Book Review: The Remarkable Chester Ronning

ronningThe Remarkable Chester Ronning: Proud Son of China

Author: Brian L. Evans

Publisher: The University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, 2013

306 pages, including Bibliography and Index, ISBN 978-0-88864-663-7, CDN $34.95, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

According to Professor Evans, Chester Alvin Ronning was an “extraordinary” and “remarkable” man on almost all counts, and deserves more public and academic recognition. This volume is one contribution that endeavours to rectify the matter at hand.

Chester Ronning was born in China to Norwegian-Lutheran missionary parents. He was trilingual, speaking Chinese, Norwegian and English. I can still remember years ago as a student at Camrose Lutheran College, meeting the elderly, dignified Ronning on campus and being amazed at how he loved to seek out the Chinese students and regale them with his stories and humour by speaking fluent Chinese.

I appreciated Evans’s emphasis on Ronning’s significant contributions as, among other things: a farmer, a provincial politician with the United Farmers of Alberta and the CCF, an innovative educator and principal, a distinguished Canadian diplomat, and a husband, father and family man.

Professor Evans underscores Ronning’s zealous commitment to Canada and the USA recognizing the legitimacy of the communist government of China. Although Ronning was a social democrat—not a communist as many of his critics branded him—he was quite sympathetic to the political activists in China among the peasants. He was also a close friend and colleague of Chou En-lai.

Having worked as a diplomat for 20 years with the Department of External Affairs, representing Canada in China, Norway and India; Ronning became widely acclaimed as an inspirational, international figure; travelling extensively in his retirement years as a much-in-demand speaker and expert on China, opponent of the Vietnam war, and other popular causes of the political left.

My only critique of Evans’s biography is that I would like to have heard more from those closest to Ronning—his wife Inga and their six children. However, Evans does include statements from and references to Ronning’s eldest daughter, Audrey Topping and her husband Seymour, who was a journalist with The New York Times, and who devoted some significant coverage on Ronning in that newspaper from time-to-time.

I would recommend The Remarkable Chester Ronning: Proud Son of China primarily to students and teachers of Canadian history.

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Is there a right of return?

Sometimes we wrestle with the truth of issues for years ethically, spiritually, and politically. We live with more ambiguity than we would like as we seek to be a people of faith and life and love. Recently I came across this article, which, for me, shed light on this question, which I had thought rather ambiguous until I read it. Hope you too find the article helpful.  -Dim Lamp

Is There a  Right of Return ?

We often hear and read statements asserting that the Palestinian Refugees from 1948 now have a right to return to the state of Israel —   the so-called “right of return.”   This phrase has a good deal of superficial appeal and sounds like a benign call for justice — but upon close scrutiny it is revealed as a call for the destruction of the Jewish homeland.

The Modern State of Israel was founded to be the homeland of the Jewish people.

•           After the collapse of the ottoman Empire, the area that includes modern day Israel, modern day Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza was given to the British, under the Articles of the League of Nations, to hold in trust for a Jewish homeland. This was the British Mandate for Palestine.

•           In November1947 after World War II, the United Nations General Assembly recommended a partition of the British Mandate for Palestine into a specifically Jewish state and a specifically Arab state.  The U.N. partition plan was based on population demographics — majority Jewish areas would be part of Israel, majority Arab areas would be part of a new Arab state.

•           The Jewish Agency (the precursor of the Israeli government) accepted the U.N. partition plan. The Arab League met in December 17, 1947 however, and announced that it would prevent partition by force if necessary.  The Arab nations did resort to force, jointly attacking the new Jewish state after it declared independence in May 1948.

The 1948 War created both Jewish and Palestinian refugees

•           Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. Over the next few days the Arab States surrounding Israel (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq ) each invaded the new Jewish state, vowing to wipe it off the face of the earth. The resulting war lasted from May 1948 until February 1949.

•               There was a lot of dispossession on both sides as a result of this war. Arab and Jewish and in roughly equal numbers. People dispute the exact numbers, but some 650,000- 800,000 Palestinians left their homes in 1947-48 and for a variety of reasons.  Some Arabs were forced out by the Israelis — especially Arabs living along supply routes and borders. Thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war. Once the war started some left to get out of harm’s way. Others left not to appear to be traitors. Many Arabs left after being told by the attacking Arab nations that they would destroy the Jewish state and then the Arabs could go back. Jews were likewise forced out or fled from both the Arab nations and what became the Palestinian Territories after they were seized by Jordan and Egypt.

The Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel, but the Palestinians that fled or were forced out became refugees

•           The Arabs that stayed in what became the borders of Israel became Israeli citizens. The Arabs that left, for the most part,  were never resettled and the United Nations maintained and continues to maintain them as refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and in the Palestinian Territories under a special agency created only for Palestinian refugees — United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA).

There is no such thing in International Law as a “right of return” for refugees

•           Throughout history, war and conflicts have produced refugees.  Nowhere has a “right of return” been recognized for any of these refugees.

•           Millions of people were displaced after the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947.  It resulted in the largest human movement in history, an exchange of 18,000,000 Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from India.

•           In November 1975, the Moroccan government coordinated the Green March invasion, and  forced Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan Spanish Province of Sahara to Morocco.  This resulted in the creation of thousands of refugees.

•           More than 15 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia and Poland at the end of World War II.

•           In 1974, following a period of violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and an attempted Greek-sponsored coup, Turkey invaded and occupied one third of the island; this led to the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot regime to govern the invaded area in the north and the displacement of thousands of Cypriots.

•           None of these or countless other refugees has raised a “right of return” and the International Community has never recognized such a right on their behalf.

To read the whole article go here.