A Call to ‘Cry Out’ Against Cross Removals in China


Photo

Tu Shouzhe, a Protestant lay leader, standing on the roof of his church in Muyang, Zhejiang Province, hours after government workers cut down its cross.Credit Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

Over the past year and a half, the government of Zhejiang Province has forcibly removed hundreds of crosses from churches, part of a campaign by the local authorities to lower the profile of Christianity in a region where it has made deep inroads. The campaign has long met with protests by parishioners, but now it is also being denounced by government-approved Christian organizations. In early July, official Protestant and Catholic associations issued open letters questioning the campaign’s legality.

Last week, the Catholic diocese of Wenzhou released a letter, signed by its bishop, Zhu Weifang, and 26 priests, calling on all Chinese citizens to “cry out” against the cross removals. A translation of the letter, which was distributed by parishioners on WeChat, follows:

Cry out! Be silent no more!

An appeal from the clergy of the Catholic diocese of Wenzhou to our fellow countrymen and to Christians:

Over the past year, the Zhejiang provincial government has been carrying out what it calls special projects in the name of “three renovations, one demolition,” but recently the campaign has intensified and gone completely bad. It has stopped using the pretext of “demolishing illegal structures” and is rushing to take down the crosses of every single church. The members of our diocese have been exercising patience, earnestly praying, rationally communicating and calmly observing in the hope that the situation would clear up on its own.

However, not only did these people not desist, they have stepped up their campaign, rushing at the crosses — the symbol of peace and love — as if they were confronting an enemy. They have recklessly taken down one cross after another in the name of the “Regulations Governing Zhejiang’s Religious Architecture,” even though these violate the people’s will and have no legal basis.

Moreover, they have treated our peaceful demonstrations and the support of fellow Christians as illegal activities. It is indeed a case of “the magistrates are free to burn down houses, while the common people are forbidden even to light lamps,” and “impeding the flow of people’s thoughts is more harmful than impeding the flow of rivers.”

Does this mean that a government that claims to wholeheartedly serve the people is deteriorating into what Liang Qichao [the political thinker and writer, 1873-1929] lamented as a “government whose outstanding achievement is controlling its own people”?

The more they suppress the call for justice, the more they reveal the severity of the social crisis, their lack of confidence in their ability to rule and their incompetence in dealing with issues. The frenzied attacks on crosses are like rashly turning to just any doctor in time of serious illness. It can only bring new tragedy to China, which has embarked on a period of stable development after the disasters of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

As human beings, we have natural rights. Everyone has the right to freedom of religious belief. We must fight by law of reason to protect the cross and defend this basic right to our religion.

As Chinese citizens, we yearn for deeper and more comprehensive democracy and the rule of law. Officials who pressure their subordinates to carry out forced demolitions by threatening their careers and bureaucrats and politicians who set themselves above the Constitution, trample the law, violate administrative procedures and take the lead in undermining the rule of law should be exposed and brought to justice.

As sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, we have long hoped for and cherished a lastingly stable and peaceful environment. We cannot afford to return to a situation in which “whether or not the nation prospers, the common people suffer.” We will not allow any retreat that jeopardizes harmonious development.

As Christians in China, it has been our mission for many years to glorify God and help people. At the same time, we hope to sinicize Christianity in an egalitarian and liberal religious, cultural and social environment.

Is the current forcible removal of crosses from churches in Zhejiang your interpretation of what President Xi Jinping meant when he talked of “sinicizing religion“?

At this critical moment, when “rising winds portend the coming storm,” we will take on the nation’s revival as our heavy responsibility, believing we are the nation’s backbone and blessing. Even if we can only cry out our anguish as we watch the tragic scenes unfold, we must be alert and wise and do all we can to restore the crosses. If one cross is torn down, tens of thousands will be erected again, in every heart, in every broad street and narrow lane, and in every home.

The church has always grown in grace in times of persecution. We once again ask for God’s mercy to grant us the courage to be martyrs for our faith and to sacrifice ourselves for the stability and true rise of the nation.

It is written in the holy Bible: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” [Amos 5:24] For freedom of faith, dignity of the law, the country’s stable development and lasting blessings for the Chinese nation, fellow Christians in China, our millions of compatriots with sense of justice, be silent no more. Together, let us cry out!

The clergy of the Catholic diocese of Wenzhou
July 28, 2015



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