Page 4, 19th November 1982

19th November 1982
Page 4
Page 4, 19th November 1982 — How free is the Church in China?

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Locations: Belfast, Hongkong, Liverpool


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How free is the Church in China?

I READ with interest the two references in your paper (Oct 15 and Oct 22) to the seven-member delegation of Chinese Protestants headed by Bishop Ting which recently made a three-week tour of Britain.

In view of the Holy Father's request to every bishop in the Church for special initiatives of prayer for the Church in China and in view also of Britain's responsibilities towards Hongkong, it seems worth offering some comments.

If, at the present time, there is tolerance of an official form of the Protestant religion (Bishop Ting's China Christian Council) and the Catholic religion (the Catholic Patriotic Association), this is simply the pragmatic religious policy of a government that has learned from the disastrous and unsuccessful policy of the Cultural Revolution that two steps are sometimes better than one.

Chinese Communism makes no secret of the fact that its aim is to exterminate religion, but "not by creating martyrs", but by first, control and then suppression. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners of conscience who will have nothing to do with the Communist-operated official Church, Protestant or Catholic, fill the numerous labour camps in every province of China.

And yet Christianity flourishes now in China as it always does under persecution. It has been estimated that there are now, not four-five million Christians as Bishop Ting reported, but 30-50 million. Those who have joined the Governmentapproved official churches have been estimated to number about 2 per cent of the total number of Christians.

In the villages and countryside, especially in the more remote provinces, the church flourishes, Protestants and Catholics alike, large numbers of Christians meeting frequently and helping each other to spread the Gospel, Sing Tao Yat Po, June 21.

I have no desire to be polemical and I have in fact the greatest compassion for those who are spokesmen of an atheistic government and yet wish to keep a Christian conscience.

My point is simply that religious freedom as the UN charter intends it, does not exist in mainland China. Words like "freedom", "rights", "liberty" and even "Marxism" have a different meaning in the West and in China, nor is Chinese Communism exactly the same as European Communism.

Unless this is understood, exchanges of views are simply double-talk. It must also be remembered that in Communist ideology, truth is relative so everything including statements of human rights, can be adapted, modified and changed by the practical requirements of what is expedient here and now.

When 4rchbishop Runcie returned to Hongkong from his visit to Bishop Ting at Nanking in January this year, he said he would not "risk" sending help to the Christian Church in China in spite of its desperate need, in case it was offensive to those in charge.

Although he correctly picked up the message "Keep out", what light does this throw on the China Christian Council and its understanding of the term "Christian" and "church"?

Miss M J O'Farrell Macan Hongkong

Renewal in the Church

IF IT IS desirable to recognise the Charismatic Renewal as an international organisation, surely it must be seen as a Christian body and by its very nature as ecumenical.

Reunion is not an extra in the renewal of the Church but a necessary part of the Body of Christ under the • direction of the Holy Spirit. If the Curia wish to regard such a body as suspect and not fit for recognition, so be it. Time will show where the Spirit is working.

There is no need to change the present ruling on intercommunion. Non-catholics can receive a blessing from the priest at communion as they already do at Charismatic Renewal Masses.

Similarly, Catholics can receive a blessing from the minister at a communion service as they did at one large residential conference in July.

No one is obliged to join a Charismatic group. Before conservative Catholics start criticising the movement, they ought to reflect whether the renewal of the Church, which must take place in every age. will come from them or from those who open themselves in mind and heart to their separated brethren.

P J Rockford Ampleforth Abbey York

Nuclear deterrence

CONGRATULATIONS on Walter Stein's article, "Nuclear deterrence — a time for decision" Nov 5. His clear exposition of the main moral arguments in the Justice and Peace Commission's study "Nuclear Deterrence — Right or Wrong?" should encourage all Christians seriously concerned with peace to seek it out forthwith.

One of the study's major achievements is to demonstrate, through the author's grasp of nuclear weaponry and current strategies, that deterrence is not a stable "balance of terror".

Of its very nature it must lead to greater and continuing escalation with its ever-increasing emphasis on more sophisticated devices. the deployment of which encourages the likelihood of a pre-emptive first strike. We know that this country so far has not renounced "first-use" strategies; we know that they are not bluffing.

