Page 4, 21st October 1994

21st October 1994
Page 4
Page 4, 21st October 1994 — LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Christian persecution in China: letters

I READ YOUR ARTICLE on the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to China with some disbelief (Catholic Herald, 7 October). Andrew Boyd seems to have accepted with out qutstion a view of the religious situation which is grossly overstated.

The figures quoted for numbers of Christians by the Jubilee Campaign and by Christian Solidarity International are incredible. As an observer of the Christian Church in China over many years I have seen no hard evidence for the assertion that there are 60-100 million believers.

20 million is a generous estimate of both Catholics and Protestants.

The Archbishop and his party, of which I was a member, were well aware of the many problems facing Christians in China.

The China Christian Council itself has expressed its concern over some major abuses of human rights, and we were able to take some of these up with the authorities. We knew about the deaths of Christians and the arrests of

others.

We were also aware that the actual situation in China is far more nuanced and complex than some Western campaigners are willing to admit. To call the official Church bodies in China "Communist-controlled" is to impose an inaccurate stereotype on a mixed and rapidly changing reality.

Recent government decrees need to be seen in the context of the policies in operation in the recent past.

Such a comparison does not suggest a worsening of the situation rather the reverse. To understand what is really happening in China we need to remember what it was like for religious believers prior to 1979.

Bishop Ting, President of the China Christian Council, is quoted to support the allegations of the Jubilee Campaign.

But the very fact that Bishop Ting does indeed speak out contradicts the simplistic dismissal of the "official" church in China.

Truth is never served by propaganda. The Chinese government certainly relies on propaganda as an instrument of policy.

But so do the other groups quoted by Andrew Boyd. Persecution is a reality in some areas.

On the other hand a significant degree of religious freedom it a reality in many parts of the country. The Archbishop's visit, raising the profile of Christians in China as it did, will benefit China's Christians.

It is a pity that your news paper did not take the trouble to provide a balanced picture of the situation.

Rev Bob Whyte London.

CHINESE CHRISTIANS DO continue to face persecution, and the Faith is very much alive in China today, as Andrew Boyd writes (Catholic Herald, 7 October). But I would like to add two points.

Firstly, persecution may not always be apparent to visitors, whether they be Archbishops or tourists.

I have just returned from a visit to China and it became apparent that the pressure on Christians is often more subtle, less dramatic and considerably more oppressive than the actual figures of those imprisoned for the faith suggest.

Bishops and priests have been taken on cultural tours, carted off to homes for the elderly or simply removed to different regions. Surveillance is excellent, as we discovered.

Secondly, the Catholic Church is not being left out of the growing interest in Christianity.

There are over 60,000 conversions every year and even the seminaries which Aid to the Church In Need helped build a few years ago are no longer big enough.

The young seminarians and the radiant novices we met inspire hope for the future.

In conclusion, it is worth pointing out that the growth in Catholicism applies equally to the underground and to the official Church, who both wish for unity under the Holy See even if this cannot be stated publicly.

Neville Kyrke-Smith Aid to the Church in Need, London

LAST YEAR THE Daily Mail published a horrifying photograph and story regarding the horrifying practice in China of allowing unwanted baby girls to starve to death in State orphanages.

I noticed, during the run up to last Christmas, how many decorations and toys had been imported from China and were being sold in popular High Street stores.

During this year, many thousands more "unwanted" healthy infant girls will have been allowed to die, and "illegal" children aborted, through pressure from the Chinese authorities.

Could we please consider carefully, when buying toys and decorations to delight our own children this Christmas, whether we want to buy from a country which counts its own children's lives as worthless?

Jane Kennedy Coventry




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