Das ist Rupen!

rupen-dasSorry – the title’s German, not Dutch! In our recent blogposts we have introduced some of the people we work with here in Amsterdam. Next up is Rupen Das, a Canadian who joined IBTSC in 2015 and leads the Missions stream at the Study Centre. Rupen is married to Mamta and they have two grown-up children and three grandchildren. Their daughter Layla and her family live in Canada. Their son Nishant and his family live in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where he works for World Vision.

Like ourselves, Rupen has been seconded to IBTSC and his sending agency is the Canadian Baptist Ministries http://www.cbmin.org/. He also works with the European Baptist Federation http://www.ebf.org/, whose office is based here at the Baptist House. Das family 2His focus is on enabling churches to respond to the refugee crisis, especially in Ukraine and Turkey. Before they moved to Amsterdam, Rupen and Mamta lived in Beirut, Lebanon, where Rupen was seconded by CBM to the Lebanese Baptists. He served as Program Director of a postgraduate course in Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the Baptist seminary there. He also assisted the Lebanese Baptist Society (also known as LSESD) to set up a humanitarian response to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and inside Syria through local churches. Early in his career, he had been on staff with the Navigators.

Das familyWith this background, it is not surprising that Rupen is passionate about missions, global Christianity, and the issues of theology, poverty, compassion and social justice. He completed a DMin in 2014, focusing on Islamic understandings of poverty. Rupen has extensive experience in humanitarian assistance and development, having worked for World Vision across the world, and as a consultant with the Canadian Government, other NGOs, and the UN.

Moving to Amsterdam from Beirut was quite a change for Rupen and Mamta. They are enjoying 24-hour electricity, proper heating in winter and reliable internet. Mamta is enjoying the walks along the canals in their neighbourhood. However, Rupen misses the mountains and the blue Mediterranean… I asked them a few questions about life here:

What’s good about working here? The mix of nationalities, cultures (and accents) of the team make for interesting and enjoyable times. It is also a privilege to work with the calibre of students in the programs.

What do you do in your spare time? We both enjoy hiking. I (Rupen) also enjoy Middle Eastern history and culture.

What are your hopes for the future of IBTSC? As IBTSC finds new life in its present incarnation, that it would nurture a new generation of leaders through its academic programs, and also develop as a research centre that would serve the churches.

Final Fascinating Facts: The Netherlands is the 12th country that Rupen has lived in since childhood, and the 6th country as a family! Waow!

They will take away our place and our nation!

They’ll take away our place and our nation! Sounds like a line from Nigel Farage or Geert Wilders but it’s actually a line from the gospel of John.

globe-brightly-covered-with-the-colorful-flags-of-all-nations-and-5u3mhZ-clipart Each morning at the Baptist House in Amsterdam we meet for a time of readings and prayers. We’re working our way through John’s gospel in the approach to Easter and recently read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The impact of that event was clearly far reaching and caused some of the leaders in Jerusalem to fear a revolution would occur which would deeply upset the Romans who would move in and ‘…take our place and our nation’. They decided they had to get rid of Jesus.

The reading was a few days before the Dutch elections, when fear of immigration and Donald Trump’s latest Muslim ban featured in the news.  While the context is clearly very different, the expression of fear of loss of place and nation was striking. In the reading, ‘place’ is probably a reference to the Temple in Jerusalem, the symbol of nationhood and the presence and blessing of God. What’s striking is hearing today so much concern about the Christian heritage of Europe and these European ‘Christian’ nations being overrun by immigrants and refugees, many of whom are Muslim – ‘…they will take away our place and our nation’.

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The world is changing.  The colonial Empire building of previous centuries and economic globalisation that together have brought great prosperity to the West are like chickens coming home to roost. Since we have plundered other people’s resources in the past, it’s hard to see what is so unjust when it happens to us. Economic migrants and refugees don’t do half as much damage as slave traders and irresponsible multinational corporations.

The leaders in Jerusalem were of course correct: Jesus was a threat.  The kingdom he proclaimed didn’t need a temple and extended its citizenship to both Jews and gentiles. He publicly demonstrated the fact by commending a Roman centurion with having greater faith than he encountered among his own people and when he used the language of ‘tearing down the temple’.

The challenge for those of us claiming to be Christians – i.e. disciples of Jesus – is whether we share the fear and the threat of losing heritage, culture, nationhood (or whatever), or are willing to be perceived as part of the threat because of our primary commitment to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God transcends race, culture and borders, which is why we go into all the world to proclaim the good news. That’s not to say that there are not serious issues for governments to address with changing populations, security of citizens and distribution of resources.  Nor is it to say that all fears and concerns about immigration are irrational or fascist, but it is to ask where we place ourselves in the conversation, which kingdom gets our primary allegiance and whether we love the world as much as God does. As John’s gospel also says: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…’ .