Category : Asia

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Charles Freer Andrews

Gracious God, who didst call Charles Freer Andrews to show forth thy salvation to the poor: By thy Holy Spirit inspire in us a tender concern, a passionate justice, and an active love for all people, that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior; who with thee and the same Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, India, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Japan

O God our Father, who art the source of strength to all thy saints, and who didst bring the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith that we profess, even unto death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Japan, Spirituality/Prayer

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Pakistan’s Supreme Court upholds Asia Bibi’s acquittal

Ms Bibi was first acquitted last October, but the government backed away from freeing her unconditionally after a wave of rioting orchestrated by an ultra-zealous Islamist political party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which continued to demand her death. The party’s leader was among those arrested after the riots and remains in prison. Under a bargain with the protesters, the government agreed to ask the Supreme Court to review her acquittal and to prevent Ms Bibi from leaving the country pending those proceedings. The public response to this latest decision has been more muted than it was in October, with the Pakistani authorities seemingly better prepared to withstand an onslaught.

The case has triggered an international furore, with the accused woman’s husband Ashiq searching for a country which was prepared to offer her asylum and risk the ire of Islamic extremists (Canada, Spain and France are thought to have offered asylum). She is most likely to go to Canada, where two of her children have reportedly moved this week. Britain’s Foreign Office admitted that it had not granted Ms Bibi asylum for fear of endangering its own staff in Pakistan. The move prompted protests from politicians and religious leaders in Britain who insisted that the country should not allow itself to be intimidated. Although Pakistan’s blasphemy laws enjoy some support in the country’s diaspora, including in Britain, several British imams urged the government to take Ms Bibi in and face down the extremists.

A representative for Amnesty International, a London-based human-rights body, urged the Pakistani authorities to implement the verdict swiftly. She said: “Asia Bibi must finally get her freedom and an end to her ordeal. After nine years behind bars for a crime she didn’t commit, it is difficult to see this long overdue verdict as justice. But she should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice.”

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

(Forbes) Ewelina Ochab–Religious Freedom Is On The Decrease In India

Religious freedom in India continues to deteriorate and it has been on a gradual decline for at least a decade. As a result, the plight of religious minorities is reaching new levels. This despite the fact that the right to freedom of religion or belief is clearly recognized in the 1949 Constitution of India. Also, India acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and so pledged to adhere to the international standards of human rights enshrined in the treaty. Nonetheless, these guarantees prove not to be enough yet again.

In its annual report, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) identifies several limitations to the right to freedom of religion or belief and challenges faced by religious minorities in India. For example, Hindu extremism is on the rise with several of cases of harassment, intimidation and violence being committed against Hindu Dalits, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Sikhs. USCIRF identified groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) who are responsible for an organised campaign of alienation against non-Hindus or low-caste Hindus.

Indeed, the issue is serious. The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, reported that in 2017 alone, 111 people were killed and 2,384 injured in communal clashes….

Read it all.

Posted in India, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture

In late October, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground churches asked this of his congregation: had they successfully spread the gospel throughout their city? “If tomorrow morning the Early Rain Covenant Church suddenly disappeared from the city of Chengdu, if each of us vanished into thin air, would this city be any different? Would anyone miss us?” said Wang Yi, leaning over his pulpit and pausing to let the question weigh on his audience. “I don’t know.”

Almost three months later, Wang’s hypothetical scenario is being put to the test. The church in south-west China has been shuttered and Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December. Many of those who haven’t been detained are in hiding. Others have been sent away from Chengdu and barred from returning. Some, including Wang’s mother and his young son, are under close surveillance. Wang and his wife are being charged for “inciting subversion”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Now the hall Wang preached from sits empty, the pulpit and cross that once hung behind him both gone. Prayer cushions have been replaced by a ping-pong table and a film of dust. New tenants, a construction company and a business association, occupy the three floors the church once rented. Plainclothes police stand outside, turning away those looking for the church.

One of the officers told the Observer: “I have to tell you to leave and watch until you get in a car and go.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(BBC) China’s pre-Christmas Church crackdown raises alarm

A recent surge of police action against churches in China has raised concerns the government is getting even tougher on unsanctioned Christian activity.

