Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Welcome to the Macau-China Bulletin: September 2010

Pope donates $30,000 to China flood relief work
Pope Benedict XVI has donated US$30,000 toward relief work following devastating floods in several parts of China. The donation was handed to Jinde Charities, the national Shijiazhuang based Catholic charitable organization, through the Vatican’s Christian and human development agency, Pontifical Council Cor Unum (one heart) on Aug. 21.
Shijiazhuang is the capital of Hebei province in northern China. I’m very moved by the Pope’s concern for China and I’m sure the Chinese people feel the same way too, said Jinde vice-director Father John Ren Daihai. “The love shown by the Pope offers great encouragement to all Jinde staff. We felt so excited and happy at the news of the donation. It will spur us on to do more and better,” he said.
Workers from Jinde Charities deliver relief supplies
to local people in Yushu, Qinghai province

The donation is for all people in need without any distinction, Cor Unum personnel said in a statement. “The Pope mourned deeply for the many victims of the disastrous floods in China, especially in Gansu province. He offered his prayers for their souls, their relatives and all the survivors who have suffered painful consequences,” the Cor Unum statement said.
An Aug. 8 mudslide in Zhouqu county, northwestern Gansu province, claimed 1,248 lives, and more than 400 people are still missing. About a dozen Catholics died in that disaster, according to an “underground” priest who used to serve in Zhouqu. Another mudslide in Gongshan county in Yunnan province on August 18 saw four Catholic families losing several family members. - UCAN News

Teenagers Feel for the Leprosy Affected

The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that Leprosy, a disease already mentioned in Biblical texts more than 2000 years ago, is on the brink of elimination! Today there are only four countries in the world where the prevalence of leprosy exceeds one case per 10000 inhabitants, compared to 122 countries in 1985. Globally, the progress has been tremendous, but the battle is still on in countries like China. Together with the numerous voluntary organizations, the services rendered by the Church in this regard is tremendous. Usually, Leprosy is considered to be more than just an infectious disease. It was regarded to be a malady of the whole body as well as a disease of the soul, with disastrous consequences for those who became infected. It was a shameful affliction, believed to be brought about by wrongdoing in a previous life, through a curse of God or witchcraft – in short, a punishment. Sufferers were ashamed of their condition and tried to hide the disease for fear of social repercussions.
During the third week of August, Together with Fr. Tom Peyton, MM, a veteran Maryknoll Missionary, we have visited a small centre for the Leprosy affected in Guangzhou Province.The Centre is supported by the Diocese. We reached there with the Local Bishop. But what awaited us at this centre was something special.
Fr. Tom did not forget to buy some small gifts for all the inmates as we set out for the Centre, some 35 kms away from Meizhou. As the van carrying us reached the courtyard of the Centre, to our surprise, we were greeted by a group of teenagers. As we began to unload the "gifts", these teenagers came up to the van and volunteered to assist us. The living conditions of the inmates were minimum. We witnessed many of the already disfigured faces of the inmates beaming with joy to see us and of course to receive the small gifts Fr. Tom brought for them.
We were curious to know what these teenage boys and girls were doing here at the centre for the Leprosy affected. They were all University Students from different parts of the neighbouring town. They had volunteered to spend a couple of weeks with the less privileged of their brethren all on their own! Initially I was of the impression that participating in some social work projects must be part of their curriculum in the University. But, it was not so. They had decided on their own, to have a hand-on experience of the plight of the Leprosy affected and more importantly to bring in some amount of joy and consolation into the lives of the inmates here. They share the same living conditions there - they sleep on the floor and eat the food served in the Centre! 15 of them had already stayed one week and they had one more week of stay before they would return to their homes. Fr. Tom was interested to know if they required some cash for their expenses - which they refused! They said, they are staying with a budget of 100 Yuan per head per week- i.e. approximately US $ 15 per week. We spent a couple of hours at the Centre with the inmates and the students and returned to the comforts of our Hotel Rooms in the City, a few questions still lingering in my mind.

Lone woman brings Tibetans to Catholicism

A Chinese Catholic woman has pulled off a rare feat by encouraging a number of Buddhists to convert to Catholicism in the Sino-Tibetan province of Qinghai. Father Joseph Li Dongsheng, parish priest of Xining Church, praised the woman’s achievement in a region that has only 4,000 Catholics in a total population of one million. “I never even thought of converting ethnic Tibetans myself as they are so deeply rooted in Buddhism. It’s almost impossible,” he said.
Father Joseph Li Dongsheng blesses converts from Tibetan Buddhism to Catholicism during a recent ceremony
The five new Catholics, aged from 20 to over 50, come from three families of the same clan and were Buddhists since childhood. When the woman married into the family two years ago, she told them about her faith and gave them the Bible and some religious books to read. “They didn’t accept it at first,” said Father Li. “But after reading the books, they got a better idea of our faith and started to feel how great God is. Now, at Lunar New Year, they even hang the icons of Jesus and the Blessed Mother up at home.”
The five were baptized along with five other converts on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, at a ceremony attended by 700 people. Father Li says he plans to give them ongoing care and education to help sustain their faith as “they may have to face discrimination in this Buddhist environment.”
- UCAN News

Diocese to Offer Migrant Workers Legal Aid

Domestic migrant workers in northern China can soon get free legal aid and advice on their rights from a help center run by Tianjin diocese. The venue is scheduled to open in September and an awareness campaign is being conducted in parishes to inform workers about the center’s operations.
Tainjin diocese will start a help center
for migrants in September
“Migrants face many different kinds of problems, from settling into a new environment to economic difficulties”, said center Director Father John Baptist Chai Wei. “They also lack knowledge of government policies and law. “What we can do is let people know their rights and tell them where to go if they have a problem that needs taking further.” The center, whose premises and equipment are supplied by the Catholic Church, is located in the city’s Nankai district. It is supported by the Law School of Nankai University, the Tianjin Volunteers’ Association and other NGOs.
Volunteers from the law school will field inquiries two days a week and select cases to be referred to a professional team of lawyers. “This is a service that is really needed, yet not many dioceses offer it,” said Father Chai. There are 35 regional and diocesan social service centers and 230 million migrant workers in China, according to recent statistics. - UCAN News

