For Central Asia, see Europe.
PCK/PC(USA) consultation asks the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea governments to enter immediately into dialogue to ease the current tensions by ending inflammatory rhetoric, confrontational policies, and provocative military exercises
From fewer than 40 believers in 1990, Protestants in Mongolia now may number 50,000
The non-denominational Mongolian Evangelical Alliance hopes for 300,000 (10 percent of the population) by 2020
Adapting theological education in Asia
Group signs covenant to address needs of students, congregations
Theologians and church leaders from Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines and the United States of America met at Silliman University and Divinity School in Dumaguete City, April 26-28, 2013, to discuss how current dynamics are changing the shape of theological education. The resulting covenant is a contribution to a growing movement throughout Asia and the world calling for the transformation of theological education. To read the covenant, click here.
Extending in the northwest from the city of Oral, Kazakhstan, to the southeast at Papua in Indonesia’s 17,000-island archipelago and south to the continent of Australia, the area of Asia and the Pacific represents a splendid crescent. Perhaps outlining a mythical dragon figure shaped to cradle ancient Western and Eastern civilizations, peaking into Europe and the Middle East, crowned by Russia, cuddling China, claiming the Himalayas and merging the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this enchantingly diverse region is full of vibrancy, opportunities and excitement
Extravagant in natural beauty, diverse in culture and ancient and proud in civilization, the regions in this area continue to compete and strive for an even better future. The religious, cultural and ethnic diversity and the local economies are threatened, however, by the impacts of global economies and geopolitical interests that contribute to growing instability in the face of ancient traditions and glorious history. The religious articulation or awareness of the divine reality and its impact on communities vary greatly from one region and culture to another, and so does the Christian witness.
In South Asia the PC(USA)’s Christian witness is growing stronger in light of our emphasis on partnership. Some 29 million Christians (2 percent) live in this region, where the total population is about 1.4 billion and rapidly rising. Our commitment in South Asia is one of the oldest and most cherished of all American Presbyterian partnerships; our dedication to mission dates back more than 170 years. In South Asia invaluable and lasting mission continues to witness in gratitude to God’s grace and mercies, ever transforming lives and redeeming harsh and evil realities.
March 5, 2004, marked 50 years of faithful and tireless partnership with the people and Church of Nepal through the United Mission to Nepal as well as welcome strategic progress in partnership with growing, locally run nongovernmental organizations that are closely tied to indigenous churches.
Stretching more than 4,000 miles and covering an area of about 5 million square miles over land and sea, this region boasts more than 428 million in population, of whom about 6 percent are Christians. Rooted in history and rich in civilization, Southeast Asia boasts the world’s largest Muslim and Reformed populations, which are found in Indonesia. Called by its people “the Land of Gold,” Southeast Asia is incredibly diverse ecologically, culturally, ethnically, linguistically and religiously, yet with surprising similarity and unity.
Historically this region had four major and dynamic influences. The earliest influence was from India, which is manifest through its royal hierarchy, astronomy, art motifs and iconography, mythology, religious practices and customs, the Sanskrit language and Buddhism. This was followed by the influence from China, which is evident in ceramics, textiles, art motifs and Confucian thought and philosophy. The Islamic influence became apparent in textile and clothes and particularly in the religion of Islam, Islamic and Arabic cultures and language. The fourth and latest is the European influence, most noticeable in urban infrastructures, health care, modern technology and Western thought.
East Asia and the Pacific
The East Asia and the Pacific region has a rich history full of culture and tradition. With a population of more than 1.6 billion people and half of them under age of 25, this region also has a promising future. Historically speaking, many of the countries in the region, such as China, the Philippines and all of the Pacific Island countries, have experienced invasions and colonization by Western nations for the last several hundred years. The exception is Japan, which invaded and occupied Korea for 36 years. These colonial powers consistently exploited natural and human resources from East Asia and the Pacific. The people of this region struggled for national liberation. The end of World War II brought liberation for countries in East Asia first and the Pacific thereafter. However, the joy and excitement of becoming independent nations was short-lived. In one country after another, rulers were replaced by military dictators, totalitarian despots or authoritarian rulers. Many of these leaders continue in power, and some of the military dictatorships are aided by foreign powers that exert military or economic control or both. Across the region, one of the major areas of human rights violations involves abuse and exploitation of women as the sex-tourism industry continues to grow. Christians across the region are working to combat this difficult problem. The people of East Asia and the Pacific have come of age in recent decades. An emerging phenomenon in the region is the awakening of people who have become more conscious of their rights and begun to demand that their dignity be honored and rights respected. The future of mission lies in how seriously we take the people of this region and elsewhere in the Two-thirds World and how we commit ourselves to the new mission calling of the church. At this time the PC(USA) works in partnership or ministry with churches and/or organizations in the following countries within the East Asia/Pacific region: Australia, China, Fiji, Hong Kong, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vanuatu. If you would like additional information, please contact the Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Coordinator for East Asia and Pacific, or Yesenia Ayala, Mission Specialist.
