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Religious Liberty in Asia (2)

7/29/2006 - 6:15 AM PST

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Report Published by Aid to the Church in Need

ROME, JULY 29, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is an adapted excerpt from a report by the charity Aid to the Church in Need on religious freedom.

This is the 1st installment dealing with Asia as published on Catholic Online. Subsequent excerpts will appear in the coming days.

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Cambodia

Article 43 of the constitution in Cambodia guarantees freedom of worship, which is generally respected and defended by the government.

The Catholic Church's relations with the government are quite good, as witnessed by the sovereign's participation in Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul of Pope John Paul II.

Increased nationalism, however -- strictly linked to Buddhism, the state religion -- has resulted recently in persecutions against Christians. The authorities also fear a number of Muslim groups receiving funds from abroad.

In the course of 2005 there have been serious violations of human rights, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has been accused of moving toward a military dictatorship like the one in Myanmar.

China

2005 saw China's attempt to appear fully legal in its attitude to religious expression in the eyes of the international community.

On March 1 the New Regulations (NR) for religious activities were passed. This, however, did not prevent the government from arresting believers and religious personnel; from torturing members of various communities; destroying or confiscating places of worship, as well as forbidding the young from attending schools, imposing restrictions or forbidding contact and movement within the country and abroad.

Many religious communities are waiting for official recognition from the authorities: the Orthodox Christian communities, the Bahais, the Jews and the Mormons.

According to statistics provided by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Department of Propaganda, about 20 million of the 60 million members of the Communist Party believe in a faith, and about 10 million regularly attend churches or temples.

In an attempt to oppose the religious surge within its ranks, the CCP has launched a campaign to spread atheism using the radio, television, the Internet and university seminaries. It also financed a $25.5 million campaign to revitalize the growth of Marxism.

Among the underground religious communities, the most targeted area is Hebei, where there are more than 1.5 million Catholics.

Bishop Giulio Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, in Hebei province, was periodically kidnapped by the police during 2005. Bishop Jia was arrested in January, July and November, and is now held at a secret location.

Before and after the death of Pope John Paul II, the police arrested various bishops, priests and secular people belonging to the underground Church. In particular, Auxiliary Bishop Yao Liang of Xiwanzi was arrested March 31, 2005.

Relations with the Holy See have been characterized by inconsistency and ambiguity.

During the last days of John Paul II, a spokesman for the Foreign Office expressed best wishes for the Pontiff's health. The government, however, did not send a representative to the Pope's funeral, nor did the Patriotic Association allow a delegation to attend.

In the months that followed the election of Benedict XVI, a number of groups of priests and secular Chinese arrived in Rome to greet the Pope during public audiences, but it was later discovered that the Patriotic Association had not been informed about these meetings.

In 2005 the unofficial Protestant churches were at the center of a campaign addressed at eliminating them, also involving the arrest of their ministers.

In November, U.S. President George Bush visited China, and participated in a liturgical service held at the official Protestant church in Gangwashi.

Tibet

Control over Tibetan Buddhism continued throughout 2005 with arrests, torture and sentencing. The majority of Muslims are concentrated in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. They belong to the Uighur ethnic group that originated in Turkey.

China justifies this violence as the battle against Islamic terrorism. Yet, the United Nations and various international human rights organizations have condemned the manipulation of the battle against terrorism.

Persecution of the Falun Gong began after April 25, 1999, when over 10,000 followers protested peacefully in Beijing against the violation of their rights. Since then, the Falun Gong has reported over 38,000 cases of imprisonment, torture and death.

In April 2005 the Falun Gong reported numerous arrests in the provinces of Shandong, Jiangxi, Sichuan and Inner Mongolia.

On Nov. 21 Manfred Novak, the ...

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