CHINA – VATICAN
Prayer, compassion, solidarity, while the inhabitants of Wuhan who have arrived in other cities are treated “like rats”. The story of the first week of emergency. The pope’s prayer. Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to the infection has risen to 259; 11,823 are infected in China and 129 abroad.
by Shan Ren Shen Fu (山人神父)
Beijing (AsiaNews) – “Christians must pray sincerely, and our country really needs the help of the Lord”. This is the invitation of Fr. Shanren (the mountain “priest”), a famous blogger, to all his faithful and friends, in his story about the first week of the virus emergency. The blockade of the cities, armed defense against the infected, the despair of the sick, but also the many gestures of solidarity towards the people of Wuhan, now treated “like rats”. There is a risk of strong social tensions, which only prayer and love can overcome.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to the infection has risen to 259; 11,823 are infected in China and 129 abroad. Suspected cases in China have risen to 18,000; at least 243 patients have recovered from the virus.
On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve [January 24] I received the communication on the cancellation of the Mass. Just two days before, I had sent a written communication to the faithful about the times of the masses that would take place for the New Year’s Eve on January 24, 25 and Sunday. I had planned to return to my home country after Sunday mass. “Returning home after New Year’s Eve” has become a custom now. And now that even the mass has been canceled, I have decided to return home on January 25, after having finished having dinner with the faithful on New Year’s Eve.
This “home coming” has become a difficult decision to make this year. Before New Year I had repeatedly spoken to my parents on the phone and they always asked me when I would be back. But we were not yet aware of Wuhan’s coronavirus. By the time I found out, the epidemic had spread across China. I had assured my parents that I would be back on January 26th and I never thought that I would anticipate my return by a day’. My parents were completely unaware of my early return. Most of my brother priests cannot spend New Year’s Eve in their native country; they too come back after the day after. We spoke to each other often discussing if it was still appropriate to return. Everyone thought it was an irresponsible act. But I decided to come back a little earlier, and that God bless me and bless the trip too. I arrived home in the evening of the same day.
We arrived in the village in the rain. Roadblocks had already been installed, but fortunately our village did not use the bulldozer to dig trenches, nor mountains of dirt to block the roads. Civilization is not something that is built overnight, but thanks to faith people have made some progress, they have not adopted the “simple but violent” ways that circulate on the internet. The celebrations that the village had organized were canceled. There are no people who visit relatives, nor children who play secretly with fireworks: the whole village is miraculously shrouded in silence. Everyone at home eating, watching TV, playing on their cell phone, sleeping. There are undoubtedly many elders who pray and recite the rosary silently.
The epidemic situation is more and more critical and holds everyone’s heart. On the internet, not only do I watch the latest updates about the epidemic and the new epidemic areas, but I am also discovering some human affection emerging in society. The mayor of Wuhan said that 5 million people have left the city of Wuhan, there are some who return to their hometown, others who have already planned the trip for some time and are staying in hotels. As is obvious, because of the terror regarding the transmission of the virus, people are openly fearful towards citizens from Wuhan. These poor people are now chased away by everyone like rats running across the street! Yet there are many people who, via the internet, have invited all friends from Wuhan, excluded and trapped in other cities, stating that the citizens of Wuhan can get in touch with them and that they are willing to welcome them offering them accommodation and to face this difficult moment together.
In life there are always two different types of people and so two divergent opinions often emerge: those who belong to love, who embrace life with an open heart and affection; those who belong to hatred, who reject the surrounding world with a cold heart. Self-protection and self-isolation are undoubtedly our duty, but if we all ignore humanity, morals and even the law to prevent the “virus”, even healthy people who live in safety become equal to the beasts.
Love and hatred for the infected
Currently, the infected must self-isolate themselves without infecting others. Unfortunately, on the internet we see many aggressive actions: there are terrified patients who tear the protective suits and masks off the nurses, asking the faces of the doctors and nurses: Why do only you have protection? If we have to die, we die together … Then, we also see the roadblocks: there are those who put up red markers; others walking around with swords in hand; there are those who put the banners in front of the house of others; some who even uses planks of wood to block the entrance of the neighbors. For many people, Wuhan’s patients are no longer people, but synonymous with viruses. This is truly disheartening news, because even the Lord says he hates sin, loves people. I would always like to embrace the sinner with such mercy, waiting for him to ask for forgiveness.
But the situation today is this: everyone who is out of the city of Wuhan shouts: Come on Wuhan! But if they have any friends who have returned from Wuhan, they tell them: Not only do you infect others, but you also hurt yourself! If relations between people continue in this way because of the epidemic, there will inevitably be greater social divergences.
Fortunately, after the village was closed, no one could move from their home, and with masks you can no longer sing or speak. In silence, people can at least meditate. Believers begin to pray for the epidemic, the village faithful organize themselves to fast. My sister-in-law also joined them, and is no longer having breakfast!
What we really lack in China is self-criticism: everyone weeps and despairs when a disaster occurs, but as soon as the catastrophe ends everything returns as before. In 2002-2003, 17 years ago, there was Sars, today the coronavirus. Both events are related to wild animals. The bat is part of the wild animals, its appearance resembles that of the knight of the night (some faithful say that the bat has the appearance of Satan). Now, it is unthinkable that you could eat such a thing! A friend of mine saw a video where a man consumed a bat during the meal, and immediately threw his bowl away saying: that’s awful!
Before the epidemic, my teacher sent me a reflection. Frankly, I don’t want to think that today’s illness is related to the persecution of the faith, but thinking about it, my master’s words are not so out of place.
“Think only of December 24, or a month ago: we Chinese firmly affirmed that we had to boycott foreign holidays,we had to ban Christmas, love the country and support national holidays. We slapped our own faces hard, because just a month later, a disaster happened on January 24th. Seeing the difficult situation today, I really have a thousand thoughts: we have refused the peace that God has given us for free, and now we all want peace, but the cost is very high. We must be afraid of God, let’s pray for the Chinese! We ask for the immense mercy of God that everything will be resolved soon! “.
At the Angelus on January 26, Pope Francis mentioned the Chinese epidemic, inviting faithful from all over the world to pray for China’s ill. Men can make mistakes and errors, but the Lord is great and merciful. God never ignores a repentent and humble heart. Today, Christians must pray sincerely, for our country really needs the help of the Lord.