Covering almost one-third of the earth’s surface, the Pacific Ocean is home for approximately 25 million people. The island nations of this region are often divided into three island groups: Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. Micronesia in the northwest includes the Mariana Islands, Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati. Melanesia in the southwest includes Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Polynesia is east and northeast and includes Hawaii, Western Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands and the Cook Islands. Although these island nations are in many ways similar to one another, over a period of time significant cultural and language patterns have also evolved within each group.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been involved in Christian mission in partnership with the Uniting Church in Australia, the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, the Pacific Theological College in Fiji and the Pacific Conference of Churches.
The facilitation of the work of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Central Asia and other frontier areas is largely in cooperation with the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship.
The countries ending in “stan” (place), which we today know as Central Asia, are located on the trails of what once was called the “Silk Road.” On this route products, ideas and cultures were transported back and forth. As a result the control of this area was regarded as crucial, competition at one time being termed the “Great Game.”
The early New Testament Church sent its representatives on the Silk Road, and evidences of this can be found today in places such as northwestern Uzbekistan. In the 10th century Islam made its appearance and has been present through the centuries. In contrast to classical Islam, in this region the religion has taken on certain local cultural features and forms of animism, resulting in what is called folk Islam.
During the seven decades of control under Soviet communism, it was forbidden to use the name of God. Some of the Russian population in those years worshipped in the Russian Orthodox Church, but the indigenous ethnic groups were not drawn to what they regarded as the religion of “the outsiders.” Ironically, Stalin used Central Asia as a place to move millions of people groups whom he considered “"unworthy elements,” such as Germans, Ukrainians and Poles as well as Koreans from the East. A segment of these dispersed peoples were evangelical Christians, who helped start the 21st century Central Asian church.
The Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with a population of almost 59 million and covering an area of 1.5 million square miles, secured their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Kazakhstan is the largest in area and second largest in population as well as having petroleum resources. The region is quite diverse ethnically, although most are part of the “Turkic language family.” Tajikistan, however, like neighboring Afghanistan, is part of the Persian world linguistically and culturally.
One observer has described the Central Asian economic context this way: “Imagine the U.S. inflation of the 1970s, the high unemployment and deep recessions of the 1980s and the globalizing pressures of the 1990s. Make them each more intense than they were in the West. Make them all happen at once. And you have a flavor of what is happening in the former Soviet Union. Still deeper than all this is the damage done to the peoples of Central Asia. Somehow it seems that the Communist years smothered initiative, optimism, zest, the passion to bring about change.”1
Within this setting there is a growing group of those who when they hear the gospel and see it demonstrated have embraced it as truly good news. These “new creations in Jesus” have grouped themselves in small house fellowships, medium-size churches with their own facility and a few sizable congregations. Facing increasing opposition and persecution, the followers of Jesus are showing the depth of their commitment, and the churches are cooperating together in unified ways.
Onto the scene in the early 1990s there came various churches and mission-sending bodies from many parts of the world desiring to make their positive contribution toward these countries that are seeking their new national identities and improved infrastructures. These sisters and brothers from the world Christian community become involved in relief and development NGOs (nongovernment organizations) while serving in alongside ways with the emerging local churches. These local churches with their own leadership welcome cooperation in discipling, equipping, empowering and mentoring their new followers of Jesus.
1. The Silk Road, by Glenn Meyers, Paternoster Publishing, 2001, p. 34.
All countries in this area are listed below. Countries with Web pages giving Presbyterian-specific information are highlighted. For other countries, there is currently no PC(USA) involvement in this country or the Web pages have not yet been prepared. The PC(USA) also participates in or relates to work in other countries through ecumenical relationships. See an interactive map of Asia and find countries in which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) serves.
Central Asia countries-see Europe page
Papua New Guinea
Regional liaisons (mission co-worker):
Choon Lim, regional liaison for East Asia—China, Hong Kong, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan
Barry and Shelly Dawson, regional liaisons for Southeast Asia
Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin, regional liaisons for South Asia
2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, pp. 226, 227, 228; Central Asia, p. 337
—(see other individual country pages)