Four arrested for vandalizing Don Bosco statue

August 13, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

vandalizing Don Bosco statueGuwahati, August 11, 2015: Police have arrested four people in connection with vandalizing a statue of Don Bosco and dumping it the Bharalu river, near Guwahati last Friday.

The arrested are members of the local branch of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), reported Vatican Radio. They were arrested on Friday.

The statue was attacked on Thursday, on the eve of its planned public installation as part of the worldwide celebration of the 200th birth anniversary of the founder of the Society of Don Bosco. It had been placed on a pedestal on the shore of Bharulu, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, to be unveiled Friday morning.

According to an eyewitness, hours before the ceremony, a group of more than 100 people began pelting stones and flower vases at the statue and then threw it into the river. As a result, the arm of the statue broke.

Days ahead of the incident, the BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, had protested against the installation of the monument.

Those oppose the installation of the statue allege that the Italian spiritual leader has not contributed anything to the Assamese society, and found it offensive to install his statue along with socio-political leaders of Assam at a public place.

They said the state’s ruling party, Congress, approved the installation of the statue to please their party president Sonia Gandhi, who is an Italian by birth.

State Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has “strongly condemned” the incident saying, “we must acknowledge the contribution made by John Bosco in the field of education and society at large.”

“This incident is unfortunate and some elements are responsible. Disagreement and dissent must be seen in a positive light, but to desecrate and then throw the statue into the river wounds our religious sentiment,” Gogoi added.

– vatican radio

Sri Lankan rights leaders want Christian politicians to take a stand

August 13, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Sri LankaSri Lankan, August 11, 2015: Civic rights leaders are campaigning for Christian candidates in the upcoming general election to take a stand against drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution and development projects that harm the environment.

“We act as a pressure group to stop all these evil activities in Christian-majority areas and create a good political culture,” said Thilina Alahakoon, the convener of 20 Christian organizations, during a meeting at a Baptist church in Colombo Aug. 10.

The organizations are, through their policy document, working for good governance and building of a just society.

Christian candidates for parliament should also oppose projects that might endanger the environment — such as the proposed US$1.4-billion Colombo Port City project funded by a Chinese company. The government has wavered on the project because of a debate about how it will affect the environment and the local fishing community.

“Environmentalists have already warned that [because of] this project, the coastal land, sea and lagoon and fish-breeding grounds will be damaged and affect the livelihood of the fishing community,” Alahakoon said. “Houses on the coast will be at risk of being washed away due to erosion,” he said.

The activists also urged Christian voters to reject candidates who were involved in cases of drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution or were not ready to take a stand on environmental issues.

Dominican Father Jayalath Balagalle, lecturer at the Aquinas University College, urged Christian voters to reject corrupt politicians and make those elected accountable because “we are the ones who elected them,” he said.

The Sri Lankan general election is scheduled for Aug. 17. President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved parliament in June, calling a general election.

Sri Lanka is 70 percent Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 8 percent Christian and 7 percent Muslim. A total of 6,151 candidates from 21 registered parties and 201 independent groups will be contesting in the election.

– ucan

ISIS Horror: World leaders ignoring genocide of oldest Christian communities

August 13, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

ISIS terrorist killingU.S, August 11, 2015: In the middle of Thursday night’s Republican debate, I started receiving emergency messages from the Assyrian Christian community in the Middle East.

They were writing to inform me that ISIS had attacked yet another Assyrian city in Syria — a city filled with Christians. This time it was in the Homs province, and they did there what they have done in so many other cities. They kidnapped at least 60 Christians, and among them are dozens and dozens of women and children. I’m told the number will probably climb.

Like the more than 200 Christians ISIS kidnapped along the Khabour River in Syria in February, the fate of these new victims is unknown.

Yet, no one in the world can say they do not know what ISIS does to Christians in the Middle East. This includes President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden, and all of those — Republican or Democrat — running for president.

No one in the world can say they do not know what ISIS does to Christians in the Middle East

In the words of “emir” of the “Caliphate,” ISIS intends on marching all the way to Rome and will “break their [Christian] crosses and trade and sell their women” as they go.