Caritas offers hostage trauma counseling

Caritas-Hong Kong has set up telephone hotlines to counsel people who were emotionally disturbed by the televised incident in Manila on Aug. 23 when a gunman took a group of Hong Kong tourists hostage. “We’ve been receiving calls from people seeking help due to sadness, anxiety, anger and even hatred,” said Julitta Leung, a Caritas social worker. “News coverage can be overwhelming these days and some people can feel disturbed by it, especially people with emotional or mental problems.”
As Monday’s standoff in Manila escalated to its bloody end, with nine people dead including the gunman, it was shown live on TV in Hong Kong and throughout the world. “Some people told me the scenes still linger in their minds,” said Leung. “Others are now worried that they might face a similar situation in their future travels.”
“I tell them it’s normal to have temporary worries and they usually subside in time. I also suggest to them that they avoid watching or reading the media reports.” Many Hong Kong residents have Philippine domestic helpers and some callers to the hot-line said they now feel uncomfortable in their presence.
“I tell them the Filipina helpers also feel sad about it and the way their country has handled the crisis,” Leung said. Along with the hotline service, Caritas will hold a talk on emotional health on Aug. 29, to help restore people to a positive frame of mind. The Hong Kong diocese and the Consulate General of the Philippines had jointly organized prayer vigils and Masses to mourn those who died. - UCAN News

China invests in confident Christians

Three decades ago, China's Cultural Revolution saw some of the most dramatic restrictions on the practice of religion ever seen in the modern world.But today's communist rulers have radically altered their views about religion and have granted substantial freedom to Christians prepared to worship within state-sanctioned churches. Within these boundaries, Christianity is growing in China as never before - and doing so supported by millions of dollars of government funding.
State funding
On the outskirts of Nanjing, a building site illustrates the scale of the communist state's commitment to supporting the development of Christianity. Local officials say that the building under construction will become China's largest state-sanctioned church - with space for 5,000 worshipers.The land - and 20% of the building costs - are being provided not by local Christians, but by the municipal government. It represents state financial support worth millions of dollars - just one example of the strategy to encourage the development of religion in China.

The Communist Party's senior official with responsibility for this policy is the director general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Wang Zuo An. "There are now at least 20 million Protestant Christians in China worshipping in the state-sanctioned church. Such growth is unprecedented in the history of Christianity in China. Christianity is enjoying its best period of growth in China," says Wang Zuo An. "Our goal in supporting these religions in developing religious education is that we hope they can train qualified clergy members so that their religions can enjoy better development."
"On the question of whether there is God, the Chinese Communist Party believes there is no God in the world," said Mr Wang. "The Communist Party believes that it should respect and protect religious belief. The members of the party must respect religious followers and not infringe their interests. We are making laws and regulations to better guarantee religious belief in China," he says.
Rev John Baptist Zhang
One Catholic priest who has pioneered the Social Work projects in China is Rev John Baptist Zhang - whose Jinde Charities receive support from Catholics around the world. He thinks the government welcomes the Church's contribution. "Homes for the aged are urgent. We need more and more. The government realised that. Some officials say, you have done for Chinese society what we cannot do. Without any political involvement, the Church is doing a good job, and we from government appreciate it," said Father Zhang.
The National Catholic Seminary in Beijing prepares many for the priesthood
The following words of some of the seminarians who are currently undergoing training in China accentuates optimism. "We truly hope [that in] our country there will be more Christians, and God's word will spread everywhere in our country", says Daniel. His fellow student Jesse added, "I think this nation will change, and I think God is doing great things in China."
- Courtesy: BBC News -

The Seven Wonders of China...

For centuries, China has withstood the test of countless wars and political struggle to become the global powerhouse that it is today. With 1.3 billion people and 55 ethnic groups thriving within its borders, China is a stronghold of culture, myth and legend. From awe-inspiring works of art to tombs shrouded in mystery, the following documentary produced by the Discovery Channel attempts to uncover China's Seven Wonders. The following video is the first of the five parts of this documentary.
Terra Cotta Warriors - (Xi'an, Shaanxi Province)
In 1974, while digging a well in the city of Xi'an, Chinese farmers discovered an underground tomb filled with 8,000 statues of ancient Chinese warriors. Created around 221 B.C., these 8,000 terra cotta warriors are said to guard Emperor Qin's tomb. According to Chinese tradition, death is simply a continuity of life. People can take their possessions with them in death. However, Emperor Qin took this belief a bit further by building a tomb that stretches 35 square miles. In spite of this great discovery in 1974, archaeologists have yet to find the riches buried somewhere near Emperor Qin's tomb. For now, much of the mystery surrounding the tomb has yet to be solved.
Hanging Monastery (Mount Hengshan, Shanxi Provinc)
Located at the foot of Mount Hengshan on the west cliff of Jinxia Gorge, the Hanging Monastery has been filling visitors with wonder for over 1,400 years. The ancient, sacred shrine stands fifteen stories above the ground and is supported only by its weathered, wooden beams. In spite of centuries of the harshest climate conditions, including a massive earthquake in 1303, the Hanging Monastery has remained unscathed. The reason for its resilience may be the structure itself. The Hanging Monastery was actually built into the sides of the cliff, giving its 40 cave rooms extra stability.

Courtesy: & the Discovery Channel