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Chinese authorities halt youth summer camps

TIANJIN (UCAN): The Walk with the Lord summer camp for young people in the Diocese of Tianjin in northern China, was forced to close on July 21 by authorities who cited the country’s revised religious regulations, which came into effect in February. Authorities also removed two priests and shut down a youth camp in Tianshui in Shandong province.
The camp was being held at a pastoral centre of Shuangshu parish of Wuqing district, and comprised a junior camp being held from July 17 to 23 for 80 children aged 10- to 14-years-old and a senior camp from July 27 to August 3 for 60 teenagers aged 15- to18-years-old.
On July 21, local government officials suddenly entered the centre, ordered the camp to stop immediately and told organisers to send children home the next day. The senior camp was also shut down.
A source said several clergy were upset and some youngsters were disappointed as “they could have gathered together to learn catechisms and play games.”
A week before the incident, officials issued an order banning minors of Xiaohan village of Wuqing from taking part in a parish summer camp. 
After the implementation of the revised religious regulations, several dioceses in Henan province were ordered to suspend summer camps.
However, some dioceses had organised camps before receiving the government’s notice. “If they want to pursue, we will just say that we have not received any notice yet,” one source said.
One Catholic said that his two children had already participated in a summer camp. “In some areas with more faithful, the Church still can go on quietly. As long as the event is neither reported nor publicised, local officials will turn a blind eye.” 
Maria Wang, a mother of two from Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, berated the government for making children join the Young Pioneers (a mass youth organisation) when they attend primary school but not allowing them to join a Church summer camp.
“We are in modern times but the government regresses to the level of such spiritual oppression,” she said, adding that freedom of belief was a right that all citizens should enjoy.
Paul Zhao, in the Diocese of Xianxian, Hebei, said he would pray with his children, read them the Bible and homeschool them in the faith at every day in order to nourish their faith.
Teresa Zhao, from Shangqiu Diocese of Henan, who reads the Bible with her children every night and lets them wear sacramental said, “There is no other way out. We can only rely on ourselves.”

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