So, far, they have fulfilled their promise. Every single encounter these terrorists have had with these ancient Christian communities has resulted in one of four outcomes: forced conversion, sexual slavery, extortion or execution.

We have evidence of this — abundant evidence — including a price list from a slave market in Mosul which lists the slaves for sale by age and by religion with Christian girls listed from 1- to-9-years-old for approximately $172. Older Yazidi and Christian women can be bought for the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

Who can forget the cover of ISIS’s October magazine which superimposed an ISIS flag atop the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square, the Nazi-like symbols they painted on the homes of Christians in Mosul, the scores of churches destroyed, manuscripts burned, and the crosses chipped out of the tombstones in Christian cemeteries? Then there were the 21 Egyptians and the 30 Ethiopians who were grotesquely executed in Libya, for their faith alone.

This recent kidnapping is a stark reminder that the rhetoric of this presidential season effects real lives — and innocent children — at a time when the world’s most ancient Christian communities face a legitimate threat of extinction at the hands of terrorists who’ve been allowed to run wild across our world.

If our leaders don’t begin to take this threat more seriously, the oldest Christians communities in the world will have survived nearly 2,000 years of conflict — from the likes of Ghenghis Khan — only to fade into history in the 21st century. They literally might not survive past 2015.

Syria’s quiet Christian genocide wages on while the world remains mostly indifferent. I wonder what we will say to our children and grandchildren when they ask us what we did to stop this Christian holocaust?

– christian post

Four ways to deal with pain and suffering

August 13, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Pain and sufferingTexas, August 10, 2015: Pastor Levi Lusko of Fresh Life Church in Montana was the guest speaker at Pastor Ed Young’s Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, on Sunday, and he shared four ways of dealing with suffering, just as he and his wife, Jennie, dealt with the death of their 5-year-old daughter, Lenya.

Suffering in life is not an obstacle to being used by God, it’s an opportunity to be used like never before,” Lusko, the author of Through The Eyes of a Lion, told the congregation as he began his message, which was first of the three-part series, Influence, that Fellowship Church has started.

“The influence of Fellowship Church has reached far beyond our walls and stretched across the globe,” the megachurch says about the series. “It is a picture of what God has in store for all of us when we tap into His plan and purpose for our lives.”

Lusko’s message was based on 2 Timothy 1:10, which reads, “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”

The pastor told the congregation that on Dec. 20, 2012, their second daughter, Lenya Avery Lusko, suddenly had an asthma attack. They thought she would respond to medicines, but it got worse. Soon, she stopped breathing. They begged for God to intervene and save her. But she died.

They wondered what her tombstone should say. And they came up with these words: “Jesus has destroyed death. He has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”

Lenya died days before Christmas, but “death was the reason why there is Christmas in the first place,” Lusko said.

He quoted Hebrews 2:15, “And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

“Christmas exists so that there could be Easter, so that we could live with hope so that we could die without fear,” Lusko said.

However, a hurt is a hurt, he cautioned. “Hurting with hope still hurts.” Even God grieves when we go through pain and suffering, though there’s hope, he added.

It’s okay to cry and feel terrible, but Jesus defeated death by dying and then rising to life, Lusko said.

He shared how he and his wife were able to hold their daughter’s hand with one hand and raise the other to heaven to pray for her as she was dying. They said they knew they were not alone.

You are not alone when you lose a loved one or a job or anything that hurts, the pastor said. “He will walk beside you.”

Lusko said most Christians find themselves in the same situation as Jesus’ disciples the day after His death on the cross. Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose on a Sunday, and Saturday was the time of trial for His disciples. A promise had been given but not fulfilled yet. The question is, he said, how do we live on “Saturday.”

There are four ways to turn off the dark in your heart, he told the congregation.

One, don’t rely on the naked eye, Lusko said. “Things are not as they seem. We walk by faith, and not by sight.”

You can rely on what you’ve heard, he explained. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing of the Word of God, so don’t just see what you see but believe what He has said.

Two, train for the trial you’re not yet in, the pastor went on to share. “You and I have two Google calendars … one that we’ve put together and we have one that’s really gonna be.”

We can plan, but we can never be sure what the future holds, he explained.

What you’ve done before the trial matters more than what you do in the midst of it, he said.

