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State launches religious charity campaign

Faith groups urged to provide "standardized" support

State launches religious charity campaign
Religious leaders and government officials at the opening ceremony (Photo courtesy of State Administration for Religious Affairs) reporter, Wuhan

September 18, 2012

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China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) launched the first nationwide Week of Religious Charity yesterday. This follows a document released by the government in February that encourages religious groups to perform charitable activities. The weeklong campaign from September 17-23 began with an opening ceremony and conference in Wuhan city, capital of central Hubei province. About 200 representatives from government-recognized Buddhist, Catholic, Islamic, Protestant and Taoist groups, officials and scholars were present. In his message to the ceremony, Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu urged religious groups to carry out the document's suggestions and seize the opportunity to promote charitable services in a long-term, institutionalized and standardized manner. The document, issued by the SARA and five central government departments, supported religious groups’ participation in public charity and aimed to ensure that these groups receive the same treatment as other social organizations. In addition, the new regulations clearly define the forms, principles and preferential measures available for religious groups to carry out charity activities. Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, head of the government-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, represented the religious sector in reading out a joint statement. The bishop, who is not recognized by the Vatican, said that to achieve healthy and sustainable development, religious groups should participate in charity activities “according to law, with pure motivation as well as open, transparent and standardized operations.” A SARA press release dated yesterday said there are nearly 5,500 religious groups, about 130,000 sites for religious activities, 360,000 clergy and more than 100 million religious believers in China. It cited incomplete statistics that money donations for charitable purposes from the religious sector amounted to three billion yuan (US$475 million) in the last five years, of which 250 million yuan were from Catholics. Besides making donations, the religions have also actively participated in public welfare and charity activities by extending their service spheres and targets. “They have gradually transformed from simply meeting material needs of service targets to paying full attention to their psychological, spiritual and social needs; from a scattered, spontaneous and monotonous state to a systematic, organized and diversified situation,” the press release said. Related reports Government seeks more charitable work Chancellor's advice may inspire more charity work  
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