Where are your papers?

National | Underground Chinese priest gets six years for unauthorized publishing-and other religion notes

Issue: "UNbelievable," June 17, 2000

Sentenced in China
A Chinese court on May 25 sentenced a priest of the pro-Vatican underground Catholic church in eastern China to six years in prison for printing Bibles and religious tracts without authorization. Officially, he was charged with illegally operating a business and illegal publishing. The cleric, Jiang Shurang, is among six priests detained in recent months in Cangnan in Zhejiang province, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China. The arrests came amid a nationwide crackdown on unauthorized religious activities, possibly part of the government's reaction against the banned but growing Falun Gong spiritual movement. At least seven Catholic churches in Cangnan have been closed since February for refusing to confirm their allegiance to the state-run Catholic church, a Center spokesman said. China and the Vatican broke relations in 1951, when the Communists kicked out missionaries, took control of the church in China and severed its ties with Rome, and required Catholics to declare their loyalty to the now officially sanctioned "indigenous" church. A large remnant, including many who worship and serve in the official church, remains faithful to the pope. Clandestine services, secret ordinations, and even consecrations of bishops help keep the underground church going. But those who take part frequently suffer harassment and arrest. Silenced in Lebanon
One of the casualties of the sudden Israeli pullout last month from southern Lebanon: the Christian Broadcasting Network's 18-year-old TV station in Marjayoun, just north of the border with Israel. Witnesses say Hezbollah militia members took over the outlet, Middle Eastern Television (METV), and hauled off expensive equipment. METV employed about 30 Maronite Christians; most are lying low in their homes, but seven and their families managed to cross into Israel and are seeking U.S. visas. Because of METV's support for Israel, Hezbollah considers the employees traitors. METV had beamed a broad range of programs to 17 countries. Anticipating the pullout, METV had set up a facility in Cyprus. Attacked in Nigeria
Up to 200 people died in Muslim-Christian riots late last month in Kaduna, Nigeria, where Muslims have been seeking to impose Islamic law on everyone. The outbreak occurred during synodical meetings of Anglican churches in the Kaduna region. So far this year, an estimated 2,000 people have been killed in religious violence in the Kaduna area. Among those killed have been three parish priests, eight seminarians, 38 pastors, and 148 evangelists of various churches. "The church there is very alive, very committed to the Scriptures, prayerful, joyful, and very committed to evangelism," said Harry Goodhew, the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, a recent visitor. Nigeria: Baptists celebrate
Earlier, away from the strife-torn areas, thousands of Nigerian Baptists braved heavy downpours and gathered in a stadium in Abeokuta to celebrate 150 years of Baptist work. Southern Baptist Thomas Jefferson Bowen, the first missionary, arrived in Abeokuta Aug. 5, 1850. Today, the Nigerian Baptist Convention has 7,000-plus churches (851 started last year) with 880,000 baptized members and a total community estimated at more than 3.5 million, NBC leaders said. It has 36 of its own missionaries working in four countries. The president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, a Baptist, led the crowd in singing "To God Be the Glory." He expressed appreciation to missionaries who cared enough to come and plant the seeds of the gospel and to work diligently at nurturing and growing Nigerian Christians. Everyone in the stadium stood to honor Southern Baptist missionary Alma Rohm for her 50 years of service in Nigeria, mostly as a teacher. Church officials said she taught most of the pastors and church leaders serving today. Noting the Muslim-Christian unrest in the country, Mr. Obasanjo emphasized the need to end divisive sectarianism. By his own account, Mr. Obasanjo became a much more committed believer during imprisonment for his opposition to the former military government. While in prison he wrote a book on prayer, which, he wrote, has the power to change individuals and the world.

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Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman


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