Three, let God use your pain, he said, adding that it’s an honor to be trusted in trials.

“God trusts His most difficult assignments to His most trusted soldiers. … He puts to use everything He puts us through,” the pastor said.

God allows us to go through pain with a definite plan. “Pain is a passport that would take you to places where you would never have been otherwise,” he stated.

Four, you can cue the eagle, the pastor said, quoting Isaiah 40:30-31, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

He reminded the listeners, “Anytime you need, and as often as you need to, all you need to do is call on the name of the Lord, and you can receive new strength.”

Pray and ask for God’s strength when you think you’re failing, he encouraged, quoting Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

– christian post

Money matters

August 5, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

Do you ever feel anxious when the collection plate comes around?
Paul somewhat surprisingly tells us that
“You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give.”
Not only that, but giving should be joyful, not forced:
“Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.
For God loves the person who gives cheerfully” (2 Corinthians 9:7).


Jesus spoke more about money than almost any other topic.
According to author Randy Alcorn, about 15% of Jesus’ sayings
recorded in the Bible relate to money and possessions.
Why did Jesus (and the New Testament authors like Paul) speak so often about money?
Perhaps because we seem to have so much trouble using money wisely.
Thankfully, the New Testament gives us plenty of guidance.

using money wisely

In the story of the widow’s offering, Jesus commends her gift of the equivalent of two pennies.
She gave “more than all the rest.” Paul clarifies that “If you are really eager to give,
it isn’t important how much you are able to give” (2 Corinthians 8:12).
So, clearly the amount given is not most important.
Then what is? It is our attitude towards giving.

widows offering

Often, the Pharisees (the religious zealots of Jesus’ time) tried in vain to trap Jesus with tricky questions.
On one such occasion, Jesus’ reply was “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,
and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). So what portion of our money is “God’s”?


In a sense, it all is, since we have been given stewardship over our money.
How much should we give to the church or other important causes?
Paul answers this question thusly:
“Give whatever you can according to what you have” (2 Corinthians 8:11).
The widow did just that; she gave what little she could afford and Jesus approved of her.


Finally, note what Jesus says about giving:
“Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired … Give your gifts in secret” (Matthew 6:1,4).
Keeping your giving between yourself and God ensures
you are giving for the right reason and won’t become prideful.
As Paul says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others” (Philippians 2:3).
Follow these biblical principles when giving,
and you will be giving joyfully, as the Lord wills you to do.

– fwd: vc mathews

Nagaland accord signed, promises peace after six decades of violence

August 5, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Nagaland accordNew Delhi, August 3, 2015: The central government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM on Monday signed a historic accord that promises to bring peace in a state which has been ravaged by violence for over six decades.

The accord was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who described it as historic. The agreement is expected to end the oldest insurgency in the country.

“The Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people,” said Modi.

He admitted that “unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other”.

Modi spoke of his vision for the transformation of the northeast region and expressed confidence that the agreement will open “a glorious new chapter for the Naga people to build a bright future for Nagaland”.

The Naga agreement was the second major initiative in the northeast — after the peace accord between the government and the Mizo National Front in 1986.

NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, who signed the accord on Monday at the ceremony held at the prime minister’s 7 Race Course Road home, hailed it as a “momentous occasion”.

He said all Naga people had great respect for Mahatma Gandhi who understood the problem of the Nagas and was in favour of their demands.

Muivah, 81, is a key leader of the NSCN-IM which has been in talks with the central government since 1997 after a ceasefire was signed.

NSCN-IM chairman Isak Chishi Swu, who had also signed the agreement, could not make it to the ceremony as he is unwell and undergoing treatment at Fortis hospital in Delhi. His son Pasheto was, however, present.

Apart from NSCN-IM, there are three more major factions involved in insurgency in the state. These are NSCN-K, NSCN-U and NSCN-KZ. They are unlikely to accept this peace accord.

The Naga peace accord took many by surprise, with the prime minister making a dramatic tweet: “I will be making a special announcement at 6:30 PM from RCR.”

The Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPHMR) chairman N. Krome told IANS over phone: “We were all caught by surprise by the sudden announcement.”

He said they were aware that something was happening “but we did not realise that something like this would happen so soon”.

