5 He relates at the same time to the Minjung traditions of Korean history, such as the Tong Hak uprising with its messianic and shamanistic elements.

Speaking of Minjung as the subjects of history Korean theologians distinguish themselves simultaneously from a traditional and modern Christian preoccupation with the subjectivity of the individual and from a rigid sort of Marxist class analysis and revolution theory. Minjung are the exploited and oppressed people. Who belongs to them cannot be defined by socioeconomic factors alone as Marxist theory does when it speaks of the proletariat. Minjung is a wider, more dynamic concept, says Kim Yong Bock:

Woman belongs to minjung when she is politically dominated by man. An ethnic group is a minjung group when it is politically dominated by another group, A race is minjung when it is dominated by another powerful ruling race. When intellectuals are suppressed by the military power elite, they belong to minjung. Of course, the same applies to the workers and farmers.6

In their biblical studies the Minjung theologians have tried to identify biblical parallels to the concept of Minjung,7 Mark's use of the term ochlos and his avoidance of the term laos distinguishes the people with whom Jesus sides both from the nation as a whole and from an organised class, according to Ahn Byung Mu, The Korean theologians obviously want to keep the conccpt of Minjung flexible and to avoid a rigid political-ideological fixation. Kim Chi-ha especially stresses Jesus' identification with lepers and prostitutes, with the most destitute victims of society, who would not qualify as members of the proletariat.

A significant aspect of their explorations into the history of the Korean Minjung and of cultural and religious expressions of its consciousness is the appreciation of positive elements in Shamanism and Maitreya Buddhism with its Messianic Buddha who comes to rescue the people from suffering. These are popular religious traditions among the Minjung, whereas Confucianism is the tradition of the ruling class. Here is a liberation-oriented political theology which focuscs on the political but does not ignore people's piety. This may be seen as the positive outcome of the basic understanding that people who are objects of oppression are meant to become subjects of history and therefore have to be taken seriously also in what they feel and hope. Shaman priests, often women, perform rites to resolve ban, i.e. problems caused by the grief of people who have died and cause suffering as ghosts. Usually the rites are limited to releasing the ban of the dead. But contemporary writers have developed a political understanding of the ban of the Minjung caused by endless injustice and of the need of exorcising it. Kim Chi-ha sees himself as a transmitter of han^ as one who voices the bitter sense of grief and indignation of the Minjung, This can be sublimated in a dynamic way as the energy for revolution. 'People's han and rage ought to be liberated from its masochistic exercise to be a great and fervent clamor asking for God's justice. If needed, it ought to be developed into a decisive and organised explosion. This miraculous transition lies in religious commitment and in internal and spiritual transformation. It is a service of the prophetic religions of love to shake the emotions of the oppressed people, who after a long time of dehumanisation have become wretches who have lost their passion for justice. Their rage has turned into self-hatred and frustration. To awaken them is the mystery of resurrection which fashions people in God's image. Such resurrection is revolution. Kim calls it 'the unity of God and revolution'.9

Suffering is one basic aspect of Asian reality; the process of rapid and often revolutionary social change is another aspect which has provoked theological reflection. What God is doing in and through the 'Asian revolution' is a question which M, M. Thomas, in India, has been asking,10 And how, accordingly, are Christians expected to participate in the process? Thomas may not be directly counted among the theologians of liberation.

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