ACEF's 20 Years of Support for Education in Bangladesh

by Nakagawa Hideaki, director
Asia Christian Education Fund, Tokyo
ACEF (Asia Christian Education Fund) celebrated its 20th anniversary in October 2010. Since its establishment in 1990, the objectives of the Christian NGO have always been twofold: working in partnership with BDP (Basic Development Partners), a Bangladeshi Christian NGO, to establish and operate non-formal primary schools for the underprivileged children of Bangladesh; and training and nurturing Japanese youths who opt to take up their share of the challenges faced by our neighbours in other parts of Asia.*
Basic Development Partners was founded by Mina Malakar, a Bangladeshi medical doctor and a devoted Christian. She was engaged in public health activities aimed at disseminating basic knowledge on health and hygiene to rural women, especially young mothers, but soon noticed that none of the women were taking notes while earnestly listening to her seminars. She then realised that these women were illiterate and that her efforts to help enlighten and empower them could not be very effective. As they could not read the handouts or take notes, there was a limit to the amount and the accuracy of what they could learn on the spot and take home with them. With this realisation, Dr Malakar determined that literacy and education were the keys to the development of these women as well as of their communities. Consequently, she resigned from the hospital and started her own NGO, initially named Sunflower Education Programme (SEP), which later became Basic Development Partners. Several months later, ACEF was established by Japanese Christians who wished to participate in the new endeavour established by Dr Malakar.
In 1990 SEP established a non-formal preschool in the slum area of Juline in the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital. The initial classroom was set up in an open space in front of a private house, with 163 children and 10 female teachers, some of whom were high school students. On one hand, this arrangement supported the young teachers by making it possible for them to continue their secondary education. They would otherwise have been forced to leave school and get married at an age as young as 14 or 15. On the other hand, their employment also supported the empowerment of women in their communities. Even today, almost all BDP school teachers are women. BDP has maintained a “female teacher only” policy and believes that this policy is the key to an effective education for children as well as to the empowerment of women in rural society.
Since then, 20 years has passed, and the number of non-formal primary schools operated by BDP and supported by ACEF has now reached 75. In these schools, 300 teachers teach 12,000 children. The ACEF membership has also grown from 74 in 1990 to more than 1,200 in 2010.
One of the major achievements of BDP and ACEF is the improved enrolment rate in the areas where BDP schools exist. Although the numbers and ratio of children attending the schools have now increased dramatically compared to 20 years ago, even today only half of the students can complete the five-year primary education program. Improving the completion rate at BDP schools is emerging as a new challenge for BDP and ACEF.
Neither measurable indicators nor specific targets were set when BDP and ACEF started to work together in 1990. If these organisations had announced at that time that they were planning to establish 75 primary schools within the duration of 20 years, people would have thought the organisers were crazy and the plan unrealistic. Potential supporters would have been reluctant to participate in such an impossible mission. Instead, the two organisations continued to persist in their low-key efforts, without a grand plan, and to do what they could do each year, however small and limited it might have seemed. They continued to follow Christ, giving thanks for whatever they had, and did whatever they could do with it. Eventually, their persistent efforts have graciously been multiplied and maximised to bear the miraculous fruits of education in time. It seems as miraculous as when 5,000 people shared five loaves and two fish and were satisfied. (Tr. FK&HLN)
*Many Christian schools in Japan, both Roman *Catholic and Protestant, are supporting ACEF with their prayers and contributions.
