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No letup in crackdown on Christianity in China – UCA News

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NEWSLETTERS
What’s happening in Asian Church
and what does it mean for the
rest of the world?
A crackdown on religious groups including Christians continues in Communist China. A Protestant church has appealed for prayers for the release of four arrested Christians.
Updated: July 07, 2023 11:09 AM GMT

A protestant house church in southern China’s Guangdong province has sought prayers for the release of a pastor and three others arrested more than a month ago.
Shengjia Church in Shunde appealed that Pastor Deng Yanxiang and his three co-workers are innocent people and regretted the security forces imposed huge social harm by arresting people who are respected by colleagues and neighbors.
The appeal for prayer comes as security forces charged the four with a criminal offense of running illegal business operations. They were arrested after a raid on the church and adjacent center that offered schooling facilities, on May 24.
Security forces searched the whole center and confiscated all educational equipment. They were denied release despite the 30-day criminal detention. Such harassment of Christians is common in communist China which ranks among the worst offenders of religious freedom in the world.
Christians pray in a church in a village near China’s capital Beijing on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. (Photo: Jade Gao/AFP/Gettty Images)
India’s Supreme Court has asked the government of northeastern Manipur state to submit an updated status report on the sectarian conflict that claimed some 120 lives and displaced tens of thousands since May.
In its order on Monday, the top court also asked the authorities to provide specific details on rehabilitation, recovery of arms, and improving the law-and-order situation in the hill state.

Activists and supporters of the Social Unity Centre of India (Communist) protest in solidarity with the people of India’s northeastern state of Manipur amid ongoing ethnic violence, in Ahmedabad city on June 30. (Photo: AFP)
The court order came after a group of petitioners including the Manipur Tribal Forum lodged a plea seeking the Supreme Court’s intervention in tackling ongoing conflict between Christian-majority tribal people and the Hindu-majority Meitei community.
The violence started over awarding special tribal status to Hindu Meitei people to get priority in government jobs, education, and other affirmative action programs meant for the indigenous people. The conflict left at least 250 churches brunt and over 45,000 people, most tribal Christians, displaced.
Christians in Pakistan have sought government protection for their worship places after a hardline Islamic group issued threats following the recent burning of the Quran in Sweden.
An official from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan informed that a request for the protection of worship places was made with the government last Saturday. This came after the banned militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, vowed to avenge the Quran desecration by making Pakistan “a hell for Christianity.”

Activists of the right-wing religious Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party shout anti-Sweden slogans during a demonstration in Multan, Pakistan on July 3 as they protest against the burning of the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque that outraged Muslims around the world. (Photo: AFP)
Father Khalid Rashid Asi, director of the Commission for Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism in Faisalabad Diocese met with police officials and also asked priests in the diocese to be in touch with respective police for the security of their parishes, convents, schools, and other departments.
In 2009, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi supporters went on an anti-Christian rampage in Punjab province following allegations that a copy of the Quran was defiled. The violence left 10 Catholics dead.
More than 100 young Catholics in Pakistan and Bangladesh are likely to miss out on the World Youth Day celebration in the Portuguese capital Lisbon in August as their visa requests have been either rejected or kept pending.
Bangladeshi church officials said the Portuguese embassy has denied visas to seven out of 23 youths selected for the global Catholic youth gathering. In Pakistan, visa requests for a 17-member Catholic youth team were still pending about four weeks after their applications.

A volunteer walks in a corridor at the World Youth Day (WYD) headquarters in Lisbon on June 14. Portugal will be hosting the event for young people organized by the Catholic Church from August 1 to 6. (Photo: AFP)
In addition, about 100 Pakistani Catholic youth have also applied for visas to attend the program.
Media reports say the visa rejection from the embassies was supposedly to prevent South Asians from overstaying and becoming illegal migrants in Europe. Indian Church is sending a 250-member delegation from each of the 174 dioceses. All of them are expected to get visas by July 10. Altogether some 900-1,000 Indians are likely to attend World Youth Day this year.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing administration has come under criticism for making claims of ensuring press freedom, days after a Japanese journalist who covered pro-democracy protests was refused entry.
Yoshiaki Ogawa who was barred from entering the city stated entry denial was without citing a specific reason. He also told the press after returning to Tokyo his work was “unwelcomed” in Hong Kong and the city “has changed,” adding such incidents were unthinkable in the past.

Japanese journalist Yoshiaki Ogawa. (Photo: Forbes Japan via HKFP)
Activist groups have decried Hong Kong’s move against Ogawa. Meanwhile, last Sunday, Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary for Administration, Eric Chan told state broadcaster RTHK there were “no restrictions” on media in the city.
His claims contradict reality in Hong Kong where around 10 pro-democracy media outlets, including Apple Daily, Stand News, and Citizen News were forcibly closed since the repressive national security law was imposed in 2021. Over 1,000 journalists have lost their jobs, and many have immigrated to other countries.
South Korean Catholic groups have strongly opposed the Japanese government’s decision to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.
Catholic bishops’ Ecological Environment Committee, Justice and Peace Committee, and 42 diocesan organizations issued a joint statement to raise their voice against the dumping of radioactive water in the ocean.

The contaminated water from the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant is stored in large tanks. (Photo: AFP)
The groups are extremely concerned as the dumping plan is “just around the corner” despite stiff opposition from many quarters including environmentalists, scientists, fishing communities, and church groups. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was badly damaged by a massive tsunami and earthquake in 2011.
Millions of tons of water were used to cool down the plant amid a feared nuclear discharge that was eventually averted. Following years of debate over the disposal, the Japanese government decided to release the treated water into the sea. The initial plan was to start releasing the water in 2022 but a final decision is pending.
About two months after Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar, thousands are still waiting for shelters in western Rakhine state.
Church workers are helping to repair damaged homes and dig wells under a rehabilitation program with the help of Caritas International. The villages were devastated by the May 14 cyclone. The church has provided cash assistance to 500 families in the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe.

A girl cooks under a makeshift tent used as shelter at Basara refugee camp in Sittwe on May 16. Cyclone Mocha has impacted 7.9 million people, rending many of them homeless. (Photo: AFP)
According to the United Nations, about 1.6 million people out of the total 7.9 million affected by the cyclone need urgent aid in five states – Rakhine, Chin, Sagaing, Magway, and Kachin. The UN has also appealed for 333 million US Dollars to assist the affected communities.
Myanmar’s military regime on June 8 suspended transportation used by international agencies and local humanitarian groups to access and aid victims of the cyclone.
Indonesian advocacy groups have urged the government to amend the country’s laws and appealed to the police to halt the enforcement of blasphemy-related articles to stop the abuse of religious minorities.
Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace made the appeal which came a day after the national police marked the 77th anniversary of its founding. The guests included President Joko Widodo. Blasphemy is banned in Indonesia under the 1965 Prevention of Religious Blasphemy Law. The legislation is supported by Articles 156 and 157 of the Criminal Code.

President Joko Widodo gives a speech at an event marking the 77th Anniversary of the Indonesian National Police on July 1. (Photo: Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat)
Since 1965, more than 150 Indonesians, mostly religious minorities, were convicted of blasphemy. The case of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and former Jakarta governor, triggered global attention.
Purnama was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison in 2017. Activists say articles related to blasphemy are vague and these are often exploited to target minorities and liberal Muslims. 
The Cambodian government has hit back at Facebook by declaring 22 members from its parent company’s Oversight Board persona non-grata after they called for the suspension of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s social media account.
The list included Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman from Yemen and former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. None of those named on the list were believed to be in Cambodia.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Tawakkol Karman, is among 22 members of Facebook’s Oversight Board to be banned by Cambodia after they recently called for the suspension of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s social media account. (Photo: AFP)
Hun Sen had deleted his Facebook account before it could be suspended and expelled the company’s representatives from the country. The Oversight Board recommended Hun Sen’s six months suspension from Facebook and Instagram over a video posted where he threatened to have his opponents beaten.
Cambodia holds national election on July 23 that only Hun Sen and his long-ruling Cambodia People’s Party can win after the opposition Candlelight Party was disqualified amid a six-year crackdown on dissent including jailing of opposition politicians, journalists and activists.
A Japanese citizen’s group slammed the government for the erroneous portrayal of the military’s role in a battle during World War II in school textbooks.
The Tokyo-based Nationwide Network for Children and Textbooks 21 has accused the government of attempting to change the historical narratives of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa by omitting the Japanese military’s involvement in mass suicides on the islands after U.S. troops landed.

A woman wipes tears in front of a monument commemorating those who died in the battle of Okinawa during World War II at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Japan’s southern islands prefecture of Okinawa, on June 23, 2015. (Photo: AFP)
The group reacted after reviewing the news textbooks and pointed out the historical narratives were “more one-sided.” The new textbooks have been drafted for use in elementary schools starting in April 2024.
The Battle of Okinawa was fought during World War II between U.S. and Japanese forces on Okinawa Island, from April 1 to June 21, 1945. An estimated 110,000 Japanese troops were killed and fewer than 8,000 surrendered.
Historical records say around 100,000 Okinawan men, women, and children reportedly perished in the fighting or committed suicide under orders from the Japanese military.
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