Among those arrested are a prominent pastor and his wife, of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan. Both have been charged with state subversion.

And on Saturday morning, dozens of police raided a children’s Bible class at Rongguili Church in Guangzhou.

One Christian in Chengdu told the BBC: “I’m lucky they haven’t found me yet.”

China is officially atheist, though says it allows religious freedom.

But it has over the years repeatedly taken action against religious leaders it considers to be threatening to its authority or to the stability of the state, which, according to Human Rights Watch, “makes a mockery of the government’s claim that it respects religious beliefs”.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Pastor Charged With ‘Inciting Subversion’ as China Cracks Down on Churches

An outspoken Chinese pastor and his wife face up to 15 years in prison after being charged with inciting to subvert state power, a sign that Chinese authorities are intensifying a crackdown on religious groups, one of the most serious in recent decades. Wang Yi, 45, who runs the independent Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwestern city of Chengdu, was detained last weekend along with over 100 members of his congregation. As of Thursday, most of the group’s main leaders were still in custody and the police had sealed off the church, which occupies the floor of an office building. The move against the church comes as the authorities have gradually constricted religious rights and sought to eliminate independent places of worship. Read it all.
Posted in China, Religion & Culture

(Reuters) China outlaws large underground Protestant church in Beijing

Churches across China have faced new waves of harassment and pressure to register since a new set of regulations to govern religious affairs in China came into effect in February and heightened punishments for unofficial churches.

In July, more than 30 of Beijing’s hundreds of underground Protestant churches took the rare step of releasing a joint statement complaining of “unceasing interference” and the “assault and obstruction” of regular activities of believers since the new regulations came into effect.

China’s Christian believers are split between those who attend unofficial “house” or “underground” churches and those who attend government-sanctioned places of worship.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-Ed) Can the U.S. Stop China From Controlling the Next Internet Age?

Also this week in the White House, a round-table was held to debate topics like artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and quantum computing, with top tech executive such as Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Google, Safra Catz of Oracle and Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm in attendance. It was called a “listening session,” and it was reported that President Trump “popped” in, at a time when these issues need far more sustained attention from the top than that.

Which is why it came as no surprise when The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was not briefed about the planned arrest of Ms. Meng, even though it took place at the same time he was having dinner with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in an attempt to find a truce in the trade war.

From where I sit, the sentiment in Silicon Valley seems to be: Good for the government for being tough on Chinese companies when they break the rules — that rule-breaking having been a longtime complaint of companies like Cisco and Apple. Vigilance is key, of course, but everyone would feel a lot more confident if the government was also focused on investing more in American innovation and if the crackdown looked less chaotic.

Which is why you can imagine a big American tech executive being detained over unspecified charges while on a trip to Beijing. And our government should, too.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Science & Technology

(Economist) Chip wars: China, America and silicon supremacy

Although the chip battle may have pre-dated Mr Trump, his presidency has intensified it. He has made a national champion of Qualcomm, blocking a bid for it from a Singaporean firm for fear of Chinese competition. Earlier this year an export ban on selling American chips and software to zte, a Chinese telecoms firm in breach of sanctions, brought it to the brink of bankruptcy within days. Startled by the looming harm, and (he says) swayed by appeals from Mr Xi, Mr Trump swiftly backtracked.

Two things have changed. First, America has realised that its edge in technology gives it power over China. It has imposed export controls that affect on Fujian Jinhua, another Chinese firm accused of stealing secrets, and the White House is mulling broader bans on emerging technologies. Second, China’s incentives to become self-reliant in semiconductors have rocketed. After zte, Mr Xi talked up core technologies. Its tech giants are on board: Alibaba, Baidu and Huawei are ploughing money into making chips. And China has showed that it can hinder American firms. Earlier this year Qualcomm abandoned a bid for nxp, a Dutch firm, after foot-dragging by Chinese regulators.

Neither country’s interests are about to change. America has legitimate concerns about the national-security implications of being dependent on Chinese chips and vulnerable to Chinese hacking. China’s pretensions to being a superpower will look hollow as long as America can throttle its firms at will. China is destined to try to catch up; America is determined to stay ahead.

The hard question is over the lengths to which America should go.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(BBC) Chinese scientist He Jiankui defends ‘world’s first gene-edited babies’

…experts worry meddling with the genome of an embryo could cause harm not only to the individual but also future generations that inherit these same changes.

