Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Wednesday, May 27, 2015



Editor’s Note: This is a Guest Blog from Professor Willis Moore from Honolulu, Hawaii. – Fred Vergara


The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i stands in a unique place when viewed through the recent WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT on ASIAN AMERICANS and PACIFIC ISLANDERS.  This noisy, sometimes raucus, summit was a day-long endeavor on the campus of GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY.  The sounds of Hawaiian chant (delivered by Kama'opono Crabbe dressed like the "village undertaker," Hawaiian music from Paula Fuga and Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole, and Taiko drumming underlined the ethnic nature of the gathering.  The format was panel conversations, featuring members of the Cabinet, chaired by media types whose presence demonstrated the "form over substance" nature of today's TV talking heads.  The Summit drew 2000 to Washington, mostly Gen "X", "Y", and Millenials; this meant an abundance of whooping and applause aplenty.
Though not specifically mentioning churches, the focus and information at this 12 May Summit pointed out  trends in the USA, of which Hawai'i should be well-aware.  The UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU says that in 2012, there were 18 million "AAPI" in the USA, about 6% of the total USA population.  By the year 2060 (when many of us are no longer present), the prediction is that there will be 47 million "AAPI", representing 12% of the USA population (exceeding the percentage of African Americans by that year.  Birth rates among Caucasion and black USA populations are essentially flat: 2.1 per couple average.)
In Hawai'i, population growth currently is entirely related to ASIAN and PACIFIC ISLANDER numbers, as the Caucasion population slowly declines and African American, Hispanic, and Native American (Indian) populations are static.  At Statehood, Hawai'i was 35% Caucasion, 10% Native Hawaiian, and 55% Asian-descended folks.  Beginning with the year 2000 US Census, however, people could choose more than one racial/ethnic group, so totals now amount to more than 100%.

The historical narrative for Hawai'i differs from other States, and focuses much more on Asia and more recently, on Pacific Islanders.  If Captain Cook's estimate is the baseline, 300K people were present in 1878 (some scholars argue for a larger population of as many as 500K.)  Following the discovery of natural harbors on O'ahu, Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, in 1794, there were ship's masters' reports of Chinese men in Honolulu by 1800.   The major landmarks for Asians coming to Hawai'i were 1850 for the Chinese, 1868 for the "Gannen Mono" Japanese, though larger immigration from Japan, with picture brides, would come later.  Filipino immigration came after the USA take over of the Philippines in 1898, and Koreans date from the Japanese take-over of Korea in 1910.  The USA annexation of Hawai'i placed the Islands under the USA Chinese exclusion act of 1882; this meant essentially no more Chinese immigration until after World War II.  The Japanese were also restricted in the years before World War II;  but Filipino immigration grew significantly before and following World War II.  Even Philippine independence in 1946 did not end emigration.

In much of the USA, Chinese (and later Japanese) were discriminated against historically; the most flagrant example being the 120K ethnic Japanese, mostly USA citizens, who were interned at gunpoint during World War II.  Discrimination continues into the 21st Century in both blatant and subtle ways.  Asian - owned stores in Watts, and more recently in Baltimore, were destroyed in riots, a Chinese store owner and employee were killed in Mississippi; more instances were shared at the SUMMIT.

In the Anglican/Episcopal history in Hawai'i, the Cathedral congregation was not welcoming of Asians, only of Caucasians and some Po'e Hawai'i (Most Hawaiians attended Kawaiahao and Kaumakapili Churches in central Honolulu).  Bishop Willis began St Peter's Church next door to the Cathedral specially for Chinese.  St Elizabeth's, St Luke's, Good Samaritan, St John's Kula congregations all had Asian-focused beginnings.  At the time of Bishop Willis' departure in 1902, and the Missionary District of Honolulu was formed by TEC, the number of Hawai'i Chinese Episcopalians equalled all others combined!

The designation, 'ASIAN AMERICAN and PACIFIC ISLANDER" is a bureaucratic "convenience" for the USA Government:  Hispanic, Black and American Indian are the other three minority labels.  While there were originally Caucasian majorities in 49 of the 50 states, California has moved to "Caucasian plurality" status, no single group being a majority; Texas is estimated to be the second such state in the near future.  The Hispanic population has grown in both states more rapidly than other groups.

With experience gained by Bishop Kennedy during World War II, he began work with Filipinos (principally from Ilocano-speaking regions of the northern Philippines) who were "Aglipayans," members of the IGLESIA FILIPINA INDEPENDIENTE and living in Hawai'i.  Ilocano-speaking congregations eventually formed on all four main islands. Today, St Paul's in Honolulu is noted as the largest Filipino Congregation outside of the Philippines, a mission church of The Episcopal Church ministering to a large number of Aglipayans. 

Following World War II, Pacific Islander populations in Hawai'i and in the USA began to grow.  Initially there was friction in Hawai'i between "the locals" and newer arrivals from Samoa and from Tonga.  As Compacts of Free Association were negotiated between the USA and three new independent nations in what had been the TRUST TERRITORY OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS in the 1990's, large numbers of Micronesians began to relocate in the USA.  Estimates of 30K-50K are used by the Census Bureau in 2015....half residing in Hawai'i and half elsewhere in the USA.

Numerically the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i (TECH) shows a majority of Caucasian members; but numbers of Asian-descended and Pacific Islander (including Hawaiians) are nearing the 50% mark.  Bishop Fitzpatrick's energy has been focused in the area of Filipino relationships (He spent a sabbatical in the Philippines) and in the area of increased emphasis on Native Hawai'i and Asian-ancestry formation for ordination; and at least two significant confirmation / receptions into St Elizabeth's and into St Philip's (St John the Baptist) churches have occurred recently.

Delegates to the White House Summit held May 12, 2015

The WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT, viewed by thousands as a web-stream while attended by 2000, was unfortunately "long" on fluff and "short" on substance.  It did bring together, however cabinet secretaries of Health and Human Services (Sylvia Burwell), Housing and Urban Development (Julian Castro), E.P.A. Administrator Gina McCarthy, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Jenny Yang, Interior (Sally Jewell), Labor (Tom Perez), Education, (Arne Duncan), Homeland Security (Jeh Johnson), S.B.A. Administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet,  as participants and attempted to focus on some of the challenges facing today's Asian and Pacific Island populations.  It was noted that although immigration from Japan is insignificant, those arriving from China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia are significant.  A high profile proof of the latter is the new Surgeon General of the United States, Vice-Admiral Dr Vivek Murthy, whose parents came from India.  He will play the central role at the Cabinet-level in the Administration to focus on "AAPI issues and initiatives."  At the start of the Obama administrations, there were 8 judges of "AAPI" ancestry; today there are 26 such judges in the USA.  It was pointed out that in a close election contest in Virginia in 2014, it was the "AAPI Vote" which tipped the scales in favor of Senator Warner. While Hawai'i Senators Fong and Inouye were trail blazers in the US Senate, today there are 14 Members in Congress of AAPI ancestry...three of whom hail from Hawai'i.   

Sally Jewel, Secretary of the Interior, said that the National Park Service was the "Nation's storyteller."  She pointed out her attempts to work with the Hawaiian community to form some kind of "government to government" relationship, as exists between Indian tribes and the USA government; and she cited the HONO'ULI'ULI INTERNMENT CAMP, a "forgotten chapter of Hawai'i and USA history," as examples of seeking to broaden the scope of the stories we tell about ourselves.  There are now National Parks in American Samoa, on Guam, as well as five in Hawai'i.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Youth and Students
Education Secretary, Arnie Duncan, spoke of educational needs and challenges of the AAPI community.  Those attending from Hawai'i did not speak, but could note that our public schools have been majority AAPI since World War II, and the University of Hawai'i system, Chaminade, HPU, and BYUH all host significant numbers of Asian and Pacific Islander students.  Similarly, the University of Guam has a large percent of its student body from the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Bullying is a significant problem in the 48 adjacent states, not so much in Hawai'i, and "wage-theft" looms large.  The recent expose of Cambodian exploitation in "the nail salon" revelations in San Francisco, and instances of trafficking in Hawai'i agricultural workers, are but two of many examples of denigration to be referenced.

Opportunities to minister, and to grow, are there for the Episcopal Church.  The Diocese of Hawai'i, potentially could include significant numbers of East Asian ancestry folks, growing numbers of Southeast Asian immigrants, and specially, the influx of significant numbers of Pacific Islanders; it is uniquely situated to create and to model ministry to and with ASIAN AMERICANS and PACIFIC ISLANDERS to the larger Episcopal Church, as it confronts declines in membership, attendance, and fiscal numbers.

Prof Willis H A Moore, is Adjunct Faculty at Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii
Member Hawai'i Coalition for Immigration Reform, and the Hawai'i Geographic Society. May 2015

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