 今年創立20周年を迎えるACEF(アジアキリスト教教育基金)は、設立当初から二つの目的を掲げています。ひとつは「バング ラデシュに寺子屋を贈ろう」で、アジアで最も貧しい国において、現地のキリスト教系NGOであるBasic Development Partners(BDP) と共働し、初等教育の普及に貢献しようということです。もうひとつは、この運動を通じて、アジアに使命と責任を持つキリスト者青年を育成 しようということです。
 バングラデシュのNGOであるBDPの創始者マラカール先生は、熱心なキリスト者で、イギリスで勉強した女医さ んでしたが、農村地域での公衆衛生に関わる活動を行なう中で、講習会に集まってくる女性たち、若いお母さんたちが、熱心に話を聞くばかり で、誰もメモを取っていないことに気づきました。読み書きができないからです。資料を読むことも出来ず、自分の記憶だけに頼った実践では、衛生や健康の普及活動にも限界があると考えたマラカール先生は、医師を辞めて教育の普及に専念することを決意しました。彼女の呼びか けに応え、BDPと共働するためにつくられたのがACEFです。
 マラカール先生たちは、1990年に、首都郊外のスラム地区に女子中学生を先生とする寺子屋幼稚園を10校開設し、幼児教育を始めました。校舎もなく、民家 の軒先を借りて授業が行われましたが、163名の子どもたちが集まりました。これはまた、成績が優秀でも進学できず、14~15歳で結婚させられてしまう女子に奨学金を与え、学業 を続けることを可能にし、女性の自立と地位向上を支援するための試みでもありました。現在でも、BDPの方針に従って、教師たちのほとん どは女性です。このことは、子どもたちの教育と農村における女性の地位向上の両面において効果をあげています。
 20年を経て、BDPが運営する寺子屋小学校は75に増え、300名近くの先生方と共に1万2千人近くの子どもたちが学んでいます。また、ACEFの個人会員は設立 時の74名から1200名余りに増えました。
 これまでの活動の成果としては、BDPの活動地域における子どもの就学率が大きく改善されたことが挙げられま す。ただ、小学校に通う子どもの割合はかなり増えてきたのですが、5年間の初等教育課程を終え卒業するまで勉強を続けることができる子ど もは、全体の半数ほどしかいません。多くの子どもが義務教育を修了することができるための支援を行うことが新たな課題として浮上してきています。
 1990年にACEFとBDPがこの活動を始めたときに、「20年間で75の小学校を作り、1万2千人の子どもに教育の機会を 与えよう」などという目標をたてようとしたならば、関係者はみな、そんなことは無理だ不可能だと尻込みをしたことでしょう。しかし、感謝 しつつ、その時にできることを地道にやり続けてきたことが、このような実を結びました。イエスを中心にして、感謝して五つのパンと二匹の さかなをわけあって食べた群衆がみな満腹したように、イエスを中心に活動を続けてきたら、いつの間にか奇跡が起きていた。そんな気がして います。
編 集者注:*多くのミッションスクールが、この活動に祈りと献金を捧げて応援しています。

The General Secretary's Diary: The Succession of Faith

On Jan. 10, 2011 the 18th Chiba Subdistrict’s Lay Rally was held at West Chiba Church, with the theme “Let’s Connect: the Circle of Faith and the Succession of Faith.” Chiba Subdistrict is one of Tokyo District’s five subdistricts. It has 62 churches and preaching points, 46 of which participated in the Lay Rally. I attended the rally this time and gave an address with “the succession of faith” as its main focus. Here I want to present the key points of that address.
“The succession of faith” is an important concern for all churches, and especially for the Kyodan, as an issue of evangelism. However, it is by no means easy to achieve because it is deeply related to the basic essence of faith. That is to say, “the succession of faith” is not a succession of assets or the transfer of wealth and is different from the inheritance of things. Rather, it is a matter of the heart, which connects one’s being and one’s deep spiritual nature in faith and is also connected to eternal truth (life). Simply stated, faith is basically my relationship with God.
I cannot have faith on behalf of someone else, and no one else can have faith on my behalf. No matter how great our love for someone else (such as a parent, child, husband, wife, best friend), persons with a true living faith cannot permit this love to come between themselves and God. No matter how much I love my children, I cannot stand in my children’s place and believe in God on their behalf. Praying earnestly to God the Holy Spirit is the only way for the succession of faith to be realized in the lives of our children and for them to come to believe in God themselves. According to the Bible, only God the Holy Spirit can give us faith that Jesus is Lord (I Cor. 12:3) and lead us to become one who prays deeply, calling on the “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:14-15). Therefore, if we want a succession of faith, we must pray to God, pray deeply, and continue to pray that “our children will be given true faith,” and it is important that the church, as the family of God, pray together for God to give faith to the next generation.
