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Beijing wants standard practices in charity work

WUHAN (UCAN): The State Administration for Religious Affairs in China launched the first nationwide Week of Religious Charity on September 17.

This comes as a follow up to a document released by the government in February encouraging religious groups to be involved in charitable activities.

The weeklong campaign running from September 17 to 23 was opened in the capital of Hubei province, Wuhan, with a conference attended by about 200 representatives from government-recognised Buddhist, Catholic, Islamic, Protestant and Taoist groups. Officials and scholars were also present.

In his message, the vice premier, Hui Liangyu, urged religious groups to carry out the suggestions contained in the February document and seize the opportunity to promote charitable services in a long-term, institutionalised and standardised manner.

The document, issued by the religious affairs office and five central government departments, supports the participation of religious groups in public charitable work and aims to ensure that these groups receive the same treatment as other social organisations.

In addition, the new regulations clearly define the forms, principles and preferential measures available for religious groups to carry out charitable activities.

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, head of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, represented the religious sector in the reading of a joint statement.

The bishop, who is not recognised by the Vatican, said that to achieve healthy and sustainable development, religious groups should participate in charitable activities “according to law, with pure motivation, as well as open, transparent and standardised operations.”

A press release from the religious affairs office dated September 17 says there are nearly 5,500 religious groups, about 130,000 sites for religious activities, 360,000 clergy and more than 100 million religious believers in China.

It cited incomplete statistics showing that monetary donations to charity from the religious sector amounted to at least three billion yuan ($366 billion) over the last five years, of which 250 million yuan ($305 million) came from Catholics.

Besides making donations, religious groups have also actively participated in public welfare and charitable activities by extending their service spheres and targets.

“They have gradually transformed from simply meeting material needs of service targets to paying full attention to their psychological, spiritual and social needs; from a scattered, spontaneous and monotonous state to a systematic, organised and diversified situation,” the press release says.

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