Posts tagged with: persecution

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Do economic, political, and religious freedom go together? Rodney Stark, writing in his recent book The Victory of Reason, says that “It seems doubtful than an effective modern economy can be created without adopting capitalism, as was demonstrated by the failure of the command economies of the Soviet Union and China.” He also writes,

There are many reasons people embrace Christianity, including its capacity to sustain a deeply emotional and existentially satisfying faith. But another significant factor is its appeal to reason and the fact that it is so inseparably linked to the rise of Western Civilization. For many non-Europeans, becoming a Christian is intrinsic to becoming modern. Thus it is quite plausible that Christianity remains an essential element in the globalization of modernity.

It is estimated that there are at least 100 million Christians living in China. Acton’s president Rev. Robert A. Sirico, writing in the Detroit News, says, “All of us who have an economic stake in China’s booming economy also have a responsibility to understand what is happening in religious matters.” He notes that “religious liberty sounds like chaos to Chinese authorities.”

He goes on to say,

The communists believed the same thing about free enterprise: It was nothing but anarchy and unplanned production. The reality turned out differently. If people organize their own economic lives, as workers, consumers and producers, remarkable things can happen.

So it is in the religious sphere. Freedom of religion can work for all people. Just as a free-market economy was an institution that came about gradually, the Vatican has reason to hope that the same will be true with religious liberty. The first step is diplomatic relations. From that follows more openness and more leverage.

In writing about religious economies, Stark concludes, “Clearly, a free market religious economy favors robust, energetic organizations.”

Acton senior fellow Marvin Olasky writes about one aspect of the illiberal regime in China with respect to religious practice. In a Townhall.com column, Olasky says, “Charitable groups are rare in China, in part because government officials resist admitting that they need help in caring for the poor and oppressed. Chinese Christians, though, would like permission to establish homes for the elderly, hospitals, Christian schools and programs for recent migrants to cities.”

Whether by direct oppression or regulation through bureaucratic registration, religious freedom is severely limited in China. The Persecution Blog, sponsored by The Voice of the Martyrs, blogs daily on the situation facing the persecuted church. Stacy Harp passes along this pointed question from Todd Nettleton, Director of News Services with The Voice of the Martyrs, “If registration is the answer for Chinese Christians, then why was a registered church raided by police?”

Forum 18 reports that even the scholarly study of religion is restricted in China: “There is much frustration amongst scholars with their inability, due to the state’s sensitivity, to conduct research on religion and religious communities in contemporary China.”

For more on religious freedom in China and around the world, visit these sites:

  • Forum 18, based in Oslo, Norway, and is “committed to religious freedom for all on the basis of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

  • China Aid, “advocacy for the persecuted faithful in China.”
  • The Voice of the Martyrs, “a non-profit, interdenominational organization with a vision for aiding Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ, fulfilling the Great Commission, and educating the world about the ongoing persecution of Christians.”
  • Center for Religious Freedom, a division of Freedom House, which “defends against religious persecution of all groups throughout the world,” and which, I am told, is looking for a program director at its Washington, DC offices.

Update: More news here and here about the Chinese government’s demolition of an unlicensed church building and the resulting clash with protesters. (HT: CT Blog)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, February 6, 2006

When I see things like this going on, I ask myself, “What makes Christianity different? What makes me different?” Here are some guidelines for a Christian response to slander, hatred, and persecution:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV)

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14 NIV)

“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” (1 Corinthians 4:11-13 NIV)

In short, it is not for us to seek personal revenge, but to rejoice and pray that our enemies may become brothers and sisters in Christ. As Paul writes: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; / if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. / In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)

I consider this to be one of the unique and defining aspects of Christianity. It is fundamentally a religion of forgiving grace and not simply a religion of wrathful justice.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, January 27, 2006

A number of bloggers have expressed grave concerns over Google’s decision to accomodate the demands of the communist government in its web search offerings in China.

David Mills at Mere Comments writes that Google is “serving a brutal government and helping it oppress its people, even if its service will prove only partially effective.” He complains that Google’s motives are purely pecuniary, and that the company is only acceding to the government’s wishes because “If it didn’t help the Chinese government oppress its people, it wouldn’t make much money in China.” Mills notes that Google is following Microsoft and Yahoo search engines in making these concessions

It seems a pretty easy judgment to make: Google is selling out. My first instinct is to agree and throw my lot in with those condemning Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Google executives have described it as a “difficult decision.” But Mills writes, “There is no ethical dilemma, because they do not have to do business in China at all.”

But this is the point at which such judgments themselves are rather simplistic and superficial. First of all, Google does have a responsibility to its shareholders to seek out new areas of profitability, and the most populous nation on the planet can hardly be overlooked.

The fact is that the people of mainland China are living under a repressive regime. The lack of such fundamental rights as free expression and speech are completely alien to us in the West, and so we react strongly when we hear about censorship and denial of human rights abroad.

But the question then becomes, “What is the best way to move China toward economic, political, and religious freedom?” It has long been assumed by proponents of liberal democracies that these three aspects of freedom are inextricably linked. If you truly have one, then you truly have all three. That position is being put to the test in China and other countries, which are seeking to liberalize elements of the economic and business sectors without substantially altering their hold on religious and political freedoms.
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