Prof He’s recent claims were widely criticised by other scientists.

Hundreds of Chinese scientists also signed a letter on social media condemning the research, saying they were “resolutely” opposed to it.

“If true, this experiment is monstrous. Gene editing itself is experimental and is still associated with off-target mutations, capable of causing genetic problems early and later in life, including the development of cancer,” Prof Julian Savulescu, an ethics expert at the University of Oxford earlier told the BBC.

“This experiment exposes healthy normal children to risks of gene editing for no real necessary benefit.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Theology

(Telegraph) Christian woman cleared of blasphemy barred from leaving Pakistan

A Christian woman spared the death penalty after her blasphemy conviction was overturned faces being barred from leaving Pakistan under a deal struck to appease hardliners.

Pakistan’s government on Friday night said it had reached an agreement with Islamist parties to end three days of protests which have paralysed the country after Asia Bibi was freed.

The deal included a government concession to begin court proceedings to put Mrs Bibi on the country’s no-fly list.

Pakistan’s government told the BBC it would be up to the court to decide, but the sop to extremists is likely to anger rights groups and Western countries who have been pushing for her freedom.

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Pakistan’s High Court Acquits Asia Bibi, Christian Woman On Death Row For Blasphemy

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday announced the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy in a case that has roiled the country.

In the courtroom, it took less a minute for the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, to upturn a series of legal rulings that had kept Bibi on death row for eight years.

In terse remarks to the hushed, packed courtroom, he said that Bibi’s conviction and sentence had been voided.

In a 56-page verdict issued after the ruling, the three-judge bench appeared to side with Bibi’s advocates. They have maintained that the case against the 51-year-old illiterate farmhand was built around a grievance by her fellow Muslim workers, who appeared angry that she might drink from the same vessel as them. She was ordered by a local landlord to bring water to the women on a day while they were picking berries.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–ISIS Overlooks a Synagogue in Mosul

In short, a few hours of lively conversation on social media generated at least one area of agreement: ISIS, in its abysmal stupidity, had not understood that in its midst, converted into a cache for rockets and ammunition, stood a synagogue on par with those found in Kurdish Iraq. The discovery is a reminder of Mosul’s once thousands-strong Jewish community, which was evacuated in the early 1950s.

It also shows that what goes for hearts also goes for places: To survive, they sometimes have to borrow an identity, to pretend. It may well be, in other words, that cities, like Spanish Jews, can be Marranos, living undercover. This marranism is so powerful that when the jihadists took control of the region—and methodically destroyed churches, Yazidi temples and the ancient al-Nuri mosque—they managed to miss a holy place where the eternal continued to be praised, though in secret.

It raises a question: Is the world serious about saving what still can be saved of one of its oldest cities? Does Unesco mean what it says when it baptizes its program of urban and political reconstruction “the spirit of Mosul”? Will Americans and Europeans have what it takes to remake this disfigured city into what it was for centuries—a crossroads of peoples, religions and civilizations—and what its immortal soul aspires to become once again?

If so, we must heed the erudite Muslim of Mosul Eye. Watching and writing from his hometown, from the quiet heart of what was the epicenter of world jihadism, he called on us to rebuild the last synagogue still standing in the city of the prophet Jonah.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, Judaism, Terrorism

(NYT) Chiune Sugihara: The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting

In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland.

Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. The cable from K. Tanaka at the foreign ministry read: “Concerning transit visas requested previously stop advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan stop no exceptions stop no further inquires expected stop.”

Sugihara talked about the refusal with his wife, Yukiko, and his children and decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.

Mr. Zimbardo calls the capacity to act differently the “heroic imagination,” a focus on one’s duty to help and protect others. This ability is exceptional, but the people who have it are often understated. Years after the war, Sugihara spoke about his actions as natural: “We had thousands of people hanging around the windows of our residence,” he said in a 1977 interview. “There was no other way.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Japan, Judaism, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(FT) How business is capitalising on the millennial Instagram obsession

The tables at the Tsubaki Salon are slightly wobbly. No more than a couple of millimetres off kilter, but enough to be noticeable.

