February 22, 2014

The Face of a Religious China

"Grace means that a life is not assessed for its faults but by a love of God that overwhelms all those faults"  -- Rev. Verity A. Jones

Today, around the world many more are coming to the teaching of the Christ. Forming a community, a Church that stands for all people in solidarity with suffering humanity, and engages peoples of all cultures and religions, is the Church teaching of the Gospels (bible stories). She stands with principle. All peoples the world over, want something to believe in, regardless of their faith heritage, be its origins East or West.

Jesuit Father Myles Sheehan, member of the same Jesuit Christian community as Pope Francis, recounts the Jesuit community experiences since their recent arrival in China. He writes in US Catholic magazine that there were 200 persons attending at a recent prayer meeting; this scene is being repeated every day throughout the country. On Sundays throughout China it occurs in multiplicity. There are now thousands of churches in China, representing all Christian denominations alongside the native faiths of that land.

What is becoming clear is that the number of Christians in China is growing. With the incorporation of Hong Kong into China since 1997, including its free prevalence of all faiths, non-native faiths are now taking hold within the mainland. In fact says Sheehan, there are now more regular church attenders in China today than in all of Europe. China saw more than 20,000 Catholic Christian baptisms in 2011 according to the Church in China.The call to love your neighbor is taking hold.

There are also what Sheehan calls "cultural Christians," many young and educated persons who believe but do not belong. They are a growing group, in many ways coming to the forefront of bringing the Good News to all parts of China. They play a significant role in the future of their nation, carrying with them the ideas, values and philosophies of the Christ.

Their growing Church is a place which holds for her guiding principles, an all inclusive, all-encompassing view, without walls or buildings nor ideologies that omit the value of the dignity of a person. In this modern, industrializing world the Church forms a harbor, a counter-force for harmony, and a home.

This Church of China must stand for all; its aims must be lived, not merely proclaimed through work for charitable causes and advocacy for social justice. In other parts of Asia, this mission takes its fulfillment in solidarity with the Minjung of South Korea, the Dalit of India and the Burakumin of Japan, for example.

While the marginalized in Asia are not all Christians, the indigenous faiths of the region share same or similar deep concerns for Asia. As for the Church in Asia, she stands alongside others with a message of not just a church in Asia but the Church in Asia, uniquely representing her community. After all, building community is at the heart of relationships.

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