Saturday, August 9, 2008
With the eyes of the world on China during the Olympics, today's Washington Post (Beijing Curbs Religious Rights -- Christian Activists Detail Harassment) reports that while China describes itself as a religiously tolerant society that allows its citizens to worship freely and is this week extending that freedom of worship to athletes in the form of worship rooms in the Olympic Village, each dedicated for one of the world's major religions, religious freedom does not extend "beyond the heavily secured perimeter fence of Olympic Village."
According to the article, church members and religious activists in China have stated that in this Olympic Year, Chinese government officials "have sharply tightened restrictions on religion, arresting leaders of unregistered 'house churches,' stepping up harassment of congregations, denying visas to foreign missionaries and shutting down places of worship."
This crackdown on religious freedom
is part of a security campaign that has targeted human rights advocates, domestic dissidents and petitioners -- anyone who might interfere with the ruling Communist Party's efforts to showcase China as a harmonious society in which the government maintains a firm grip on power.
Officially, China allows worship only at registered churches belonging to the Three-Self-Patriotic Movement, a government-sanctioned Christian organization that, in combination with the China Christian Council, form the only state-sanctioned ("registered") Protestant church in mainland China. The state also attempts to exercise supervision over mainland China's Catholics through the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, an organization that operates without the blessings of the Roman Catholic Church and that church's leader, Pope Benedict XVI.