This is puzzling because, in all other respects, this highest of high-end pancake houses, nestling among the haute-couture flagships of Tokyo’s Ginza district and fitted out in bracingly minimalist decor, is perfection. The plates and cups are the definition of Japanese ceramic elegance. The spindly handled spoons and forks have been created by one of the country’s most famous designers to fit the pinnacle of pancake Epicureanism. When it comes to the edible stars of the show — made using a complex technique — they too, in the view of the pancake cognoscenti, are flawless.

But what about that wobble? “It’s deliberate,” says Yukari Mori, nudging the table a little to demonstrate that even this imperfection is perfection. “They were designed this way to show off what makes these pancakes so good.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Japan, Photos/Photography, Science & Technology, Young Adults

(CEN) Gafcon delegates told: “This is our family home”

During conference breaks delegates visited the Exhibitors’ stands including a stand from EFAC where the General Secretary Richard Crocker reported that delegates had been ‘like bees round a honeypot.’

He said the seam of goodwill “will take a long time for follow-up. Biblically faithful provinces want to establish EFAC, and places where EFAC has never been, want it.”

Before delegates left for the Temple Steps on 40 coaches, Archbishop Stephen Tan of Myanmar spoke of the unending 64-year civil war in his country. At the age of 24 he was imprisoned and tortured by the government. Although he was uninvolved, his two brothers had evaded capture so he was arrested.

Brought up as a Christian he lost his faith in prison. He was confined with no light and no toilet in his cell for six months. Contemplating suicide he prayed one last time and then saw a purple cross. He fainted and seemed to fall down a deep hole.

At the bottom he heard someone say: “My son, I am always with you.” He shouted, “Jesus is alive” and began to preach in the jail.

Read it all (subscription may be required).

Posted in GAFCON, Myanmar/Burma

(NPR’s Marketplace) The business of dealing with China’s cheating husbands

Dai’s charges can add up to more than $150,000 for two months of work, which is far more than what he could earn as a high school graduate in his hometown in eastern Jiangsu province. Wives of wealthy men are willing to pay his fees because China’s divorce law favors the man and divorce is still a major stigma.

“It can affect your children. They will be less desirable as marriage candidates,” Dai said.

There is no guarantee of success in marriage dissuading. Dai said only 50 percent of his cases work out. He refers to the mistress as a “cancer in the marriage.”

“We are merely doing an external surgery. Whether the marriage can be saved depends on the couple,” Dai said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family

Watch CNN’s ‘1968’ and Relive a Tumultuous Year

The most exciting thing on TV this Memorial Day weekend is the documentary series 1968: The Year That Changed America, produced by Tom Hanks, 61, who besides his movie star gig rivals Ken Burns, 64, as America’s leading historian onscreen. Hanks should get his 16th Emmy nomination for this two-night, four-part, deep dive into a year that outdoes 2018 for tumultuous changes — many of which have a familiar ring.

There’s a controversial game-changer president (Lyndon Johnson) with historically low approval ratings, bloody political riots, a crisis in Korea, a fractured nation at endless war abroad (and also with itself) and an unprecedentedly close — and ugly —presidential election nearly upended by charges of illegal foreign interference.

And it all looked so promising when 1968 began. In the documentary, we hear Johnson crowing about his Medicare and Medicaid programs helping 25 million Americans, and Jesse Jackson noting, “In terms of civil rights, no tree in the forest is as tall as Abe Lincoln, except Lyndon Johnson.” Then all hell breaks loose, cities erupt in flames, George Wallace leads a third-party candidacy that fails (yet also forged the new coalition that now rules America) and Johnson wonders why the people he did so much for turned on him so bitterly.

1968 clarifies why Americans turned on each other in ways that still affect us today.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Vietnam, Violence

(Guardian) ‘Slow genocide’: Myanmar’s invisible war on the Kachin Christian minority

When Tang Seng heard gunshots close to his village in Myanmar, he had a choice: carry his grandmother away from the fighting on his back or run for help. She asked him to kill her and leave her there but he refused.

Tang Seng walked out of his village carrying Supna Hkawn Bu to a makeshift camp for the displaced, where they remain with their family. She has had to flee from conflict five times in her life and didn’t speak for two days when they first arrived.

