Chinese church torched; authorities slow to react

Posted on September 19, 2012

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catholicculture
asianews
by Jian Mei
The church – which can hold 100 people – had been rebuilt after its destruction under Mao. Suspicions point to construction companies who want to seize the village land. Local authorities indifferent to complaints.

Xiantao (AsiaNews) – A church in Caibang village, a suburb of Xiantao city (Hubei), was burnt down deliberately on Sept. 14, a Catholic source told AsiaNews. Parishioners, the source said, there grieved, demanded justice and called for religious freedom in China. Local Catholics call for prayers and concern for the case of violating their right of religious freedom, he said.

According newspaper Xinde Shijiazhuang (today’s edition), quoting Father Li of Hanyang diocese, the Church community filed a complaint with the religious affairs and public security offices of the Hubei provincial government in order to defend the legal right of the Church.

Meanwhile, today, Catholics from other parts of the country responded online with indignation. Parish priest Father Zhang Wei posted pictures of the devastated church and a statement dated Sept. 15 online that gave an account of the incident and asked for justice for the Catholic community. The doors were dismantled deliberately.

On Sept. 15, Father Zhang and his parishioners reported the case to police of Xiantao city and demanded the government to conduct a thorough investigation into the arson and penalize those responsible for the damage of the church. The church, which could accommodate about 100 people, was nearly destroyed by fire and many furnishings of the community had been dismantled on purpose. The church was considered an oratory and was registered with the government.

“Catholics – said the AsiaNews source – are angry at the indifferent attitude of local government officials toward this tragedy.”
“The parishioners reported to local police and officials who were not willing to help.”

The church was built in 1993 with the help of Msgr. Zhang Boren of Hanyang, the local underground bishop. The site chosen was the same where the old church stood, before it was demolished under Mao in 1954. Bishop Zhang died in 2005 at the age of 90.

The church is located in a suburb of a new development site, where local authorities arranged for farmers to sell their lands to developers. Most of the farmers have been relocated except the church. According to AsiaNews sources, local Catholics suspect the arson is related to the relocation of the church property.

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