Video: Why Christ, Mao And The Buddha Are Making A Comeback In China (August 6, 2014, Huffington Post)
The Huffington Post published an excellent piece by Matt Sheehan on the revival of religious belief in China by telling the stories of a Christian, a Maoist, and a Buddhist. Luke, a Christian professor, makes this point:
"On the surface we've achieved the goals, but no one is happy," the professor, who goes by the English name Luke, told The WorldPost. "There's no love, no hope. For more than 100 years we Chinese have been trying to catch up with Western countries. We want science, technology and military power. But the most important thing is the soul of the culture. The mind is based on the soul, and we've lost our souls."
Of the dedicated Maoist, he writes:
For Fan and her cohorts, an absolute faith in Mao has morphed the man into something of an omniscient and all-powerful God whose spirit still permeates the world. Following devastating tornadoes in the American Midwest during the summer of 2013, she wrote in a text message: "The spirit of Chairman Mao Zedong is always protecting the people he loves, the people of the world If the American government perpetrates evil, then the heavens will react! Bigger tornadoes, bigger volcanic eruptions!"
And of the young Buddhist:
She said she now practices Buddhism not only because it brings her peace, but because she views it as a "social education system" for Chinese society. The religion advocates a serenity and humility that stand in stark contrast to many people's frenzied desire to accumulate wealth at any cost. Its appeal has fueled what many say is a Buddhist revival in China, with surveys suggesting that up to one-third of Chinese now consider themselves Buddhists.
In Yang's assessment, traditional Chinese culture has been eroding since 1919, when nationalist student demonstrations known as the May Fourth Movement blamed China's Confucian tradition for the country's domination by colonial powers. She sees those attacks on China's ancient heritage as having destroyed something fundamental to the culture.
Each individual highlighted in this article is in search of peace in a chaotic society.
Canadians detained in China are pawns in a bigger geopolitical game (August 7, 2014, Globe and Mail)
Last week came word that a Canadian couple working on the North Korean border had been arrested for "stealing state secrets." At first glance it would seem that their Christian ministry activities is the driving force behind their arrest, but Charles Burton suggests that there are bigger geo-political factors at play:
They are the proprietors of Peter's Coffee House where, with contemporary Christian music playing in the background, patrons can indulge in a burger and apple pie all the while enjoying the view out the front window of the cruise boats on the Yalu River, and in the far distance on the opposite shore, North Korean border guards with their AK-47 assault rifles at the ready.
According to reports, Kevin Garratt told the congregation of the Terra Nova church in Surrey, B.C., last November that God told the couple to go to Dandong and open a coffee house. "We serve the best coffee on the border and we do some other things too," he said. "We're trying to reach North Korea with God, with Jesus and practical assistance."
Their arrest therefore might not be entirely unexpected. They held illegal Sunday worship services at their restaurant and were active in assisting North Korean Christians who cross the border illegally to trade in China. And they were active in sending desperately needed grain and cooking oil to underground Christian communities on the other side. Thus they would be ripe targets for the Chinese government's current campaign against the rapidly growing Christian church in China.
So how is it that the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs news release makes no mention of the Garratts' religious work but instead indicates that Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt are "suspected of collecting and stealing intelligence material in Dandong about Chinese military targets and important national defense research projects, and engaging in activities threatening to Chinese national security"?
Pay attention to the shadows!
For Chinese students at USC, a tragic circle tightens (August 1, 2014, Los Angeles Times)
On July 24 a Chinese student at USC was beaten to death with a baseball bat as he was walking home. The Los Angeles Times has a heart-breaking story of how the Chinese community at USC is struggling to deal with this tragedy:
The messages in Chinese kept flashing across Haowang Wang's phone: Another USC Chinese student had been killed.
Shui? Shui? the messages repeated. Who is it?
Wang froze briefly, then began making calls he thought he'd never have to make again to friends, classmates, a funeral home.
Two years ago, he and others helped guide Chinese students as they grappled with the murder of two USC graduate students. They tried as best they could to navigate the foreign world beyond the cocoon of the university.
Now, he must do it again.
"Yinggai de," Wang said. "It must be done."
The killing of 24-year-old Xinran Ji on July 24 has drawn the community of Chinese students into a circle of sadness and confusion. Ji, an engineering graduate student, was beaten to death with a baseball bat as he walked home from a study group after midnight, police said. Four teenagers have been arrested and charged with his murder. The students, as scholars, are the cream of their country the very smartest in a land of 1.3 billion people. But the killing of their classmate has thrown them into a foreign world that they must struggle to understand, just as they did two years ago.
It's a good reminder of the thousands of Chinese students who live in our communities and the challenges they face, especially when tragedy strikes.
Image credit: The Chairman of the Party, by Todd Lappin, via Flickr