This, too, is Christianity

Qiu Zhonghui's speech at the 8th National Conference of the TSPM/CCC, January, 2008

My dear ministers and co-workers in the Lord,
In Christ, I bring my regards and wish for you all a peaceful New Year. God, by His grace, is leading the Chinese church into a new year. Many thanks to the national TSPM for arranging this opportunity for me to share with you all a few experiences and feelings about some of Amity Foundation's endeavors in social service.

I- Social Service as a Testimony of God's Love

God is Love. Bishop Ting has said this; that the all-inspiring God of our Lord Jesus Christ has as His greatest attribute not His omnipotence, not His omnipresence, not His omniscience, not His eternal nature, not even His exalted majesty, but rather His love. The Gospel moves people; it stirs up our hearts. That is why people may not be moved or convinced by religious doctrine, but they are moved when love is manifested; when love is held up and spread around. This all anticipates the day when Love at last fills all the earth. Men and women beyond number are attracted to devote themselves entirely to the endeavors that spread Love across the country.

One could say that Amity holds up the banner of this kind of love. From the 1985 inauguration of reform and opening to the outside world, this charity organization was established with the involvement of people from all walks of Chinese society. In the 23 years since, under Bishop Ting's leadership and with the nurturing help of the CCC and TSPM, Amity has persisted in the service of society, doing work to benefit people and uphold world peace. Persisting in the belief that even the Son of Man came to serve, we strive to serve the society's weak and powerless. Our goal: to deliver compassion and warmth to those masses of good people in dire straits. And to this end, from inside and outside the country has been raised more than one billion Yuan (~US $138 million) to bring help to millions of people in 200 cities and counties of 31 provinces. In 1999, this brought to us the "honorary title for exemplary improvement in the harmonious relationship of minority nationalities," given by the State Council. In 2006, we received the further honor of winning the 2nd China Poverty Eradication Award in the "organization" category, promoting the development of China's public charity and making a positive contribution toward socialism and a harmonious society.

According to statistics at hand, Amity, on behalf of impoverished areas, especially the Midwest Region, used donations to complete more than 890 drinking water projects, 100 irrigation systems, 50,000 mu of newly cultivated farmland, more than 30 integrated rural development projects for counties and villages in the west, subsidized 120,000 primary aged children and 400 college students to go back to school, did construction for 700 schools, made 1,900 placements of foreign teachers, provided training for 18,000 village-level medical workers and 6,000 township-level health workers, secured medical treatment for 2,000 polio victims, made 100 dispatches of mobile medical teams, conducted 200,000 cataract surgeries, subsidized 9,700 orphans of nearly 50 social welfare institutes, and cooperated with churches to launch 150 social welfare projects. Besides these, each year we have responded when natural disasters hit the country – such as the hurricanes and flooding in the east, the Yunnan earthquake, the Yangtze river floods – by lending to emergency relief and then rebuilding efforts.

As a member of the Amity Foundation, I have the good fortune, together with all my colleagues, to be part of this contribution of compassion and kindness, spreading the cause of Love and witnessing the progress and development of Amity, which is arising not only from our knowledge, experience and engagement with the many who have practical needs, but also from a deeper understanding of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

II- The Professional Discipline of Putting Love into Practice

From the Amity Foundation's first three people raising several hundred thousand Yuan in the first year, to the current staff of 50 and annual funds of one hundred million being raised, we have now been listed among the country's 13 biggest public charity organizations. The key is that we insist that Amity staff possess a spirit of utter devotion and compassion, and at the same time skills in their own special fields. Amity is like a big bird. If you desire for it to fly high and fly far, it must have strong healthy bones and mind and body well-toned; in other words we must strengthen our internal structure and our expertise. We can only serve the society well and take great strides in benefiting people if we ourselves are healthy, strong and disciplined on the inside. Our main methods are:

1. Lay stress on a strategy of research and development:
Amity, cooperating with the Academy of Social Sciences Social Policy Research Center and Nanjing University's Scientific Research Academic Unit, made a thorough study of the development trends of domestic and overseas public charity organizations. From combined historical background and analysis of various environments and research policy trends, we came to a deeper understanding of the prerequisites of societal needs, formulated a strategic plan, and established a solid foundation for Amity's work.

2. Accurately discern societal needs:
More than ten years ago, seeing the problems of climate change in western regions, Amity targeted a succession of five provinces wherein to initiate projects for supplying renewable sources of energy such as biogas, solar power, grassland management and spreading organic agrotechniques for poverty alleviation and environmental protection. Our probes into tree-planting in rocky areas and regions suffering from desertification, to see what beneficial effects can arise in the local economy and environment, have won us praise from all levels of government and society, including Cheng Siwei, vice-chair of the committee of the National Congress and other government officials, who personally visited some of Amity's environmental and poverty alleviation projects and offered enthusiastic affirmations.