War in Myanmar is synonymous with the Rohingya crisis but Tang Seng and his grandmother are not Rohingya refugees. They are from the country’s north, in the state of Kachin, where another brutal but far less well publicised conflict is playing out between the largely Christian minority group and government militias.

Read it all.

Posted in Myanmar/Burma, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Indonesia Family, With Children in Tow, Carries Out Suicide Bombings at 3 Churches

One suicide bomber appeared to have been disguised as a churchgoer. Another drove a Toyota minivan to one attack site. Still another was seen in footage speeding on a scooter before exploding.

When the smoke cleared from the back-to-back bombings, which targeted three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, as worshipers gathered between services on Sunday morning, the police said it had been the work of one family: a couple who had led their four children in a rampage that took their own lives and killed at least seven other people.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to the group’s news agency Amaq. In an initial bulletin, the group described each of the back-to-back bombings as a “martyrdom” operation. In a subsequent, longer media release, the group identified three modes of attack, including a car bomb, a suicide vest and a motorcycle-borne bomb.

Read it all.

Posted in Indonesia, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Atlantic) North Korea’s Secret Christians

South Korea turned off dozens of high-volume loudspeakers on Monday, putting a halt to the propaganda they normally broadcast over the border into North Korea. The move, a government spokesman said, was designed to set a peaceful tone ahead of the talks between the two Koreas Friday—a tone that was reinforced by the announcement that the countries had committed to work toward a peace agreement. The strikingly amicable inter-Korean summit will in turn set the tone for an upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, during which President Trump and Kim Jong Un are expected to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But while the South’s loudspeakers have stopped blaring reports critical of the North, forbidden messages are still flowing across the border—on the airwaves of a Christian radio station.

South Korea’s largest religious radio broadcaster, the Far East Broadcasting Company, transmits gospel-centered programs to both North and South Korea every day of the week. The station’s goal is to use Christian radio to subvert the Kim regime’s strict ban on religion, and ultimately pave the way for a unified, Christianized Korean Peninsula. The Christians behind FEBC advocate for the reunification of the two Koreas under a democratic system, which they believe would bolster religious freedom. What’s more, they see Christianity and North Korean ideology as mutually exclusive—and argue that the former can be an antidote to the latter.

Around 20 percent of South Korea’s population identifies as Protestant, and Protestantism has roots on the Korean Peninsula stretching back to the 19th century, when American missionaries began arriving there. The religion gained stature as churches became associated with the resistance to Japanese occupation of a then-unified Korea during World War II, but still remained on the margins—only 2 percent of South Koreans were Christian in 1945.

But the two Koreas took different religious paths following their division in 1948….

Read it all.

Posted in North Korea, Religion & Culture, South Korea

(NYT) Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match

As Facebook pushes into developing countries, it tends to be initially received as a force for good.

In Sri Lanka, it keeps families in touch even as many work abroad. It provides for unprecedented open expression and access to information. Government officials say it was essential for the democratic transition that swept them into office in 2015.

But where institutions are weak or undeveloped, Facebook’s newsfeed can inadvertently amplify dangerous tendencies. Designed to maximize user time on site, it promotes whatever wins the most attention. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found, produce the highest engagement, and so proliferate.

In the Western countries for which Facebook was designed, this leads to online arguments, angry identity politics and polarization. But in developing countries, Facebook is often perceived as synonymous with the internet and reputable sources are scarce, allowing emotionally charged rumors to run rampant. Shared among trusted friends and family members, they can become conventional wisdom.

And where people do not feel they can rely on the police or courts to keep them safe, research shows, panic over a perceived threat can lead some to take matters into their own hands — to lynch.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Buddhism, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka

Heartwarming Local story–Nearly seven decades after Korean war, a POW’s remains coming home for burial in South Carolina

More than 60 years after the Army declared Davis as Missing in Action during the Korean War, the Department of Defense has identified his remains. On Thursday, Davis will be buried at North Charleston’s Carolina Memorial Park not far from his wife Violet Davis’ grave.

“It’s kind of like a love story,” said Zachary Boney, a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Davis’s great-grandson.

“She never remarried, and she never dated. He was the only man she would ever be with because she didn’t want to be with anyone else.”