Many of the publicised arguments over deterrence have concentrated either on its political and military necessity, regardless of moral considerations, or on complicated moral categories divorced from the actual situation. Perhaps now, with the help of the Commission's study, more Christians will feel able to commit themselves to working for true peace; a peace which relies not on the fear of hideous destruction, but on Christian hope, and confidence in God's promise for all who trust in Him. Clare Prangley Oxford SO OUR bishops still cannot make up their minds on the morality of nuclear arms, (Oct. 22).

In Britain the prophetic voice of the Church remains muted on what is possibly the gravest moral issue of the century. Praise God for Pope John Paul II, Pax Christi and isolated leaders like Bishop James O'Brien, but apart from them the official Church here sounds more like a NATO or Warsaw Pact general than the voice of the Holy Spirit!

What further evidence do our bishops need to assure them of the immorality of nuclear weapons? A recent NATO simulation of a limited local nuclear engagement in West Germany gave a conservative estimate of two million civilian dead. There is a wealth of evidence available from scientists. historians, university research groups and other impeccably reliable sources to show that no nuclear war could be morally defensible.

Jesus after all promises that His Holy Spirit will teach us everything. May I suggest (seriously) that, when the discussion is over, the bishops come together in prayer for several hours (or days) until the Spirit has made them of one mind about this crucial issue.

Ken Brown Crawley, Sussex.

Supporters of life

DR HILARY Cashman's suggestion (November 5) that LIFE and SPUC supporters only care about life before it has left the womb is totally false.

Pro-lifers work to assist women with problem pregnancies, campaign for the rights of the handicapped and against the injustices which make life a struggle for so many people.

We campaign for the unborn because all human beings matter regardless of factors such as age or nationality. It would certainly be hypocritical to condemn injustice overseas whilst ignoring the carnage which surrounds us in this country destroying over 160,000 human lives each year.

Brian Collins London W3.

Matters of faith

ON NOVEMBER 12 you talk about the "firm evidence of the Pope's practical commitment to ecumenism, despite his unwavering stand on dogmatic matters which has rather dispirited non-Catholic bodies keen to see a movement towards unity from both sides."

Why talk about commitment to ecumenism despite a firm stand on dogmatic matters? An unwavering stand on dogmatic matters (i.e. matters of faith and morafs) must be an indispensable part of ecumenism, that is the search for Christian unity.

There cannot be a true Christian unity, unless it includes unity in faith. Those therefore who want Christian unity must also want "an unwavering stand on dogmatic matters". Not despite commitment to unity, but rather because of it.

If non-Catholic bodies only see movement towards unity in abandoning a firm stand on matters of faith, are they not inconsistent? How can a movement away from a firm stand on matters of faith and towards continuous fluidity be a movement towards unity?

(Fr) L Kovacs Stapleford, Notts.

Square One in Ireland

From: Sir John Tilney I HAVE read Mgr Michael Buckley's comments on "Back to Square one in Northern Ireland Stakes" (October 29). I am a member of the Church of England. my wife is a Catholic.

I was MP for Wavertree in the City of Liverpool when I was asked in 1969 by the then Unionist Government of Ulster to see for myself the problems of that province of such a lovely island.

I went to Bogside and also to "No Go" land and met the leaders there and came back utterly depressed. I could see little hope for a peaceful solution for a future partnership between the two historic races there living. the Celtic Irish and the Lowlands Scots.

We are now indeed back to Square One.

But we can reduce the problems. Why cannot we have a referendum, polling district by polling district, asking the simple question; "Do you want to be a citizen of Eire or of the United Kingdom"? We would at least then have a map, supervised by adviser-controllers of the EEC of which body we are both members, showing the world where the people of Northern Ireland wanted to live. It would show how difficult the problem is.

Some areas could at once be hived off to Eire. We might have to live for a decade or two with a corridor to part of Belfast. There might even have to be an incentive for a minor exchange of population. There would then be a truncated British Ulster, which should be able to protect her new frontiers without the need of British troops throughout the area where they now are.

John Tliney London, SW1.

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