A land of martyrsFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
For decades, Beijing has spilled the blood of China's religious believers.
Friends of liberty have delighted in the torch's travails, as China has got its bloodstained fingers burnt. For those interested in looking at how a clunky propaganda machine operates in the Internet age, it is worth checking out the official torch relay web site. It is in parts quite hilarious, as the Chinese spin the events as a heroic struggle to protect the "sacred" flame.
Note the prominent portrayal of one of the Paris torchbearers, Jin Jing, a Chinese wheelchair athlete: "Carrying the torch along the Seine River, Jin demonstrated great valour when a 'pro-Tibet independence' activist, attempting to disrupt and sabotage the torch relay, reached for her wheelchair and lunged toward her. Without concern for her own safety, Jin did her best to protect the flame, her face exhibiting courage and pride in spite of the chaotic situation"
There is no mention of the Chinese secret police detail on hand in this act of heroism, but the Web site reports the rapturous welcome the heroine was given upon return to Beijing. It goes on to quote Jin saying that "God closed one door but opened another" in relation to her injury. She seems a brave confessor of the Olympic faith.
All of which is more than a little creepy, as China is one of the few states still busy at the work of making real martyrs, killing and imprisoning its own citizens for their religious beliefs. The torch relay brought to my mind another image of "sacred"¯ objects being held aloft, this one to found on the Web site of the fine religious liberty organization, Aid to the Church in Need and seen on this page.
That's John Han Dingxiang in the photo below, Roman Catholic bishop of Yong Nian, under house arrest. Bishop Han spent some 35 years in forced labour, imprisonment and house arrest for his fidelity to Rome. Knowing that faithful Catholics were watching for him, he would come to his caged-in balcony and raise aloft the cross of Jesus Christ. The image here was taken from a camera hidden in some nearby bushes. Like the torch relay, the Chinese secret police are no doubt on hand, but there are no staged crowds, amoral corporate sponsors, no craven Olympic officials — just a lone prisoner of conscience trying to do what little he could to bear witness to the faith and strengthen the flock.
When Bishop Han was dying last September, the Chinese regime permitted no one from the Church to be at this bedside. He was cremated soon after death and buried by night. His grave marker made no indication of his religious faith or that he was a bishop.
Such oppression is absolutely routine in China; there are today bishops and priests imprisoned. The Falun Gong are subject to massive repression and summary execution. To have the Chinese speak about heroism in protecting things sacred is thus particularly grotesque, as they have for decades spilled the blood of religious believers.
The Tibetan freedom protesters were wise to use the torch relay as a means of shedding light on China's ongoing repression in Tibet. Yet what is going on in Tibet is not altogether different from what Chinese citizens have to suffer from their own government. It is now incumbent upon the vast media operation being assembled for the Olympic Games to see that the light of the Olympic torch illuminates not just the games, but the shadows in which religious liberty is stifled throughout China. This August must be, if the international media is to retain its credibility, the most extensive reporting of Chinese brutality to date.
In August, we should not have to rely on grainy images from hidden cameras to show us the black heart of the Chinese regime. Today, somewhere in China, there is another like Bishop Han, holding aloft the Cross of Christ. Better to die doing that than to live holding the soiled propaganda tool of a wicked regime.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, "A land of martyrs." National Post, (Canada) April 17, 2008.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
PHOTO: Aid to the Church in Need
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
Copyright © 2008 National Post
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