3. Use strict standards to manage project work:
Every ounce of Amity's funding comes from the contribution of donors. To be a good steward and to use those funds wisely are principles that Amity sticks to when managing projects. To implement these principles, Amity draws upon the participatory model for project management. This standard of project fund control over the workflow helps to consolidate and strengthen project assessment and auditing. We also persist in the practice of regular on-site visits. It is a common saying that you must use your own two legs and two eyes to inspect a project and guarantee that implementation will be bringing forth beneficial results. A relatively small expense can help ensure a relatively great outcome, ensuring the secure use of funds.

4. Scrupulously abide by honesty:
Public welfare and charity work depends on credibility for its survival. Amity, in its collaborations with organizations at home and abroad, always commits to following principles of sincerity and honesty, as the saying goes, "Speak the truth, solve real problems, seek realistic results." In achieving whatever committed goal, no matter what difficulties or hazards may arise, one must honor the commitment. Project funds given, no matter how great or how small, must be duly earmarked for their specified purpose. When a project has surplus funds, regardless of how much, it should be returned to the contributor. Precisely because of these commitments, Amity now has the esteem, cooperation and trust of a great number of domestic and foreign organizations, which in turn propels the Amity Foundation to further develop its causes and undertakings in new ways year to year.

5. Persist in blazing new trails in development work:
For many years, in our project funding, we have applied the "trilateral" method. In other words, Amity puts forth one portion, the local government adds their contribution and the beneficiaries also supply a portion themselves in capital and/or labor. Using this method lessens the beneficiaries' dependence on others, strengthens their commitment and participation in the project, and enhances their self-organization and development capacity.

In addition, bringing together new international theories in societal development and China's concrete situation today, we can see other " three party relationships" in community development ideology and methods. In a society there are religious believers making a contribution, professionals making a contribution and local government making a contribution; in project implementation we can confront three aspects: local economy, local society and local environment. Out of this we can see how our projects can have "three-fold benefits" built into their objectives.

6. Build up education/culture within the organization:
For over 20 years, as Amity has been spreading the work of Love, step-by-step there has been cultivated the organization's culture of "three qualities/three strengths" ("Compassion, Commitment, Competence," and "Communication, Cooperation, Creativity") to focus on. This has not only born fruit in inspiring the spirit and commitment of staff, but also has attracted a multitude of volunteers to "come under the spell" of this fulfilling work.

III- Cooperate Hand-in-hand to Construct a Harmonious Society

Now more than twenty years after reform and opening to the outside world, China's economy and society have undergone tremendous changes. But, due to many factors – politics; history; geography; ecology – although our society is in the midst of positive economic changes overall, there are still disharmonious elements existing. Data indicates that over the past 20 years the number of Chinese living in poverty has been substantially reduced, and yet, because the population base in our country is so large to begin with, the actual number of poor people is still very great. As of the end of 2006, the number of citizens still without warm clothing and adequate food was 21,480,000; those still under the poverty line in terms of income numbered 35,500,000. Aside from that, there are currently about 143 million elderly and 82 million handicapped, comprising a huge group of disadvantaged people. These all are in need of concern and assistance from those of us in all walks of life in our society, including those of us in religious circles. Since we know that helping these disadvantaged communities requires meeting emotional and spiritual needs as well as physical needs, it requires each and every one of us to do our best to offer our portion of compassion and summon forth our sense of duty. This is the mission that God has entrusted to every follower of Jesus Christ.

Amity's social service work has brought us to the personal understanding that endeavors of compassion are an indispensable component of building a harmonious society. It seems especially true that when the church participates in actions that confer benefits on society, it brings uniquely positive dynamics into play. Recently, General Secretary Hu Jin Tao, during the second study group meeting of the Party Central Political Bureau, stressed the importance of comprehensively carrying out the Party's basic guiding policies regarding religious work, to encourage religious circles to be faithful to their religion and to the country, to advance together in serving our society's traditions, to play a positive function in the society's economic development, and be a part of helping to raise living standards and accelerate socialist modernization. These words from General Secretary Hu will undoubtedly provide a very good opportunity for Christians to come out from their churches and show a great witness in their contributions to social service, and help the development of public charity work to expand even more. I am convinced that more and more people will commit themselves to works of compassion, and that the power of Love will find its way into the hearts of everyone.

It is recorded in the Bible that Jesus walked among us, healing and delivering. He said, "As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." To be servants to all is our commission as Christians. I am willing to join in this mission with all my brothers and sisters in the Amity Foundation, and, buoyed by the concern and care of the CCC, the TSPM and the many Chinese churches, we will lend our hands in showing forth God's love and grace.

Thanks to you all.