XINJIANG: CROSSES, DOMES, STATUES DESTROYED: THE NEW ‘SINICIZED’ CULTURAL REVOLUTION

As you know, I continue to follow events in mainland China given the apparent desire of the Holy See to establish some kind of diplomatic ties with this communist country. In addition to friends I have in Asia, AsiaNews and UCAN are my principal sources of information because I know they have reliable people on the ground as well as many contacts with the faithful – both the government approved Patriotic Catholic Association and the persecuted “underground” Church.

Here is a very telling piece by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews:

XINJIANG: CROSSES, DOMES, STATUES DESTROYED: THE NEW ‘SINICIZED’ CULTURAL REVOLUTION

Crosses removed from the domes and the tympanum of Yining Church as well as external decorations and crosses, and the Way of the Cross within the church. The same happened at the churches of Manas and Hutubi. The Cross represents “a foreign religious infiltration “. Prayer services forbidden even in private houses under the threat of arrests and re-education. Children and young people forbidden to enter churches. Religious revival frightens the Party.

Rome (AsiaNews) – “It’s a new Cultural Revolution”: this most frequent online comment in reaction to photos of the church of Yining (Xinjiang) stripped of the crosses that stood on the building, of the statues that stood on its tympanum and the decorations and paintings that embellished the facade.

The photo that we published (on the left) shows the color, the momentum, the lightness of the domes and wall decorations, the crosses on the top of the building, before their destruction. The photo on the right shows the “after”. Everything was destroyed by order of the government on February 27 and 28, just a few weeks after the meeting between the Chinese and Vatican delegations, which reportedly resulted in the drafting of a “historic” agreement on the nominations of bishops in the Chinese Catholic Church.

Yining, 700 km west of the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, has a Catholic community of a few hundred faithful.

The reference to the Cultural Revolution is a must: in the period from 1966 to 1976 the Red Guards led by Mao and the “band of the Four” implemented the most extreme form of communism by destroying churches, temples, pagodas, prayer books, statues, paintings to annihilate all religion.

But the “Cultural Revolution” of these days is justified by another slogan: “sinicization”. This implies – as Xi Jinping explained three years ago and reaffirmed at the Party Congress last October – “adhering to and developing religious theories with Chinese characteristics”, adhering to the principle of “independence”, adapting religion to socialist society and resisting “religious infiltration from abroad”.

Now the symbol of the cross represents “a religious infiltration from abroad”: from the church of Yining, not only were the two crosses that overlapped the two domes razed to the ground, but also the crosses inside the sacred building have disappeared, including the Way of the Cross and the decorations in the form of a cross have been ripped from the pews.

The iconoclastic fury has also affected other cities. Even before last Christmas, all the crosses from the church of Manas were destroyed and there are rumors that the same happened in the church of Hutubi.

The comparison with the Cultural Revolution does not stop there. Just like then, it is forbidden for believers to pray even in private, in their homes. The police threaten that if they find two people praying together in their home, they will be arrested and forced to undergo re-education.

Under the new regulations on religious activities, proposed last September and implemented last February 1st, worship can only be carried out in church, at the times set by the government. Any other place is considered an “illegal place” and those who break such regulations will be subject to prison, fines, expropriation of the building that houses illegal religious activity. Even private homes are now considered an “illegal place of worship”: in every private house religious conversation or prayer is forbidden, under threat of arrest. The faithful can pray only in church, during Sunday service.

All churches must display a sign at their entrance announcing that the building is “forbidden to minors under the age of 18” must be exposed because children and young people are prohibited from participating in religious rites.

It should be noted that the churches mentioned are not illegal buildings, but officially registered churches. The point is that “sinicization” implies submission to the Chinese Communist Party, which must act as an “active guide” of religions, on which their life or death, every construction and every destruction, depends.

The ruthless and suffocating control of the Party on religions can only be explained by fear. It is now everyone’s experience in China – confirmed by various sociologists – that the country is in the midst of an impressive religious renaissance, to the point that over 80% of the population has some spiritual beliefs and that at least one fifth of the Party members secretly adhere to some form of religion. All this promises more control and persecution in the future.

“I am very sad – a faithful of Urumqi confides to AsiaNews – that the Vatican is compromising with this government. In this way it becomes an accomplice of those who want our annihilation”.

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&idn=1&art=43249&mag=visualizzaperlastampa

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POPE TO DIPLOMATS: USE DIALOGUE AND DIPLOMACY, PROMOTE INTIATIVES OF ENCOUNTER AND PEACE – MALNUTRITION, FOOD, MEDICINE SHORTAGES AT CRISIS LEVELS IN VENEZUELA

I don’t know if you have been following the political situation in Venezuela these last many months hut it has created a humanitarian situation that has reached crisis levels, according to the communications office of Caritas Internationalis in Rome. Below is a report I received today from Caritas. There are many other cirses, not necessarily of a humanitarian nature – banking, access to money, inflation, and many other issues.

POPE TO DIPLOMATS: USE DIALOGUE AND DIPLOMACY, PROMOTE INTIATIVES OF ENCOUNTER AND PEACE

Pope Francis greeted newly accredited ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday morning, telling them that dialogue and not the use of force, was the pathway to peace. The new ambassadors represent Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago, The Pope said the international scene “at present is marked by great complexity,” nor is it free “of dark clouds.” (photo news.va)

The Holy Father said that this situation required “a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.”  Among the factors aggravating problems, he said, is “an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities. … Those authorities are responsible for the common good, yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few.”