Next, in order to realize the succession of faith, it is important to have the assurance of faith that the living God gives me individually. And it must be constantly made clear that this faith gives me deep, living joy, which gives me “living” courage and a “living” hope. Faith in Christ the Lord is the greatest treasure that God has given me. Further, it is necessary that we clarify the content of our faith. For that reason as well, we must correctly understand the Kyodan’s Confession of Faith.
To make the succession of faith a reality, infant baptism must be seriously considered. In order to raise true believers, the parent(s) of the child who has received infant baptism and the church through its prayers, must become the means of continuing to offer education in faith. The prayers of the parent(s) and the church give birth to the “catechism,” and church history teaches us that they have played a large role in the realization of the succession of the Christian faith. I see the posture of those who diligently pray and strive for the succession of faith reflected in the posture of Joshua, the leader of Israel after Moses, who declared, “… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). (Tr. RT)
–Naito Tomeyuki, general secretary
  第18回千葉県信徒大会が2011年1月10日、西千葉教会を会場にして開かれました。主題は 『つなげよう・信仰の輪・信仰の継承』でした。千葉県は教団の東京教区にある5つの支区のうちの一つです。62教会・伝道所があり、今回の信徒大会には、その中の46教会よりの参加者がありました。私はこの大会に出席 して、信仰の継承を焦点にして講演をしました。今、その要点を記してみたいと思います。
  「信仰の継承」ということはすべてのキリスト教会、特に日本キリスト教団にとって宣教の課題として大切な事柄です。けれども、それが健全 になされることは決して容易なことではありません。その理由は信仰がもっている本質と深くかかわっています。そもそも信仰の継承という 時、それは財産を継承するとか、金銭を譲るという、いわば物を継承することと異なり、信仰の持つ高い精神性や自分の実存にかかわる心の問 題、ひいては永遠の真理(生命)とかかわる事なのです。分かりやすく言えば、信仰の事柄は根本的には、この私と神様と関わることなので す。信仰に生きるとは、この自分が神様を信じて生きることなのです。誰かに代わって私が信じてあげることもできないし、私に代わって誰か に信じてもらうこともできないのです。真実な信仰に生きる者と神様との間にはどんなに愛する人でも(親・子・夫・妻・親友等々)割り込む ことは許されないのです。
  私が我が子をどんなに愛していても、我が子に代わって神様を信じてあげるわけにはいきません。我が子に信仰の継承が実現するためには我が 子自身が神様を信じる者となるようにとひたすら聖霊なる神様に祈るほかはないのです。聖書によれば、聖霊なる神だけが「イエスは主であ る」との信仰を与えてくださるのですし(Ⅰコリント12:3)また「アバ父よ」とみ名を呼んで深く祈る者へと導いてくださることができるのです(ローマ8:14~15)
  ですから、信仰の継承を願うなら、私達は「子どもに真の信仰を与えて下さい」と神に祈ること、それも深く祈ること、祈り続けるのです。ま た神の家族としての教会は、次の世代の者たちに神様が信仰を与えてくださるようにと一緒になって祈ることが重要なのです。
  次に信仰の継承のために大事なことは、生ける神様がこの自分に与えて下さった信仰の確信をもつことでしょう。そして、その信仰がこの私に 深く生きる喜びを与え、生きる勇気を与え、生きる希望を与えてくれることを絶えず明らかにしておくことです。主キリストを信じる信仰は神 様がこの私にくださった最高の宝なのです。
  さらに言えば、自分が信じている信仰の内容を明確にしておくことが大切です。そのためにも教団信仰告白で告白されている内容を正しく理解 しておかねばなりません。
 信仰の継 承を実現していく時、真剣に考えるべきこととして幼児洗礼ということがあります。愛する子どもに幼児洗礼を授けた親も教会もその子を真の信仰 者に育てていくために、祈りつつ信仰教育をすすめることになります。その親や教会の祈りが信仰問答(カテキズム)を生み出し、それが信仰の継 承の実現に大きな役割を果たしてきたことは、教会史が教えてくれることです。私はモーセの後継者としてイスラエルの指導者となったヨシュアが その民の前で『わたしとわたしの家族は主に仕えます』と呼ぶように語った姿に(ヨシュア記24:15)祈りつつ信仰の継 承に励む者の姿をみるのです。