The accord comes almost two months after 18 army soldiers were killed in a major ambush carried out by Naga militants in Manipur’s Chandel district. Following this, India had carried out an operation in Myanmar.

Nagaland became India’s 16th state on Dec 1, 1963. The mostly mountainous state is spread over 16,579 sq km and is home to 16 major tribes, each with distinct customs, language and dress.

Christian-dominated Nagaland is home to around 20 million people. It’s official language is English.

NSCN-IM claims to speak for the Nagas and has also been demanding a separate Greater Nagaland for themselves by carving an area which includes parts of Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

According to an official statement, government’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks, R.N. Ravi, signed the agreement on behalf of the government of India.

The entire top leadership of the NSCN-IM, including all members of the “collective leadership”, has fully endorsed the agreement and was present during the ceremony.

The statement said it will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the north east. It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions.

Attempts were made from time to time to resolve the issue through discussion with representatives of the Naga people. A fresh attempt for a comprehensive resolution was initiated with the NSCN in 1997.

The new government on assuming power in May 2014 accorded highest priority to this lingering problem.

– ians

Government agrees to discuss port project with Church

August 5, 2015 by  
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Proposed site for seaport projectThiruvananthapuram, August 4, 2015: The Kerala state government is now open to discussions with the Catholic Church after a local archdiocese said it would oppose a multimillion-dollar port project because it would displace thousands of fishermen.

“We will continue our discussions and remove all their fears and grievances,” K. Babu, state minister for fisheries and ports, told after initial discussions with leaders of the Latin-rite Trivandrum archdiocese.

He said that the Kerala government is open to discuss issues raised by the Latin Catholic Church against implementing the Vizhinjam port project, which is expected to cost 7 billion rupees, or US$109.5 million.

The minister’s comments followed a pastoral letter issued by Latin-rite Archbishop Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum against the proposed Vizhinjam port. The letter was read during all the August 2 Sunday Masses in his archdiocese.

In his letter, the archbishop warned the government that he could not condone the massive port project in its present form, as it would displace 32 fishing villages in his archdiocese and adversely affect some 50,000 families.

If the project is implemented, coastal villages along a 13-kilometer stretch will be wiped out, he said. Construction on the project is scheduled to start Aug. 17.

“The project has already been delayed for almost 24 years, but the government would initiate fresh rounds of talks with all aggrieved stakeholders,” James Varghese, principal secretary to the Ministry of Ports, told

The project area covers the majority of fishing settlements under the Latin-rite Trivandrum archdiocese.

“We are viewing this as a human rights issue. We are not against development. What we demand is the protection of the rights of a group that is going to suffer the most,” the archbishop said.

He added that he believes the government wants to ignore protests and go ahead with the project.

The environmental impact assessment report that justified the project “turned a blind eye to many important aspects, such as how the fishermen will be affected when the project is implemented,” the archbishop said.

T. Peter, national secretary of the National Fishworkers’ Forum, told ucanews that “things stated by the archbishop in his pastoral letter are factually correct.”

Kanam Rajendran, state secretary of the opposition Communist Party of India, told that the Vizhinjam project would endanger the livelihoods of fishermen.

The Catholic Church in Kerala state is home to three rites, namely the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin rite. Two archdioceses belonging to the two different Syro-Malankara and Latin rites have the same Trivandrum name.

– ucan

Following rape, abortion allowed for six-month pregnant girl, but the child “is innocent”

August 5, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Medical experts allow abortionMumbai, July 31, 2015: The Supreme Court of India granted a 14-year-old rape victim the right to abort her child, which was the result of rape. Under Indian law, abortion beyond 20 weeks is not allowed. The girl is said to be 25 weeks pregnant. Her rapist, Jatin Mehta, is a doctor and is already in prison.

After the High Court of Gujarat turned down an application for abortion, the girl’s parents turned to India’s highest court. The latter ruled that if there is a “serious threat” to her life in case the foetus is not aborted, then the surgeons and the clinical experts can together take a decision on termination of her pregnancy. While issuing its notice on the plea, the court also said that in case of abortion, a DNA test should be done on the foetus to help in the criminal trial against the rapist.