Men and women, not money, the Pope stressed “must once more become the goal of the economy..

Francis noted how conflicts around the world, were being exacerbated by fundamentalism, “the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power, the manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power,”

Pope Francis urged differences to be confronted “with the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use….If we move decisively in this direction, the cause of peace and justice – the conditions of a balanced development for all – will make tangible progress.” (Vatican Radio)

MALNUTRITION, FOOD, MEDICINE SHORTAGES AT CRISIS LEVELS IN VENEZUELA

Child malnutrition in parts of Venezuela is now at the level of a humanitarian crisis, warns a new report from the local Caritas agency. With the economy in freefall, shortages of food and medicine and soaring food prices, nearly half of children under five in areas monitored by Caritas are suffering from some degree of malnutrition or at imminent risk.

Caritas has been surveying child malnutrition across four states including the capital Caracas. The latest figures show that 11.4 percent of children under five are suffering either from moderate or severe acute malnutrition. The World Health Organisation’s crisis threshold for child malnutrition is 10 percent. (photo, venezuelaanalysis.com)

The Caritas figure rises to 48 per cent when under-fives at risk or already suffering lower levels of malnutrition are included. “We are extremely worried,” said Janeth Márquez, director of Caritas Venezuela, “which is why we are going public with this series of reports. We have been monitoring levels of malnutrition and providing assistance to under-fives since October across four states: Distrito Capital, Vargas, Miranda and Zulia.

“Our results clearly show that general levels of malnutrition are rising and acute malnutrition in children has crossed the crisis threshold. If we don’t respond soon, it will become very difficult for these children ever to get back onto their nutritional growth curve.”

For the most vulnerable children, Caritas distributes kits containing specialist food supplements, especially protein and minerals such as iron. Medicines are also offered to the most at-risk people, who have to be strictly prioritised given the difficulty of obtaining medical supplies.

Over eight in ten households across 31 parishes surveyed in the Caritas report are eating less than before, and nearly six out of ten say that some family members are going without food so that another person in the family can eat – typically mothers giving their own food to their children.

Caritas warns crisis is developing

“In some places we surveyed, the child malnutrition level was as high as 13 percent,” said Susana Raffalli, a humanitarian specialist in food emergencies working for Caritas in Venezuela. “If you think that four years ago the acute malnutrition rate was 3 percent, then it is shocking. In October it was 8 percent. It is progressing at a worryingly high rate”.

“You see the wasting and in some cases the edema – all the classic images of starving children. In the villages, it’s the children who are worst affected but also the adults are very wasted. You still see fancy restaurants and people living a normal life in the capital, but even in those areas, in the early morning, you see people going through trash bins looking for food.”

The Caritas report shows one in twelve households were eating “from the street” – scavenging for leftover food from restaurants and rubbish bins. With inflation running at 720 percent, the highest in the world, the basic food basket now costs 16 times the minimum wage.

“It’s a major crisis and needs national and international help to manage the scale of the disaster at the highest decision-making levels,” said Susana Rafalli. “Livelihoods have been degraded to such an extent, that the very poor have no means to cope – everything has broken down. Jobs, healthcare, the family, home – poor people have lost everything as they move about in search of a lifeline. The humanitarian community and the people of Venezuela need to begin a full-scale response now.”

Humanitarian response needed now

Venezuela’s healthcare system has collapsed. Hospitals have run out of medicines, healthcare provision, and mosquito-borne diseases including zika, dengue, malaria and chikungunya, as well as infant and maternal mortality rate are on the rise.

“We need in-kind aid from the outside,” says Susana Raffalli. “In hospitals, we don’t even have formula for babies. We need basic medicines.”

As part of the Caritas response, ‘sentinel sites’ where children are brought for regular checks have successfully been set up to monitor nutrition levels and provide nutritional supplements and basic medicines to affected children. House visits are also conducted, with the result that children at risk are now identified immediately and given medical and nutritional help.

“We are lucky to have a wonderful team of volunteer medics who are serving the community,” said Janeth Márquez. “In the parishes where Caritas is carrying out its programme, a number of children have stabilized and even recovered, despite the ongoing crisis.”

Alongside shortage of food, the other biggest risk to health is the lack of clean drinking water. Even in urban areas supplies can be cut off for days. “We are very worried about access to safe water,” said the Caritas director.

“Fresh water supplies failed a long time ago, as reservoirs have not been properly maintained, and there are no basic supplies for making water drinkable such as chlorine. In many areas the piped water is not safe to drink,” she said. “If a child who is already malnourished falls ill with a parasite, obviously the impact will be much worse. The economic situation is so bad that people can’t afford gas bottles, so they are not boiling their water.

“We are running workshops to show people how to protect themselves from water-borne parasites. We are also distributing hand-made fresh water filters that were developed for use in Africa, and training people to use them so that especially children, pregnant women and old people can drink better water.”

The Caritas report has been issued to urge the national and international community to intervene in the crisis, concluding that direct food relief including nutritional supplements is critical as is the restoring of adequate facilities for healthcare, clean water, and sanitation.

As Caritas concludes, “The response to the food crisis must be a social and economic priority, taking the politics out of protecting the most vulnerable people and facilitating the relief work of all those who, officially or unofficially, have direct contact with those most in need throughout the country.”