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Catholics under attack in China

People in Asian nations strive for freedom, rights and justice as politics, violence and the pandemic cast long shadows on their lives.

Published: October 08, 2021 11:29 AM GMT

Updated: October 08, 2021 11:32 AM GMT

China’s communist government is accelerating its controversial policy of Sinicization of religions, especially targeting the Catholic Church. Sinicization seeks to impose strict rules on society and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

Recently, two Catholic churches in Zibo city in Shandong province organized a program called “Hundred Sermons” that sought to promote Sinicization in the Church and how to adapt to the socialist society. The event was organized by the state-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Meanwhile, a group of 18 leaders from the Patriotic Association visited a communist revolutionary site at Xibaipo village in Hebei province that intended to cultivate feelings of love for the Chinese Communist Party, patriotism and socialism.

For years, China has strictly controlled state-sanctioned religious groups and persecuted those adhering to unregistered and unrecognized groups including underground Catholics who refuse to join state-approved bodies or pledge allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.

Catholics under attack in China

Catholic Church members and priests attend a 'Hundred Sermons' event focusing on the Sinicization of Catholicism in Zibo city in Shandong province of China on Sept. 24. (Photo: chinacatholic.cn)

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At least 20 people were killed and more than 200 injured after a 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Balochistan province of Pakistan on Thursday. Many of the victims died when roofs and walls collapsed.

Rescuers have struggled to reach coal miners reportedly trapped underground. A power cut following the earthquake forced health workers to treat the injured using flashlights. The remote mountainous Harnai district is among the worst-affected areas where a lack of paved roads, electricity and mobile phone coverage hampered rescue efforts.

Many victims died when roofs and walls collapsed after the 5.7 magnitude quake struck in Balochistan province.

Government officials said a woman and six children were among the dead and feared the death toll may rise. Pakistan is vulnerable to earthquakes as the country straddles the boundary where Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. In 2015, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed about 400 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A deadly quake in 2005 killed 73,000 people and left 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.   

The Philippines’ presidential election next year is poised to become a battleground with high-profile candidates signing up to run for presidency.

This week Ferdinand Marcos Junior, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, announced he will run for president. Marcos Junior is an ally of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte and supports his infamous drug war and death penalty for traffickers. Dictator Macros’ iron-fisted rule from 1965 to 1986 was notorious for corruption, extravagance and brutality. A popular church-backed uprising toppled him and forced the family into exile in the US.

Former Philippine senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos (front, second left), the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, leads the inauguration of his national headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Manila, on Oct. 5. (Photo: AFP)

Meanwhile, Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, an arch-rival of Duterte and staunch critic of his drug war, has also declared her candidacy for president. In 2016, Robredo defeated Marcos Junior to become vice president.

A recent poll showed Robredo could struggle in the election as she was well behind the frontrunners including first-placed Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Duterte, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and celebrity mayor Francisco Domagoso.  

A Catholic priest in central Vietnam has come under verbal attacks and threats from the authorities and state-run media for criticizing the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Redemptorist Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai has been facing state ire since he wrote critical posts on Facebook about the government’s creation of a National Covid-19 Vaccine Fund. Quang Nam provincial television aired a news story accusing Father Thoai of “smearing and distorting the party and the state’s fight against Covid-19.”

Vietnamese Redemptorist Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai has come under attack from the authorities and state media for criticizing the government's handling of the pandemic. (Photo: Amen TV/YouTube)

A state-run newspaper said the priest had broken the Cyber Security Law and must be “handled” by the authorities. The priest, an outspoken advocate of human rights and religious freedom, dismissed the allegations as “slanderous.” He said the state authority closed his Facebook account without any reason.

He accused state media of enjoying impunity despite running cooked-up stories against people who criticize the government. Earlier, the authorities barred the priest from traveling to Cambodia and United States. 

A global rights group and the Catholic Church have called on Bangladesh’s government and the United Nations to ensure security for Rohingya refugees and activists who fear for their lives following the assassination of a top Rohingya rights activist.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Wednesday claiming refugees and activists were living with the threat of violence in refugee camps.

Human Rights Watch and the Catholic Church have called for the protection of Rohingya refugees and activists in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

The group’s South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly and a Catholic rights activist, Holy Cross Father Liton Gomes, demanded a judicial probe into the killing of 48-year-old Muhib Ullah, chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights. Assailants shot him dead in Kutupalong camp on September 29.

The killing triggered global condemnation including from the United Nations and United States. Muhib Ullah had defended the rights of refugees and supported the repatriation of nearly one million refugees in Bangladesh who fled military crackdowns in Myanmar.

