Commission on International Religious Liberty Established in USA

Humanitarian Aid Taxed in Russia

Adventists Encouraged to Build in Uzbekistan

Romanian Christians Build Bridges and Apply their Faith



As a result of the adoption of the International Religious Freedom Act in the USA in

October 1998, four of the six members of a new panel on religious freedom overseas

have been appointed. Nina Shea, Elliott Abrams, Bill Armstrong and John Bolton

have been named to this commission established to report annually on countries

violating religious liberty. The president of the United States is required to respond to

the report but is given a wide variety of options ranging from imposing economic

sanctions to lodging a diplomatic protest. Nina Shea directs the Washington-based

Center for Religious Freedom; Elliott Abrams is a former assistant secretary of State

and now president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Armstrong served two

terms in the Senate before returning to private life in 1991; and Bolton is senior vice-

president at American Enterprise Institute. (END)


An American missionary in Russia�s Far East has been forced to pay customs duty not

only on his container of building materials, but also on donated clothing. Duty officers

told him the government also now required �special papers� for humanitarian aid.



Despite the 1 May 1998 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations

requiring all churches to re-register and the seeming prohibition against social work

by any non-centralised religious organisation, the Seventh Day Adventist Press

Service reports progress in their work in Navoii, Uzbekistan.

�On 24 November 1998, after seven months of waiting for a response, the Seventh

Day Adventist (SDA) church leaders were invited to a meeting at the Mayor�s office,�

reports VIKTOR KRUSHENITSKY, public affairs and religious liberty director for

the SDA in the area. �All required papers were signed and admitted for processing an

official registration for the SDA in Navoii.�

SDA reports that in a speech to those attending the meeting, the Mayor spoke of the

need for spiritual growth in the city�s population. He also told the Adventist delegates

that they needed to proceed quickly with their plans for a health centre and soup

kitchen, saying that �all the plans will be a great support to the city. Start working on

the completion of your building right now as we want it to be occupied no later than

May, 1999.�

While it appears that the Uzbek authorities are prepared to relax some of the law's

provisions on an unofficial, ad hoc basis, the principle of strict state control of all

religious activity has not changed. (See KNS �Are the Uzbek Authroites Softening

their Stance?� (30 Sept 98) and �Harsh Uzbek Law on Religion Backed up by

Criminal Code Amendments� (24 June 98). (END)


In an effort to stimulate Christians to take responsibility for and to influence their

culture, the Areopagus Centre for Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture in

Timisoara invited Christians from different denominations and professions to a forum

last summer. Areopagus staff invited speakers to introduce a topic such as

secularisation or immoral public policy. Participants then reflected, studied and

discussed how one could form a �biblical perspective� on the issue. In nourishing an

ethos of �engagement, responsibility and involvement from the position of Christian

servanthood� Romanian and British staff hope members will begin to seek solutions

founded on �God�s character and revelation�. Autumn courses offered at the

Areopagus in 1998 included �Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation� and �The

Human Being: A Theological Inquiry�.(END)

Wednesday 14 January


Keston News Service

Catholic priest FR LI QINGHUA has been arrested and subjected to 'severe

interrogation and physical and psychological torture', according to a report sent to

Fides by priests who have suffered similarly in China. The article, published on 4

January 1999 by the Vatican's missionary agency news service, explained that this

torture includes using prostitutes who pose as cleaning women in the cells. They are

videotaped trying to compromise the priests. If the priest is slow to reject the woman,

as she tries to embrace or kiss him, 'the picture taken by the [hidden] video camera

gives the idea that you have gone along', reports another priest who has been forced

into similar circumstances. These tapes are then used to blackmail the priest into

'admitting his connection with other underground priests and force him to join the

Patriotic Association'.

Such determination to compromise priests and nuns is not new in China. During the

Cultural Revolution priests and nuns were obliged to marry. Even earlier, Chinese

emperors sent girls to compromise Buddhist monks. In the past few years the use of

prostitutes has been revived. Fides reports that policemen and prostitutes bring clergy

to karaoke bars and discos and then 'make them slip defenceless into their arms'. In

June 1996 the communist authorities forced all Catholic nuns in Quankunin to enroll

in a pre-marital class in an attempt to induce them to marry. Reportedly, agents 'took

the opportunity to abuse them'. In August 1996 authorities arranged for dancing girls

to seduce detained priests and nuns who had been taken to a dancing hall.

