Category : Asia

(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.

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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.

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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

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

(WSJ) China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials

In a hospital west of Shanghai, Wu Shixiu since March has been trying to treat cancer patients using a promising new gene-editing tool.

U.S. scientists helped devise the tool, known as Crispr-Cas9, which has captured global attention since a 2012 report said it can be used to edit DNA. Doctors haven’t been allowed to use it in human trials in America. That isn’t the case for Dr. Wu and others in China.

In a quirk of the globalized technology arena, Dr. Wu can forge ahead with the tool because he faces few regulatory hurdles to testing it on humans. His hospital’s review board took just an afternoon to sign off on his trial. He didn’t need national regulators’ approval and has few reporting requirements.

Dr. Wu’s team at Hangzhou Cancer Hospital has been drawing blood from esophageal-cancer patients, shipping it by high-speed rail to a lab that modifies disease-fighting cells using Crispr-Cas9 by deleting a gene that interferes with the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. His team then infuses the cells back into the patients, hoping the reprogrammed DNA will destroy the disease.

In contrast, what’s expected to be the first human Crispr trial outside China has yet to begin….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Science & Technology, Theology

(Independent) China blows up Christian megachurch with dynamite

Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province.

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China’s poorest regions.

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Posted in China, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Samuel Azariah

Emmanuel, God with us, who didst make thy home in every culture and community on earth: We offer thanks for the raising up of thy servant Samuel Azariah as the first indigenous bishop in India. Grant that we may be strengthened by his witness to thy love without concern for class or caste, and by his labors for the unity of the Church in India, that people of many languages and cultures might with one voice give thee glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, India, Spirituality/Prayer

(Christian Post) Pakistan Cracks Down on Charities, World Vision Given 90 Days to Leave

The government in Pakistan has ordered 27 international aid groups, including World Vision, to shut down alleging they were working in unauthorized areas and aiding human rights campaigners. The groups have been given 90 days to leave.

The 27 groups that have been asked to leave by Pakistan’s interior ministry include Action Aid, Plan International, Trocaire, Pathfinder International, Danish Refugee Council, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Oxfam Novib, and Marie Stopes, according to Reuters.

Pakistan’s Minister of State for Interior Affairs, Talal Chaudhry, told Reuters the nonprofits were doing work in Pakistan “which is beyond their mandate and for which they have no legal justification.” He added that the groups spent “all their money” on administration and are not doing the work they said they were doing.

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Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Politics in General

(WSJ) Kim Phuc Phan Thi–The Salvation of ‘Napalm Girl’

A decade removed from the defining tragedy of my life, I still desperately needed peace. I had so much hatred and bitterness in my heart. Yet I was ready for love and joy. I wanted to let go of my pain. I wanted to pursue life instead of holding fast to fantasies of death. When Pastor Ho finished speaking, I stood up, stepped out into the aisle, and made my way to the front of the sanctuary to say “yes” to Jesus Christ.

When I woke up that Christmas morning, I experienced my first-ever heartfelt celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I know what it is like to experience terror, to feel despondent, to live in fear. I know how wearying and hopeless life can be sometimes. After years in the spiritual wilderness, I felt the kind of healing that can only come from God.

I had spent so much of my life running—first from the bombs and the war, then from communist Vietnam. I had always assumed that to flee was my only choice. Looking back, I understand the path I had been racing along led me straight to God. Today I live at ease. Yes, my circumstances can still be challenging. But my heart is 100% healed.

My faith in Jesus Christ is what has enabled me to forgive those who had wronged me—no matter how severe those wrongs were. Faith also inspired me to pray for my enemies rather than curse them. It enabled me not only to tolerate those who had wronged me but to love them.

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Posted in Canada, Christmas, Christology, History, Religion & Culture, Vietnam

(Independent) Suicide bombers storm a Pakastani Methodist church and detonate explosives as congregation worships

Two suicide bombers stormed a Christian church in south-western Pakistan, killing at least eight people and wounding up to 42 others before being stopped by police guards.

The gunmen, who were wearing vests filled with explosives, attacked the church in Quetta city when Sunday services had just opened.

Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Baluchistan province, said hundreds of worshippers were attending the church ahead of Christmas. He said one attacker was killed at the entrance to the church, while the other set off his payload inside.

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Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pakistan, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(WSJ) Tunku Varadarajan: India’s Imaginary ‘Love Jihad’–Judges break up the marriage of a Hindu woman who converted to Islam

This is the story of Hadiya, currently the most famous woman in India. Like any person of modest profile rocketed into national headlines, she’d rather be leading an anonymous life. But her parents—and the Supreme Court of India—will not let her.

