Violence towards the faithful does not seem to originate in laws or declarations of the supreme leaders, but zealous Party officials, worried about the growth of Christian communities. The testimony of a Henan priest.
by P. Stanislaus (达尼老神父 )
Zhumadian (AsiaNews) – Crosses destroyed and torn down; religious inscriptions covered or eliminated; blackmailing poor families with subsidies on condition they destroy the sacred images in their homes. These are some examples cited by Fr. Stanislaus, a priest from Zhumadian (Henan) who reveals continuous episodes of daily persecution in China. Nevertheless, the most important fact is that this violence towards believers is not the result of laws or declarations of the supreme leaders. Fr. Stanislaus asks President Xi Jinping a rhetorical question: “Is it an order you gave personally? Does all of this express your will? “. In fact, the persecution to which the faithful are subject seems more like a campaign by the local authorities and the ministry of religious affairs, which in the name of revolutionary purity wants to weaken Xi himself. The fact remains that this oppression has a reason: “The number of the faithful has exceeded that of the Party members, and this can be dangerous!” Moreover, this leads to an “irrational and illegal” activism against religions and Christians in particular.
This morning I went to a village, the faithful told me that, two days ago, the chapel’s cross was demolished again, I was dejected and angry, but fortunately, the cross was very small and I could install it again easily, so I went up personally and put it back in its place. I have once again recommended that the parish contact me, should such incidents occur again.
Similar events, serious or less serious, are gradually spreading all over the country. It is no exaggeration to say it is now common knowledge worldwide: this is the peculiarity. I would like to ask President Xi: “Is it an order you gave personally? Does all of this express your will “? People have become accustomed to what is irrational and illegal, which is instead rationalized and normalized. Behind the apparent peace and prosperity lies a tortuous darkness. Most likely, people have progressively forgotten what justice and rationality are; they are content with their temporary fortune and feel honored by the greatness of the monarch.
Some days ago, someone said that Lu Xun [i]was excluded from school textbooks because – according to official statements – the thought contained in his texts is no longer suitable for the new era. However, most readers would turn up their noses: in fact, after almost a century, Lu Xun’s astute words are uncomfortable for the Chinese government.
“A careful process of elimination of Western and religious elements” from school textbooks has now changed the original text of the classics. There are even universities that condemn the classics that refer to religion to censorship, and confiscate them. These would include “The Count of Montecristo”, “Resurrection”, “Notre-Dame de Paris” etc … The giant screens, placed in front of the entrance to the elementary schools, read “No religion on campus”; the red banners instead read, “It is strictly forbidden to exercise forced conversions of minors”. We seem to have regressed to the policy of closure implemented in the late Ming period; even more, the winds of the late Qing Boxer Revolution seems to be blowing again.
When the cross of a village is demolished, the motivation given by the local government is very clear and does not present any margin for negotiation: for example, [the cross] is visible to passing high-speed trains! [ii]In one case, even a senior regional government official personally gave the demolition order! Recently, the cross of another city in the same region was removed under the same pretext.
During a meeting, with great rationality, the leaders told me: for reasons of proportionality and construction safety, the cross must not be too large or high, we must try not to exceed a tenth of the size of the main building. The advice was rational: I fully agree and I am willing to accept it and rigorously apply it. Another official: the cross must be installed as much as possible on the wall, without going beyond the main building. I can just about accept this point; after all, it says “as much as possible”: in the future, buildings could naturally refer to this advice.
However, another official notes: See, all Christian crosses have been demolished! I absolutely cannot understand this reasoning: does the fact that something happened make it reasonable? If a cross has been demolished, does it mean that all the crosses must also be demolished? What law clearly states that crosses should not exist in this country? In other words, is it necessary to create a pure nation in which flags fly in every corner of the street?
Conclusions, but also repetition of what was said previously:
1. The couplets that have a certain religious nuance must be removed or covered, in particular if they contain the sign of the cross[iii]; or, it is sufficient to remove only the cross. In addition, the reasons are the same as those listed above. According to another internal document, “Religious couplets and any other form of evangelization are forbidden”: from this, we understand that couplets, posters or crosses are part of the work of evangelization, which is undoubtedly illegal.
2. Poor families with low incomes are entitled to subsidies, provided they remove sacred images [at home]. Since the whole country has adopted this standard, I always thought the directive had come from above. Instead, no entity can provide the relevant document: they are just rumors. Apparently, this happened because a poor family, when they received the subsidy, exclaimed “Thank you Lord!” Before an official. The veracity of the incident is not important, and if it were true, it would be ridiculous. We can only say, “Poverty destroys religious freedom”.
3. If there are faithful who live near a road and at an intersection, all religious signs must be removed. The patience and perseverance with which officials execute this directive are truly admirable: they go to the families’ dozens of times to convince the faithful, to show that they have never compelled anyone, but rather, that all the faithful have decided to remove the couplets and sacred images of their own free will.
Some point out: [the officials] know that those who believe will continue to believe; these initiatives are only aimed at preventing those who would like to draw near to the faith, but who have not yet done so. In other words: we must not evangelize, so as not to develop [the communities]. This is now a public fact: the leaders have said: the number of the faithful has exceeded that of the Party members, and this can be dangerous! However, is it really dangerous? As the number of faithful grows, society will fall into chaos, will the country be destroyed?
After religious freedom, we will be deprived of other freedoms. This is why I still want to warn those who are gloating: do not think that you will be spared. Undoubtedly, a eunuch may fall in love with an emperor, but this would be a typical example of Stockholm syndrome.
Some say: do not oppose the government. But when have I ever opposed the government? All I seek is a bit of freedom, and when I am deprived of it, all I can do is call it out.
As I have said, I really love my country, but some people ask me: “Do you think you are worthy of the surname Zhao[iv]?” I agree, I am not worthy of it.
[i][i] Lu Xun (1881-1936) is the father of modern Chinese literature. In his studies in China and Japan, he was driven by the desire to strengthen the self-awareness of the Chinese people. Mao Zedong called him “the wise man of contemporary China” and “the pioneer of the Chinese Cultural Revolution”.
[ii] This is exactly what happened in Zhumadian: see AsiaNews.it, “More than before: persecution continues in Wenzhou, Henan, Hubei after the China-Holy See agreement”
[iv] Zhao is one of the most common surnames in China, used here as a symbol of being part of the Chinese people.