The hidden Jesus: After the end of the Japanese occupation of Burma in 1945, the minority population of Christians feared for their lives in the face of some Buddhist mobs. Myanmar theologian Anna May Chain said that during this time her family was taken in by friendly Muslims—the males were hidden in a mosque and the females were led from one safe house to another. Later they were sheltered in a prison where Buddhists jeopardized their own well-being by bringing them food, medicine and clothes. They finally found refuge in a convent run by Catholics, then considered “outsiders” by Protestants. At this very vulnerable time in the life of her family, said Chain, Muslims, Buddhists and Catholics were like Jesus to them, offering hospitality and charity (address at the World Council of Churches Ninth Assembly).
As criticism of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina continues, praise of faith-based groups that have responded is providing new momentum in a campaign to expand federal funding of religious social services.
Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the site of a 1963 bombing that killed four girls, has become a national historic landmark. U.S. Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, speaking from the church’s pulpit, said the downtown church now serves as hope for churches destroyed recently in a string of arsons.
The appeals for visible church unity made at the recent World Council of Churches assembly in Brazil were not new, but the longtime obstacles remain a sore point for many—especially limits on celebrating communion in each other’s churches and the lack of a common date for Easter.