“Our hearts go out to this young teenager, who is a victim of the violence of an unjust aggressor,” Dr Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told AsiaNews.  However, “to take the life of an innocent unborn child is also an unjust aggression against the child.” In Ahmedabad, “the Sisters of Mother Teresa run a home called Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, where they could welcome the baby.”

Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Dominic Savio Fernandes, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai and president of the Episcopal Commission for the family in the Western Region, calls for careful consideration of the major issues at hand, namely rape and abortion. Here are his thoughts.

Rape is a sin against the Sixth Commandment.  For a survivor of a rape attack, it is always a very traumatic, painful and a humiliating experience.  There is a feeling of tremendous loathing and revulsion towards a rapist within the survivor because of being violated and desecrated by him.

This pain, humiliation and revulsion are heightened and prolonged in the survivor of a rape attack if this rape ends in pregnancy – it is like rubbing salt to injury.

Pregnancy would thus mean that part of the rapist as well as the memory of the rape incident would continue to remain with her for life. By aborting the child, the victim wants to wipe out the memory of the rapist and the rape incident system

A child is always a gift from God and a fruit of a mutual love relationship in marriage.  In this case, the child born is definitely not the fruit of a mutual love relationship in marriage.  Hence, one can easily understand and be sympathetic towards a rape survivor.

Nevertheless, abortion is a sin that goes against the Fifth Commandment and is a grave evil. The Catholic Church has always condemned direct abortion since it causes the death of a human being.

A child conceived by rape is innocent – he or she has not committed any crime or sin or done any harm to anyone.

The Catholic Church has always been pro-life, and although it sympathises with the victim of violence, it cannot and will not support, ever, a culture of death. The child should be allowed to be born, and then be entrusted to an orphanage.

Our Catholic orphanages are always open to take care of these children.

– asianews

Party loyalty should not be sole criterion for election, Sri Lankan bishops say

August 5, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Sri lanka ElectionsChilaw, August 3, 2015: Sri Lanka’s bishops are appealing to citizens to choose worthy candidates for parliament during the country’s August 17 general election.

The bishops urged citizens to think of present and future generations by electing representatives with great care.

“Loyalty to a party should not be the sole criterion for voting,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, president of the bishops’ conference.

“The Catholic Church has always upheld the importance of electing worthy candidates to the legislature as the people’s representatives,” the bishops said in a July 31 statement.

“Educational background, general culture, integrity and honesty, respect for law and order are qualities that should characterize those who are aspiring to political leadership,” the bishops said.

Bishop Raymond K Wickramasinghe of Galle told ucanews that the bishops wanted to remind citizens of their fundamental responsibility to cast an educated vote.

The statement from the bishops was released amid a recent corruption investigation that saw former minister Basil Rajapaksa — brother of the former president — and several other ministers questioned by the federal Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division.

The Chilaw diocese distributed more than 50,000 leaflets printed in the Sinhala and Tamil languages among its 47 parishes insisting on the importance of casting a vote for a qualified candidate.

“If we fail to select the best candidates being once again blind to an extreme attraction toward one party, no doubt once again we will have to wait another five years to change them,” said Father Jude Shayaman Fernando, who participated in a diocese-led awareness program aimed at community leaders in Chilaw.

– ucan

Crackdown on Christianity in China, but for what purpose?

August 5, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

China ChurchBangkok, July 29, 2015: The Chinese Communist Party appears to be gearing up for a major crackdown on Christianity. The cross-removal program in Zhejiang, one of the key Christian provinces in China, has been quietly expanded into other provinces, as reported recently by ucanews.

But in China, it is always important to recognize that any crackdowns should be seen through the prism of the broader policy context, as crackdowns across the country are many and deep.

The reality prompts the question: what is the party’s endgame here? Renewal or just survival?

There seems little doubt that the clear anti-Christian view of the Zhejiang party secretary Xia Baolong is backed by CCP supremo, Xi Jinping. Xia has noted that cities in the province have “too many crosses on their skyline”. The party boss Xi Jinping previously had Xia’s job in Zhejiang from 2002-2007 so there is there is no suggestion that Xi does not “get” Zhejiang.

