ucanews.com reporter, TianjinUpdated: August 10, 2018 09:30 AM GMT
The pastoral center of Shuangshu parish of Wuqing district of Tianjin was forced to halt its junior summer camp on July 21. (Photo supplied)
A summer camp for youngsters in Tianjin Diocese of northern China was forced to close by authorities citing implementation of the revised religious regulations.
The "Walk with the Lord" camp was being held at a pastoral center of Shuangshu parish of Wuqing district. It comprised a junior camp being held from July 17-23 for 80 children aged 10-14 and a senior camp from July 27 to Aug. 3 for 60 teenagers aged 15-18.
However, on July 21, local government officials suddenly entered the center, ordered the camp to stop immediately and told organizers to send children home the next day. The senior camp was also banned.
A source said several clergy were upset and some youngsters were disappointed as "they could have gathered together to learn catechisms and play games."
One week before the incident, officials issued an order to ban minors of Xiaohan village of Wuqing from taking part in a parish summer camp. Xiaohan is a well-known Catholic village.
After the implementation of the revised religious regulations in February, several dioceses in Henan province were ordered to suspend summer camps.
However, some dioceses had organized camps before receiving the government’s notice. "If they want to pursue, we will just say that we have not received any notice yet," one source said.
A Catholic told ucanews.com that his two children had already participated in a summer camp. "In some areas with more faithful, the church still can go on quietly. As long as the event is neither reported nor publicized, local officials will turn a blind eye."
Maria Wang, a Catholic of Shijiazhuang of Hebei province and a mother of two, reprimanded the government for making children join the Young Pioneers (a mass youth organization) when they attend primary school but not allowing them to join a church summer camp.
"We are in modern times but the government regresses to the level of such spiritual oppression," she said, adding that freedom of belief was a right that all citizens should enjoy.
Paul Zhao, a Catholic in Xianxian Diocese of Hebei, said he would pray with his children, read them the Bible and teach them church teachings at home every day in order to keep their faith.
Teresa Zhao, a Catholic in Shangqiu Diocese of Henan, also reads the Bible with her children every night and lets them wear holy objects. "There is no other way out. We can only rely on ourselves."