A deadly ethnic conflict left at least six people killed, 41 injured and forced thousands to flee their homes in Indonesia’s tribal-dominated Papua province. Clashes between members of the Kimyal and Yali tribes erupted in Yahukimo district over allegations of witchcraft on Sunday.

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Police said the Kimyal tribe accused their rivals of practicing witchcraft which led to the death of former district chief and influential Kimyal leader Abock Busup. Media tests confirmed he died from a heart attack.

Refugees who fled their homes due to violence between indigenous groups are seen here at the Evangelical Church of Indonesia Evanhastia in Dekai, Papua, on Oct. 6. (Photo: Florianus Geong)

However, the accusation prompted Kimyal tribesmen to attack the Yali group armed with bows and machetes. Police arrested 52 and continued a manhunt to nab others. Ethnic violence is not new in Papua, home to some 255 tribes. 

In 2018, a conflict between the Yali and Ngalik tribes in Yahukimo district killed two people and injured six. Last year violence in Jayapura between the Nafri and Enggros tribes left seven people injured.

Suspected Muslim separatists opened fire on a passenger train in southern Thailand and caused a temporary halt to local services on Sunday.

The train came under attack on its way from Su-ngai Kolok border town in restive Muslim-majority province of Narathiwat to Yala, another Muslim-majority province in Thailand’s southern region bordering Malaysia. The train driver said the gunmen opened fire from bushes by the tracks and damaged its airbrake system, but no one was injured.

An army ranger gestures next to a train at Tanyongmat railway station in Rangae district in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat on Aug. 28, after the train carrying agricultural products was hit by a bomb believed to have been set by suspected insurgents. (Photo: AFP)

In response, defense volunteers on the train returned fire and security forces were dispatched to the scene, but no suspected insurgents were nabbed. In August, a bomb was set off as a cargo train approached a railway station in Narathiwat, badly damaging the locomotive.

Southern Thailand has experienced a long-running Muslim insurgency with the separatists recently adopting hit-and-run attacks. The insurgency has left 7,000 people, both Buddhists and Muslims, dead and thousands injured since 2004.

A group of senators have introduced legislation in the US Congress seeking to pressurize Myanmar’s military junta over its atrocities since the February coup.

The Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021 was introduced on Tuesday by Democrat legislators Gregory W. Meeks from New York and Benjamin L. Cardin from Maryland along with Steve Chabot, a Republican representing Ohio.

A protester holds up a poster featuring Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in front of the Central Bank of Myanmar in Yangon in February. (Photo: AFP)

The senators said the legislation is essential as Myanmar’s junta has refused to cease violence, release those unjustly detained or participate in meaningly dialogue with local stakeholders. The bill aims to hold accountable those responsible for the coup and the ensuing atrocities that have claimed over 1,000 lives by authorizing targeted sanctions against the military, the State Administrative Council and their affiliated entities and conglomerates.

Myanmar’s military regime has continued it brutal crackdown pro-democracy protests and civilians despite several sanctions imposed by the US and Western governments.

Christian leaders in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand have demanded punishment for a Hindu mob that attacked a church and injured the faithful during worship.

A 200 -strong mob of Hindu radicals barged into a morning prayer service last Sunday at Roorkee town in Haridwar district. The mob shouted religious slogans, abused and thrashed Christians and accused them of conducting religious conversion activities. Three women sustained serious injuries and were rushed to hospital.

Catholics pray during a Good Friday service in an East Delhi church in India. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

In a police report, a church official said the attackers were members of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party and its radical outfits. Religious-charged violence against Christians has intensified in India since the BJP came to power in 2014.

Hindu extremists often accuse Christians of using force and other clandestine tactics to convert people and attack their worship places and other institution. Uttarakhand is the ninth Indian state to enact a strict anti-conversion law that makes religious conversion a serious criminal offense, specifically targeting minority Muslims and Christians.

Government ministers in Catholic-majority Timor-Leste are spearheading a campaign aiming to vaccinate 80 percent of the population as many are still have doubts about vaccines.

The ministers are campaigning in all the country’s 13 municipalities for the drive which began at the start of October. Some ministers are reportedly administering vaccines themselves.

Timor-Leste's Minister of Health Odete Maria Freitas Belo vaccinates residents in Ermera municipality on Oct. 3, part of the government's efforts to involve ministers in the vaccination campaign. (Photo: Ministry of Health)

Despite a lack of resources, Timor-Leste has successfully battled the Covid-19 pandemic since last year, recording about 19,613 cases and 119 deaths. The government’s mass vaccination campaign saw about 60 percent of the adult population receiving a first dose and 37 percent fully vaccinated.

The government also announced that it will compensate anyone who experiences complications after receiving vaccines. In case of disability a patient will get 1,000 to 7,000 US dollars, while a family will get 10,000 dollars if a patient dies. 

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