CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 June 2018

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Young people the first victims of new religious regulations

BEIJING (AsiaNews): the revised version of China’s Religious Affairs Regulations went into effect on February 1. First published last October, they provide for close monitoring of all official Church communities and fines, arrests and expropriation for members of unofficial communities. Among the first victims of this clampdown are young people.
 
Sources confirm that since the new regulations took hold, the Religious Affairs Bureau and the United Front Work Department have begun to call all Catholic parishes to make it clear that it will no longer be possible to hold camps (spring or summer) where young people might gather for a few days of vacation and spiritual recollection. 
 
The new regulations in fact require that religious activities can only be carried out in registered places and under state control. Being in a tent, outdoors or in some inexpensive hotel, and holding meetings and even being together with young people will be considered “illegal religious activity.” 
 
Several priests from Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and other parts of China have already received the warning, while parishes received a letter from the Religious Affairs Bureau.
 
The new rules also require that “non-religious groups, non-confessional schools, non-religious activity sites should not carry out religious formation” and that “non-religious academies ... must not have religious activities” (Article 41). 
 
For several years already, universities and schools have prohibited Christmas celebrations, decorations and greetings in the name of Chinese cultural identity, while allowing however —for example—the broadcast of football games.
 
While Muslims under 18-years-old, who are prohibited from going to the mosque, prohibitions against young people going to church are less stringent for Christians.
 
Last August, however, at least 100 Protestant communities received orders not to allow their children to take part in religious ceremonies and catechism classes.
 
There appears to be an attempt to stem the growth of faith among young Chinese people. According to a statistic issued some years ago, more than 60 per cent of university students in Beijing and Shanghai are eager to learn about Christianity. 

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