Hadiya, a medical student, was born 25 years ago into a Hindu family in the southern state of Kerala. In 2015 she converted to Islam, and last year she married a Muslim man. In the process, she changed her Hindu given name from Akhila Ashokan to the adoptive Muslim Hadiya.

Her parents, appalled by the decision, urged the courts to annul her marriage in December 2016. They contended that she had converted to Islam under duress. Worse, they alleged that their daughter’s husband, Shafin Jahan, was involved in terrorism and intended to traffic her to Syria.

In a judgment that was startling in its paternalism and sexism, the Kerala High Court annulled Hadiya’s marriage, holding that she could not possibly have converted and married of her own free will.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(WSJ) Robert George–Poe Francis can help Myanmar’s Muslims, but the best way is behind the scenes

Pope Francis was in Myanmar this week spreading the Word of God. Many observers wondered if he would use a specific word: Rohingya. Barring an unforeseen statement—always possible on the papal plane home—it appears the Holy Father won’t, though he alluded to the crisis the word evokes.

Rohingya is the name of a persecuted religious and ethnic minority in the nation once known as Burma, where about 88% of people practice the Theravada Buddhist religion. The Rohingya are Muslims loathed and feared by those who insist on calling them “Bengalis,” as if they were foreigners in their own country. They are also targets of various forms of legally sanctioned discrimination and humiliation. Recently Myanmar’s military authorities have subjected them to ethnic cleansing. This has left between 600,000 and 900,000 of Myanmar’s 2.2 million Rohingya as refugees in bordering Bangladesh.

The word Rohingya offends the group’s persecutors. That’s because it implies recognition of the humanity and basic rights the Myanmar government denies. This would seem to create a perfect opportunity for Pope Francis, which is why human-rights activists called on him to speak the word boldly in public. But silence and speaking out both come with serious risks.

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Posted in Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(China.Org.Cn) Some cemeteries in Shanghai yesterday offer cash incentives to convert cremation ashes into “life crystal”

The life crystal subsidy marks the latest effort by local civil affairs authorities to prevent traffic congestion for the winter solstice.

The cost of making one “life crystal” is 998 yuan (US$155), and a 400 yuan subsidy is offered as an incentive for families who sign an agreement to visit cemeteries at non-peak times.

“‘Life crystal’ serves as an indication or permanent reminder which allows people to observe traditional mourning at home,” said Wei Chao, deputy director of the Shanghai Funeral and Interment Service Center affiliated to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

“In the past, people didn’t have a medium if they wanted to pay tribute to the deceased at home, and by using this practice we hope to encourage them to avoid peak times when they visit cemeteries,” said Wei.

“The crystal is equal to cremation ashes as Chinese people don’t want to have urns at home.”

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Posted in China, Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture

(Indian Express) Electoral Commission serves notice to R Catholic archbishop for letter seeking prayers for election

Gujarat Election Commission on Saturday served a notice on Thomas Macwan, Archbishop of Gandhinagar and sought an explanation on his letter issued to the Catholic community seeking prayers to ensure the election of leaders who “remain faithful to the Indian Constitution” so that the country can be “saved of nationalist forces”.

The notice, served through the District Election Officer of Gandhinagar, asks the Archbishop to explain why his appeal should not be viewed as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

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Posted in India, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Economist) What Buddhism teaches about peace and war

But it is in Myanmar where Buddhist violence has become most familiar of late. A monk called Ashin Wirathu has led demands for a harsh response to a perceived Muslim threat. His organisation, Ma Ba Tha, has supposedly been banned, but it still presses the authorities to take the hardest of lines against the Rohingya Muslims, of whom over 600,000 have been expelled to Bangladesh. Ma Ba Tha disseminates the idea that Myanmar’s overwhelming Buddhist majority is threatened by the Muslim minority. The stance is criticised by some Asian Buddhists. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, has rebuked his coreligionists for persecuting the Rohingya, saying they should “remember Buddha”. He insisted that the faith’s founder would “definitely help those poor Muslims”.

Like every other important religion in history, Buddhism engenders powerful protective feelings among its followers, especially when sacred history and national history become intertwined, as happens in Sri Lanka. In the collective memory of Sri Lankan Buddhists, the emergence of their nation is seen as linked with the advent of their faith in the era of King Ashoka, if not earlier. And whenever people feel a threat to their identity and origins, they can easily be induced to lash out with disproportionate force, just as medieval Christians marched to war when told that their faith’s holiest places in Jerusalem were being desecrated. Moreover, as with any vast corpus of sacred texts and annals, things can be found in the Buddhist tradition to justify violence, at least in self-defence. Medieval Japan, for example, had its Buddhist warrior monks. And even the Dalai Lama agrees that one can take limited action in self-defence. If a man is aiming a gun at you, he once said, you can shoot back, but to wound rather than kill.

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Posted in Asia, Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Myanmar/Burma