The more it has been contrasted, the stronger it has become, the more they have tried to ban it, the more it has spread: Christianity in the communist China where, contrary to all expectations, the number of the faithful is increasing in spite of the difficulties they face every day.
Twenty million Catholics and about 160 protestants, approximate but significant numbers that give an idea of how faith finds fertile ground where society imposes controls that restrict religious freedom.
Recently, however, something has changed, also due to the good will demonstrated by the president Xi Jinping in his long-distance dialogue with Pope Francis. Suffice it to say that at the beginning of August was appointed a bishop recognized by the Holy See, Father Zhang Yinlin. A turning point in the context of bilateral relations that, however, does not erase what is going on in some provinces, where Beijing’s presence is felt less. As in Zhejiang, where the arrest of the protestant pastor Bao Guohua, along with his wife and 5 faithful of the Holy Love Christian Church of Jinhua has confirmed the hard line against Christians.
They are under the accusation of having opposed the removal of the cross from the roof of the church ordered by the authorities. It is an emblematic episode that explains what is going on in the city since the beginning of April without attracting too much media attention.
One single goal: remove the Christian roots from the territory. So over a period of 4 months about 360 crosses have been destroyed in the Zhejiang province which by 2020 should become one of the largest areas of economic development. For this reason has been launched the campaign “Three corrections and one demolition”, that aims at embellishing the region by eliminating the structures considered to be dangerous and illegal, among which there are also the region’s parishes.
The initiative belongs to Xia Baolong, the party secretary of Zhejiang who, upon seeing a cross soaring on the top of a church, defined it as “too obvious and offensive”. Hence the decision to completely eliminate the Christian symbol from places of worship. Christian faithful did not passively observed what was happening and have launched a proposal on social networks, that has been very successful: who adhered was supposed to build his/her own cross to carry wherever (s)he went, a slap in the face of those who thought they could suffocate faith with bureaucracy.
Thus China moves along two different rails: on the one hand, forms of restriction against religious minorities, especially Christians, continue to be practiced; on the other hand, the leader of Beijing launches signals of rapprochement with the Vatican on the question of the bishops’ appointment. Until today the State had entrusted the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics with the right to choose their pastors, avoiding to bow to the Church of Rome and recognizing to the Pope only a “spiritual leadership”. For this reason, the two realities had no more diplomatic relations. Despite the case’s ambiguity, it is certain that persecution has proved to be a true boomerang because it has only strengthened faith. The converted Chinese have found in our relationship with Christ a hope greater than repression, and that is precisely what scares dictatorship the most.
Translated by Ecaterina Severin