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Patriotism for the common good

“It is a big insult to Christians in China to say that they do not love their country and need a patriotic association to guide them,” a priest blogger in China, who writes under the pen name of Shanren, noted after the deputy minister for the United Front Work Department, Zhu Weiqun, told a meeting in Ningde in September that the primary task of the Church is to hold fast to patriotism.

The 30 or so bishops, priests, sisters and members of the laity present reported that he stressed that theology should be formed to guide the faithful to “walk a path compatible with China’s socialist policy” (UCA News, October 12).

Whether Zhu’s words will have any effect or not does not matter. What is important is that he took the trouble to fly from Beijing to utter them, as this at least reflects a high level view of the purpose of education and the function of religion in society, as well as what makes a faithful citizen.

Catholics in China have long fought to demonstrate that they are indeed faithful and patriotic citizens, who love their country and their neighbour and, they maintain, they have a long track record of community service to substantiate their claim.

A group of lay people even set up a Website in the United States of America (US) on which they provided regular updates of what the Catholics in China say and do in terms of contributing to the common good.

The US bishops, in their guide to forming consciences for good citizenship say that through baptism, people are committed to becoming the salt of the earth and the light for the nation, as a result, “It is necessary that all participate… in promoting the common good. This is inherent in the dignity of the human person.”

Many people in Hong Kong have been recently miffed by a government consultation paper on moral and national education, arguing that the suggested programme takes the emphasis away from working for the common good and directs it towards support of a national ideal, not necessarily of their own making.

This begs the question of who owns the nation, the government or the people. The recent theme of our Sunday liturgies has revolved around Jesus’ parables of the vineyard, which in their turn are his way of asking the same question, who owns the country and what is its fundamental purpose, to build riches and power for the ruling classes, or benefit the common good of all.

The provisional constitution of the Republic of China formulated in 1912, significantly defines sovereignty as belonging to the people, not the government or a single party.

In a similar vein, the US bishops state that it is incumbent on citizens to place the interests of the people of a nation before those of any political or ruling party, and where they see a dichotomy, to work to transform the party and not allow the party to transform them.

Any continued push by a government or party to usurp the institutions that belong fundamentally to the people should be resisted, as the nation exists for the liberty, prosperity and happiness of it citizens, whose primary obligation to the nation is to work to contribute to the common good of all, by embracing goodness and truth. JiM