Boney, a horizontal construction engineer, on Sunday will travel to Hawaii to retrieve his great-grandfather’s remains. The 22-year-old will then fly from Hawaii to Charleston, escorting Davis across the country to deliver him safely to his family.

“I feel honored to do it,” Boney said.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Korea, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces

(AFP) China enforces ban on online Bible sales

Bibles have been pulled from Chinese online retailers in “recent days”, merchants told AFP on Friday, as Communist authorities ramp up control over religious worship.

The clamp down on “illegally published books” also comes as the Vatican and Beijing negotiate a historic agreement on the appointment of bishops in China

“Bibles and books without publication numbers have all been removed in recent days,” a merchant on Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao told AFP, without giving details on how authorities have enforced the ban.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Books, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Jakarta’s Governor, Backed by Islamic Conservatives, Sets Up Vice Showdown

Businesses are criticizing plans by Jakarta’s governor to close hotels and entertainment venues without warning as part of a vice crackdown, setting up a fight between a powerful lobby and a fast-rising politician backed by Islamic conservatives.

The crackdown makes good on a campaign pledge by the governor, Anies Baswedan, who benefited from hard-line Muslim support in an election last year that removed a minority Christian from office. The then incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was also convicted of blasphemy against Islam and is serving a two-year prison sentence.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has traditionally been home to a tolerant strain of Islam. But rising conservatism, in the nearly 90% of Indonesia’s 250 million population identifying as Muslims, has played a larger role in politics in recent years.

In addition to Mr. Baswedan’s local crackdown, national lawmakers are negotiating a revised criminal code. Under proposals by Islamic political parties, sex outside marriage, gay sex and cohabitation of unmarried couples would become illegal. In Aceh, the only province that is governed by Shariah law, non-Muslims have recently been flogged for violating rulesagainst gambling.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Indonesia, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(The Tablet) Chinese state control over religions tightened

China’s ruling Communist Party has stepped up its control over all religions by closing its longstanding State Administration for Religious Affairs agency and handing its functions to the party’s United Front Work Department. The department once described by Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a “magic weapon” – now has daily oversight and direct control over the state-run organisations of all five official religions, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

The move comes seven weeks after stricter new rules on religion were introduced on 2 February….

Read it all.

Posted in China, Religion & Culture

(The Verge) Starting in May, China will ban people with poor ‘social credit’ from planes and trains

Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low on the country’s burgeoning “social credit” system will be in danger of being banned from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to statements recently released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.

With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say, and do. Those with low “scores” have to deal with penalties and restrictions. China has been working towards rolling out a full version of the system by 2020, but some early versions of it are already in place.

Previously, the Chinese government had focused on restricting the travel of people with massive amounts of debt, like LeEco and Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting, who made the Supreme People’s Court blacklist late last year.

The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing patchwork of social engineering, which has already imposed punishments on more than seven million citizens. And there’s a broad range when it comes to who can be flagged. Citizens who have spread “false information about terrorism,” caused “trouble” on flights, used expired tickets, or were caught smoking on trains could all be banned, according to Reuters.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Law & Legal Issues, Psychology, Travel

(ACNS) Former Church of North India priest chosen to be bishop in the Church of England

A former priest in the united Church of North India’s Diocese of Calcutta has been chosen to be the next Area Bishop of Bradwell in the Church of England’s Diocese of Chelmsford. The Ven Dr John Perumbalath already serves in the Diocese, which covers the county of Essex and parts of east London, as the Archdeacon of Barking. He comes, originally, from the ancient Syrian Christian community in Kerala, India, and trained for ministry at Union Biblical Seminary in Pune.

Dr Perumbalath worked as a youth worker among university students for two years and as a theological educator for three years before his ordination in the CNI. In addition to his parish ministry, he served on the CNI’s General Synod and its theological commission. He moved to the Church of England in 2002 and served in three parishes before becoming Archdeacon of Barking in 2013.

He is a member of the C of E’s General Synod and sits on its appointment committee and mission & public affairs council. He is a trustee board of Westcott House, a theological college at Cambridge University, and chairs the national committee for minority ethnic Anglican concerns (CMEAC) and the London Churches Refugee Network.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, India

(WSJ) Mark Simon: Who Made Xi Jinping Pope? A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.

Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.

Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.

Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table….

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic