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The Society of Asian Biblical Studies (SABS) owes its origin to the Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS). Since the very first CATS gathering in Seoul, Korea in 1997, scholars interested in Asian biblical hermeneutics have been discussing and envisioning the formation of a professional academic society to promote biblical interpretation and research in Asia and/or through Asian lenses.
The dream began to take shape with a planning committee formed during the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Singapore in the summer of 2005. The task of the planning committee was to organize an inaugural conference for SABS at the end of CATS in Hong Kong in August of 2006.
Almost a decade beyond the initial conversations in Seoul, and thanks to the persistence and ingenuity of many persons, SABS finally became a reality with the inaugural conference held at the Chinese University in Hong Kong from August 22-26, 2006. In attendance were thirty-five biblical scholars, including not only those who work and live in various parts of Asia, but also Asian scholars who are in diaspora in different corners of the world. In addition to the presentation of eleven academic papers, an inaugural address, entitled, Future Imperfect: Asia, The Bible and Biblical Interpretation, was delivered by Professor R. S. Sugirtharajah of the University of Birmingham (UK).
SABS has since met every two years and has focused on a theme pertinent to the Asian context. At its 2008 meeting (14-16 July) in Seoul, Korea, the theme was Mapping and Engaging the Bible in Asian Cultures. In 2010 in Hong Kong (14-16 June), it reflected on the theme Ecology, Economy and Asian Biblical Interpretation. In its 2012 meeting in Sabah, Malaysia (13-15 June), the theme was Migration, Diaspora: Asia and the Bible. In 2014, the theme of the SABS meeting in Chiang Mai was Violence in the Human and Earth Community – Asian Biblical Response. Most recently in 2016, the theme of the meeting in Seoul, Korea was Moving Margins: Biblical Studies in 21st Century Asia.
Regular participants and paper presenters in the SABS meetings have found the experience invaluable. They have appreciated the opportunity to meet and network with others in the field from the vast region that is Asia and those who are in diaspora, and others, but all with a keen interest and commitment to promote Asian interpretations and reflections on the Bible.
In 2018, SABS will meet at the STFT Widya Sasana, Malang, East Java, Indonesia and accommodation at the Wisma St Maria Magdalena Postel, Malang, from 16-20 July (with arrival on the 16th and departure on the 20th). We encourage your attendance at this meeting and we welcome paper proposals on any book of the Bible as well as on any topic that deals with the Bible in Asia. However, one of the main objectives of this society is to foster biblical scholarship and research in Asia that takes seriously the Asian context—its cultures, religions, and methodologies. It is therefore strongly desirable that papers presented at this meeting are attempts to understand the Bible from varied Asian perspectives. For this coming meeting, we are especially hoping for papers that deal with the theme: “Bible and Empire in Asia: Past and Present“.
Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, President
Society of Asian Biblical Studies