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Make road signs to martyrs not statues

 

BROEKHUIZENVORST (SE): “Do not erect statues to the martyrs, make them into road signs,” is the plea that came out of a two-day memorial held in Broekhuizenvorst, the Netherlands, to Bishop Frans Schraven, six Lazarist confrérès, one Trappist priest and a lay person who were killed when they refused to hand over women and children in their protection to the Japanese military in China in 1937.

The Monsignor Schraven Foundation says in a press release on October 21 that martyrs point the way for all to follow. “Each man or woman deserves respect for his or her dignity,” the statement says.

It adds that for the nine missionaries, the decision to defend the women and children was a fatal one. They died a gruesome death by fire.

On October 13, the birthday of Bishop Schraven, two books were presented to Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai at the Vincentian Mission House in Panningen.

One is a collection of cartoons entitled, Mail from China, by the Belgian strip artist, Geert de Sutter; the other, Over my dead body, from the hand of the priest-artist, Father Jan Haen, and photographer, Jef Hendriks.

Mail from China is a historical account of the life of the Dutch bishop in China and the martyrdom of the nine Europeans.

Over my dead body is an artistic, photographic presentation, with comment by the artist, Father Haen, about the artwork done on a volunteer basis in the church in Broekhuizenvorst, once the martyred bishop’s parish.

The introduction contains a portrait account of how the martyrs have been remembered over the past 75 years, including in China.

Speakers at the symposium stressed the significance of these martyrs for our time. “They were defenders of the dignity of the women,” one said.

Father Masakatsu Fukamizu, from Tokyo, read a letter on behalf of the president of the Japanese Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga, at a Mass in the church on October 14.

Archbishop Ikenaga pleaded for a correct understanding of fundamental human rights and human dignity, which he said should determine human behaviour.

The Jesuit archbishop of Osaka then offered sincere apologies for this murder and for other atrocities committed by the Japanese.

Those present were touched by the letter and reacted with spontaneous applause.

Archbishop Hon responded, saying, “In Christ we embrace you and ask you to carry the same peace of Christ, which we share today, to our Japanese brothers and sisters.”

The Hong Kong-born archbishop explained that the acronym, SMS (message) can describe the life of the martyrs, as Servant, Missionary and Saint.

Pointing to the unrelenting refusal of Bishop Schraven to hand over women to the Japanese, the archbishop quoted Confucius as saying, “In a good cause we should not hesitate, but act with courage.”

The archbishop then thanked the Church in Europe, and especially in the Netherlands, for sending missionaries to China.

He told the Dutch Vincentians present that they had about 100 or so confreres who were active in China. Four of them were murdered and several died at a very young age, were imprisoned and suffered years of brainwashing.

At the end of the celebration the ashes of the martyrs and the portraits of all nine were blessed by Archbishop Hon and given a special place in the chapel of martyrs, where their story and the violent treatment of women is depicted against a background of equality as proclaimed by Jesus.

 

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