From the point of view of the party, it is odd to behave this way when a key plank of its program — building up the role of private enterprise — requires the engagement of civil society and the trust of a people that has all too often seen the Communist government default to authoritarianism. At its annual congress in 2013, the party declared it would push forward with a fresh phase of economic reforms.

Catholic and Christian business networks have been keys to Zhejiang’s outsized success as one of China’s entrepreneurial hubs. It is no coincidence that Wenzhou city in Zhejiang, known as the Jerusalem of the East, is central to this development. In the West, Christian networks have long been an integral part of business networks.

But it seems increasingly clear that the party sees the Christian churches as one of the essential threats to its continuing tight grip on power. Like its imperial predecessors, the party always has seen religions as potential destabilizers.

Large networks of any kind are threatening, as an alternative to the party and a way, potentially, of organizing across the country against the government. This was the key threat of the Falungong movement, which was ruthlessly crushed by Jiang Zemin and his successor, Hu Jintao.

As The Economist magazine suggested earlier this month, Christians are the second most popular organization in China outside the ruling Communist Party, which now counts about 90 million people as members. Christians could in fact already be the biggest.

Last year, Fenggang Yang, China-born professor of sociology and director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at the U.S.-based Purdue University, declared that there were already at least 100 million Christians in China, based on 2010 research by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Yang said there were 58 million Protestants in China then, and on top of this, 15-20 million Catholics. According to his predictions, China would have around 160 million Protestants by 2025. This would mean that China could be ahead even of the United States, which had about 159 million Protestants in 2010.

Yang extrapolated that China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would be more than 247 million by 2030 and thus become the largest Christian congregation in the world.

Renewed pressure

Unlike Falungong, Christianity is not a home-grown threat. It is a “foreign” one. The party, which sees no irony in its own Marxist-Leninist ideology being of European parentage, has decreed that there should be a “sinicization” of Christianity.

While clinging to Leninism, particularly as its organizing and control mechanisms, the Chinese Communist Party talks of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” At a recent meeting of the party’s United Front Work Department — which supervises all things religious — Xi Jinping with his sinicization comment was effectively calling for a “Christianity with Chinese characteristics.” That does not bode well for any further softening of relations with the Vatican.

There are crackdowns occurring in all the sectors high on Beijing’s worry list. Most recently, there has been the still-continuing roundup of human rights lawyers — some 230 so far and still counting, all brought in for “questioning”. None have been allowed to see their own lawyers, giving lie to Xi’s s other reform promise: to improve the country’s implausible legal system, a pledge made at last October’s party congress.

There has been renewed pressure on the Muslim Uighur population of Xinjiang. And increasing areas of the far-flung resource-rich northwestern province are off limits to foreign media.

In Tibet, the temperature is rising as well. Last week’s death in custody of Lama Delek Rinpoche, his subsequent early cremation by Chinese authorities and the confiscation of his ashes have seen worldwide protests.

Lurking over everything is the new National Security Law that came into effect on July 1. The legislation is largely untested but wide-ranging and includes a section that specifically targets religious groups. Greeted with dismay by many inside and outside China, it appears to be accompanied by a slow but deliberate increase in oppression — more lawyers, Protestants and Catholics called to police stations and interrogated.

An added wrinkle, and something to watch as China’s Xi Jinping chapter continues to unfold, is the unknown, and indeed unable to be counted, number of Christians who are also party members. Many of them have risen significantly in party ranks, particularly at the country and township level.

In March, renowned China watcher David Shambaugh, political science professor Washington DC’s George Washington University, predicted the end of the Chinese Communist Party.

“Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the Communist Party itself. China’s strongman leader, Xi Jinping, is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and corruption will shore up the party’s rule,” Shambaugh wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

“He is determined to avoid becoming the Mikhail Gorbachev of China, presiding over the party’s collapse. But instead of being the antithesis of Mr Gorbachev, Mr Xi may well wind up having the same effect. His despotism is severely stressing China’s system and society — and bringing it closer to a breaking point.”

Since then, professional China commentators and amateurs alike have been making dark predictions about the coming collapse of the party.

Not yet, I would venture to say. But the fresh sense of paranoia in the upper reaches of party leadership indicates that those at the very center of the organization are more concerned than they have been ready to admit for quite some time.

– ucan

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