We met Christian leaders in Beijing

WE were befuddled by a PDI news story published on Christmas Day (December 25) with head “In China’s Jerusalem,’  Christian faith trumps Sunday school ban.”

We were befuddled by a PDI news story published on Christmas Day (December 25) with head “In China’s Jerusalem,’  Christian faith trumps Sunday school ban.”

The article dispatched by Reuters datelined Wenzhou, China was in praise of Christian parents who were reacting against “authorities in China’s southeastern city in Wenzhou outlawed Sunday school” even amid opposition by Christian parents.

Wenzhou, Reuters said, is sometimes dubbed as “China’s Jerusalem” due to its sizable Christian community which is said to be at the “forefront”  of a growing standoff between China’s leadership (government) and the country’s devout over religious education for children.”

It was learned that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CPP) has increased efforts to curb the influence of Christianity, tightening restrictions on faith classes and warning against the religion’s Western ideas.”

This development is a step backward in what we had earlier seen as China’s increasing interaction and collaboration with the West.

In 2002, we were in Beijing and Nanjing as official representative of the National Press Club of the Philippines together with Graphic editor Manuel Almario, to participate in a 14-day workshop hosted by the All-China Journalists Association.

In our interactions with China’s top journalists who represented the cream of the crop in the trade in the vast country, the largest in the world, Maning and I visited at least three churches in Beijing representing the Roman Catholic and two Protestant churches.

As of that date, we learned that there were already around 50 million active Christians. We managed to hobnob with some of them inquiring if the Communist government was not interfering with their Christian affairs. Their answer was an emphatic “no!”

They said the government and the Christian church were doing similar activities at certain areas such as in the promotion of a peaceful community and harmony in the home. They were spontaneous in their answers to our questions.

The Reuters story, therefore, underscoring government interference in the Christians’ teachings of the faith to children  squarely contradicts what we received from the Christian leaders based in China. We reserve though our conclusion lest the church authorities were not honest for fear of persecution.

Impressed by the Chinese’s reception, we asked the press club, then under Tony Antonio, to invite the Chinese journalists to come for a Philippine visit in a couple of months.  They did come, and being the proponent, we brought them to at least five media centers – the PDI, Manila Bulletin, the National Press Club and at our community newspaper The Sunday Punch and at the Dagupan City Hall where they were received warmly by the Mayor Benjie Lim, and at the residence of the Speaker Joe De Venecia Jr. which the former journalist hosted warmly.

If it were not for our readings on communism, dialectrical materialism and the uncalled-for wars between this and that country by reasons of ideology, we could not see any reason for war and fratericidal conflict.

At the office of then Manila Bulletin editor Ben Rodriguez where I took the Communist journalists, we posed this rather facetious, call it that if you may, querry. “Sir, has there never been any occasion that your press criticized your government officials?”

We received a booming “No” for an answer. On the table of Rodriguez was a Manila paper with a headline story that was calling for President Arroyo to step down due to corruption.

When the Chinese journalists saw the Manila paper, they shook their heads. As if they wanted to say “how in the world is your government surviving under an attack-oriented press?” Ben Rodriguez and us also wondered how controlled governments have ever survived.