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Martyr for Chinese people snubbed by ambassador

LOTTUM (SE): Dismay at a triple diplomatic snub from the Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands was expressed by the mayor of Horts, when the diplomatic representative of Beijing in The Hague failed to acknowledge three separate invitations to attend the baptism of a special rose that has been struck in memory of Bishop Frans Schraven.

Bishop Schraven was a local boy, who was murdered in China on 9 October 1937 by the Japanese, while protecting hundreds of Chinese women and young girls from the marauding hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.

The mayor had invited a representative of China to be present at the baptism of the Monsignor Schraven Rose and to attend the opening of the Schraven Walking Path in the village of Lottum, where Bishop Schraven was born.

A press release from the Monsignor Schraven Foundation says that it finds the diplomatic snub regrettable, as it reflects the embarrassment of a nation still struggling with the historical role of the Church in the Middle Kingdom.

“China must be bothered by the murder of Bishop Schraven and his eight European companions. The violent death of being burned at the stake by the Japanese army in defence of Chinese citizens in 1937 proves the falsehood of the official ideology of China that missionaries were exploiters of the people and accomplices of the colonial powers,” the press release says.

It adds that the positive spin some insiders are putting on the diplomatic rebuff does not take away from the fact that the ambassador is hiding behind silence.

“This is an attitude which does not at all fit the present behind-closed-doors negotiations between the Vatican and China about normalisation of relations, which appear to be in an advanced state,” the press release continues.

“Lottum hopes for a positive solution, so that in the near future the Chinese ambassador may be able to respond to an invitation to a commemoration of Bishop Schraven,” it says.

However, a seminar on the Massacre of Zhengding Church and Humanitarian Rescue Efforts by Religions During the War held at the Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang, China, at the end of October 2014, told a different story.

The conference referred to the nine who died as Little Buddhas in praise of their humanitarian efforts and agreed they should be called martyrs for the Chinese people.

The nine who died were led by Bishop Schraven and the conference made a call for his former residence in Shijiazhuang to be designated as a cultural heritage site and preserved.

It is currently military terrain, which has ensured that the former cathedral and a Japanese monument to the victims have been preserved.

One delegate said, “Our view of missionaries has been based on wrong information. We should no longer consider missionaries as imperialists.”

A vote of thanks to the Chinese authorities was passed at the conference, which was sponsored by the Hebei Normal University and Fudan University in Shanghai in recognition of their openness towards recognition of the international friends of the Chinese people.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai had been invited to preside at the baptism of the rose in Lottum on June 26, but has been whisked off to Guam on special duty, so his place was taken by the local auxiliary Bishop Everard de Jong, who  unveiled the signposts on the Schraven Walking Path.

It is an attractive 10-kilometre hiking trail beginning at the Rozenhof Guesthouse in Lottum and passing several chapels through attractive natural scenery to Kaldenbroeck Castle, the birthplace of Bishop Schraven in 1873.

The rose was then baptised by Father Matthew Gong Zhixi and as the waters of baptism mingled with the dripping rain from a darkened heaven split only by the lightening that forked its way across the sky, the gathering was reminded of the blood of the nine protectors of the Chinese people that watered the pyre where the martyrs had died.

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