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Spring 1994 · Vol. 23 No. 1 · pp. 89–90 

Internationalization Must Replace Paternalism

Response to “Internationalization” by Harold Ens 23/1 (1994): 82–85.

Takashi Manabe

As a former missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators (1976-1989), I read the article with interest and familiarity. In the last couple of years in Papua New Guinea, I was privileged to serve as a member of the Executive Committee, and I often heard such terms as “interdependence,” “nation initiative,” and “internationalization,” terms which Harold Ens also mentions. Personally, I am very appreciative of the new direction which is being taken by the leadership of the North American Mennonite Brethren Conference.

The term “interdependence” is nothing new in the Bible. We, as the members of the body of Christ, are to love one another, and to rely on each other’s gifts which are given us by our Lord. Our existence itself requires interdependence. Human practice, however, is different from basic doctrine. These pioneers of world missions from Europe and North America made great contributions to the evangelization of the world, but their achievement was not perfect. One of the problems was the feeling of paternalism which developed on the mission fields. This paternalistic attitude was based on a subtle and sinful feeling of superiority. I trust that now is the opportune time to deal with this wrong attitude of {90} that mission effort. It is important to keep in mind that this problem is not so much an administrative or organizational problem as it is soteriological or sanctificational problem.

The term, “this world” is labeled after “first world” and “second world.” What is the first world and the second world? Is it not Europe and North America? This way of categorizing the world is clearly based upon the perspective of “first world” people. I personally question whether this category is God’s way of looking at the people of the world. Jesus said “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31). The value system of the human world is essentially different from the way God values people. If there is any sense of contempt in using a seemingly neutral academic term of “third world,” then it is better not to use the term. I am not saying that Harold Ens is doing this in his article. No, what I am saying is that often this kind of term conveys the feelings I have mentioned. I suggest the use of geographical terms such as Europe, North America, and East Asia for our discussions instead of “third world.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of the internationalization of mission among Mennonite Brethren conferences of the world. The Japan Mennonite Brethren conference, I believe, is willing to take her due role in this effort. But it is necessary to bear in mind that many cultural, linguistic, physical and spiritual barriers will need to be cleared through many occasions of open-minded sharing and discussion among the conference delegates before any major cooperative effort of international Mennonite Brethren mission work can take off.

I personally appreciate our North American brothers, who have taken the lead of proposing this kind of internationalization. I pray that God would bless richly the years to come for our effort to become one in Christ for the task of world mission.

Takashi Manahe, president of The Evangelical Biblical Seminary in Osaka, is the Japanese representative to the International Mennonite Brethren Committee.

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