Felix WilfredEditor-in-Chief, ijac, University of Madras, Madras, India

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Undoubtedly, the developments within Chinese society have captured the attention of the entire world on several counts. The tight state-control of religions and attempt to sinicize them, for example, raises the question about the nature of Christian presence, engagement of the Church, and theology. The opening article in this issue by Wenjuan Zhao dwells on this question. It argues the serious limits of the Christendom tradition and different forms of Western theology to come to terms with the present situation in China. The viability of even the modern correlation theology of Tillich and others to the condition in China is questioned by the author. Reflecting from an Evangelical point of view, she underscores the need for the Church to become an alternative political impetus to influence Chinese society and transform it rather than accommodate to it. The author dwells on the implications of this approach for theological education and its method in the Chinese context.

The article that follows by Chandra Mallampalli studies the problematic minority situation of Christians and their vulnerability in three instances – China, Myanmar, and India. The author describes how in these countries, the ideologies of majoritarianism and religious nationalism continue to dominate and tend to homogenize the minorities, revealing some common patterns. According to him, a way out for the minorities in this situation would be to start thinking outside of the nation-state frame. In this context, the article proposes the need for Islamo-Christian solidarity, overcoming the traditional Christian-Islam antagonism in the West with its deep historical roots. The article illustrates the point with a few examples of how Islamo-Christian solidarity could be created. Further, the author maintains that simple recourse to the liberal ideal of religious freedom may not solve the problem of minorities in the three countries studied.

The jointly authored article by Dechen Dolkar Bhutia and Namrata Chaturvedi, “Soldier Saints, Missionaries and the Mountains: Nostalgic Piety, Military Theology and Material memory in Eastern Himalayas” offers a new dimension in the study of Christianity in South Asia by recognising the social capital of the Christian soldiers of the British empire whose lives and deaths have been studied through a historical and sociological lens but not through the perspective of religious studies. This model can be applied to the study of Christian lives and afterlives in other colonised cultures too, through the emerging paradigms of the materiality of religion. While Indian Christianity constantly negotiates polarised perspectives due to its colonial history, studying the cultural performance of death can help in exploring inter-religious relationships in a new way. This exciting study could be e a starting point to dig into the spatiality and material memory in Indian Christianity through cemeteries and the associated human and material labour involved. By focusing on the eastern Himalayas, this article contributes to the limited historiography of North-East and to the history of Christianity in this region and its social and cultural afterlives.

The subsequent three contributions are micro-studies which bring out new insights and remarkable data from the respective fields of enquiry. The theme of the minority is taken up by Catherine Scheer in her article “Minority Converts in Majority Church: Buong Encounters with Protestantism under the Khmer Republic (1970–1975)”. It is a study of a small group in Southeast Asia whose turning to Protestant Christianity seems to break the conventional frameworks of interpretations in the study of conversion and the motives behind it. According to the author, the espousal of Christianity and its understanding by these highlanders require to be situated in the unique socio-political context of the Khmer regime and their indigenous belief in the world of spirits.

Synodality has become today a watchword of reform in the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and has created fresh stirrings for the infusion of democratic values in its life and mission through active participation and attentive listening. The case study by Wilibaldus Gaut entitled, “Steep Path toward a Synodal Church: An Indonesian Case” shows the roadblocks to the realization of this lofty synodal vision at the grassroots when Church leaders listen to state authorities and make their decision rather than heed the voices of the people, even in matters affecting their (people’s) lives and survival.

The third case study by Bidisha Saikia and Kevin Bales is from the state of Assam in the eastern part of India. It relates to a Catholic religious community of nuns committed to justice, equality, and the cause of women and against human trafficking. The engagement of the sisters resembles the work of Non-Governmental organisations (ngo s). This similarity naturally raises several questions regarding how the sisters evaluate their own work, the method they follow, the skills they deploy in the field, and the effectiveness of their social engagement. The authors identify six philosophical and spiritual orientations underlying the social engagement of the religious sisters and the methodology of accompaniment they practice by responding to what they recognize as a divine calling to serve the marginalized.

We are appreciative of and thankful to all the authors for this impressive bunch of articles which explore deep into Asian Christianity and the dynamics of its life. Those involved in editorial work know well how difficult it can be to find competent and willing scholars for peer review. Our gratitude goes to all the anonymous peer reviewers for their generosity of making available to our journal their competence. The issue also carries four book reviews on some of the exciting areas of Asian Christianity. We sincerely thank the reviewers who have studied the volumes closely and presented the gist and spirit of each one of them to benefit our readers. As in the past, Ms Nirmal has been unfailing support at every stage of the preparation and editing of the current issue. We thank her very warmly for her commitment and continued service to our journal.

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