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Last spring, Samuel Ngun Ling from Myanmar Institute of Technology, Myanmar, Burma, was named the 2008 Schiotz visiting professor for the fall semester. Now at Luther, Ling hopes to bring his knowledge of interfaith dialogue in an Asian context to students. "Learning and sharing faith experiences of different contexts will surely enrich us in doing theology in a new way for [the] global church," Ling said.
Ling grew up in a Christian family. Christians make up about six percent of the population of Myanmar. The Buddhist context in which he developed his Christian faith has informed his passion for doing research on interfaith dialogue.
"Asia is home to many religions and cultures. Myanmar is a Buddhist country in Southeast Asia. ... My context is [a Christian community] in a Buddhist context. We have many different problems and ... many different expectations. But when we share with each other I hope there is something we can learn from each other," Ling said.
In Burma, Christian colleges are not allowed. Seminaries are only allowed if they also offer liberal arts college courses. The result is, according to Ling, "Our seminary is more like a university. ... There are two parts of our program, theology [courses] and a secular program." The theology program has about 360 students, and the secular program has more than 600 students.
In addition to his faculty work, Ling is the director of the Judson Research Center, which focuses on Buddhist-Christian dialogue. This fall Ling is teaching two courses at Luther: Confessing Christ in Asia and Buddhism and the Christian.
"My main concern is to teach about the Christian church in Asia, with a particular focus on my country, Myanmar, and bring out some of the issues and challenges in the Asian context. I hope this will help Luther students reflect more interactively on theology and ministry in their own contexts," Ling said. "We need a theological dialogue between Asia and North America. I feel that we Christians have a lot to learn from our Buddhist neighbors about their wisdom of life such as reverence of life, purification of mind, denial of self-centeredness and striving for compassion. I would like Luther students to know these values and wisdom of Asian religions so that they can also be used for deepening their faith and theological thinking."
The Schiotz Visiting Professorship at Luther Seminary was inaugurated in spring 2005, thanks to funding provided by the Fredrik A. Schiotz Endowment. Ling is the fourth scholar to participate in the program, which invites international teachers and theologians to participate in the life of the seminary community for five to nine months through teaching, speaking, writing and research.
For a full interview with Ling and an interview of a Luther student in Ling's class, go to www.luthersem.edu/gmi.
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