Photographs secretly taken were used as propaganda in an attempt to destroy their


Fr Li is not an elderly priest who has undergone decades of oppression. Now aged 31,

he was ordained a priest for the diocese of Yixian (Hebei province) in 1993. Since

1997 he had been working in Guan county. However, at 1am on 15 November 1998,

four police cars arrived at a Catholic layman's house in Weizhuang, where the police

arrested Fr Li, confiscated religious books, videos for catechesis and other personal

items including a layman's motorbike. The following day police arrested six parish lay

leaders and threatened their families. They were released five days later after paying a

7,000 Yuan fine ($900: 14 months� salary for a workman). Police demanded an extra

3,000 Yuan for the motorbike. No price was put on Fr Li. On 29 November

authorities transferred Fr Li from Guan to Xushui where he remained as of 4 January


Xushui is a special place for underground Catholic priests. If arrested anywhere in

Hebei province, where Catholicism is especially active, they can count on being sent

to a guest house which has been converted in to a 'special unit' by the provincial

government. The duty of this 'unit' cum prison is 'to change the mind of the priests'.

Iron grilles along all corridors ensure none escape.

Chinese government officials reacted strongly against Fides� report. On 5 January,

Catholic World News (CWN) quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman ZHU BANGZAO

denying any knowledge of Fr Li's arrest: 'I don't know the details of the case and I

don't know the source of the information. But I can say clearly that these reports have

not been confirmed.' Fides writes that the State Religious Affairs Commission, the

government's highest-level body on religion, denied any knowledge of the case as

well, as did police and religious policy officials for Hebei province and in Guan

township. Bangzao added that Chinese laws and policy prohibited the use of torture.

Dismissing Fides' article as 'irresponsible', Bangzao also denied the existence of

underground churches in the atheist communist state. 'So-called underground

churches do not exist in China,' he said, according to CWN. Such a comment seems

strange in light of YE XIAOWIN's 1997 statement. Ye heads the Religious Affairs

Bureau and according to NINA SHEA of Puebla Institute, on 6 June 1997, Ye

described unregistered Christian churches as 'evil, illegal organisations that undermine

social order'. But on 7 January Bangzao released this statement carried by the Xinhua

news agency:

'...overseas reports about the custody of Li Qinghua, a peasant of Huxian county,

Shaanxi Province, are 'sheer fabrication with ulterior motives'. Li, 31, was taken into

custody by the police on 2 December in Xushui county, Hebei Province, after local

people reported that he had sabotaged public and private property. He was detained

under the relevent articles of the Criminal Law an the Criminal Procedural Law of

China. Li had admitted his wrongdoing, which was later found not very severe, and he

was released on 8 December��

(The Chinese government does not recognise Fr Li as a priest because he is not a

member of the Chinese Patriotic Association.)

Standing by Fides' account, director FR BERNARDO CERVELLERA said Fr Li's

case represented a resurgence of the tactics of China's brutal Cultural Revolution.

Reports from the Cardinal Kung Foundation confirm this. In 1996 the government

mobilized 5,000 soldiers and destroyed the Marian Shrine established in 1924 at Dong

Lu in Hebei province. This action was taken after students in Dong Lu who refused to

write letters of apostasy renouncing their Catholic religion were beaten and dismissed

from school. 2,000 believers in Dong Lu were also beaten or fined for their religious

activities. More recently several priests have been arrested for celebrating mass in

their homes. At 4am on 15 August 1998, on the Feast of the Assumption, about 100

Roman Catholics were intercepted by the Chinese government security bureau and

ordered to turn back from attending mass. They were subsequently fined 800-1000

Yuan (USA$ 100-125), equivalent to 3-4 months� income for peasant villagers. Other

Catholics were fined for donating land to build a church, possessing religious

literature, inviting a priest to celebrate mass in their home or housing pilgrims en

route to Dong Lu.

Fr Li Qinghua remains in the custody of the Hebei provincial government as do

several other priests. But the crackdown on unregistered churches, intensified since

mid-1996, continues across China today. As Nina Shea of Puebla Institute writes, 'It is

national in scope, systematic in form, brutal in style and directed by China's highest

authorities.' (END)