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Cultural Exchange with China (CEC) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and around 40 people attended this year s AGM on 14 May at Vaughan House, Westminster.

On 28 May 2011 Chinese student Thomas Yilun Cai participated in the Masters Graduation ceremony of Oxford University and came a step nearer to fulfilling his dream of  promoting Christian studies in the Chinese academic world . His studies were supported by CEC and Fr Eamonn O Brien, CEC s diretor, attended the ceremony.


There has been significant movement in the last ten years in that CEC  which the Columbans helped found  can now openly use its strapline  Building bridges between the Catholic Churches of Britain and China in all its communications at all levels of Chinese Church and Government. In this year s  Blue Book of Religions , published by the Chinese Government s Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing praised religions for the contribution they have made to the country s celebration of its 60th year since liberation. It is very significant that reference is made to 350 Male Religious, when religious orders have not been acknowledged previously. Now there is a statue of Confucius in Tiananmen Square, as well as one of Chairman Mao, symbolising a huge shift in government thinking and a recognition that moral values are necessary for the development of society.


At the AGM, Jim Simmons of CAFOD spoke on  The Faceless Epidemic: A Catholic Response to HIV&AIDs in China .  The Work of the Amity Foundation in China was highlighted by Tan Hua, who directs its Disaster Relief and Preparedness programme. Amity has its own printing company and is involved in a wide range of social action programmes including agriculture, education and training, health care and disaster relief work. Maggi Whyte, of UK-based Friends of the Church in China, reported that the Chinese community in UK is one of largest and oldest in Europe. Current estimates put the figure at 600,000, including probably almost 100,000 students, but excluding irregular migrant workers. This figure includes the rapidly-expanding number of British-born Chinese. On the one hand, it is perceived as a successful group in business, academic and hi-tech spheres, but it is also characterised as having a sector traditionally confined to low-paid, low-skilled occupations in the niche catering market. Issues of concern include lack of English-language skills, which prevents good access to public services and employment opportunities. Many Chinese in Britain feel trapped in the long hours and low wages of the traditional restaurant sector. CEC and The China Desk of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and Friends of the Church in China (FCC), have begun an initiative with Chinese students.  An informal network has been set up to facilitate the exchange of resources, sharing of model approaches.

CEC s AGM launched a series of events during the coming 12 months to celebrate the 10th anniversary  aimed at promoting awareness of the Catholic Church in China and building bridges between the Catholic Church of the UK and that of China.  A series of parish awareness seminars are planned; Awareness conferences are being offered to National Catholic Organisations, and a very successful one has already been held with the Catholic Men s Society who are now building special links with the Church of China. CEC hosted a special gathering of Chinese students from Middlesex University on Sunday 15 May.

The final event will be major the Annual conference of the National Justice and Peace network to be held 20-22 July 2012.  The theme for this conference will be China and speakers from China will be present.

Cultural Exchange with China celebrates 10 years. 27th June 2011 - by Ellen Teague