China

Obama Meets Dalai Lama Despite Chinese Objections

Official White House Photo via Pete Souza / RNS

President Obama met behind closed doors with the Dalai Lama on June 15 in a White House meeting carefully designed to acknowledge the Tibetan leader’s importance as a global spiritual figure while not according him a head-of-state status that might further provoke China.

The White House said the Dalai Lama expressed his condolences for the shooting attack in Orlando on June 12, and the two men talked about climate change — an issue of particular importance in the Dalai Lama’s Himalayan home.

China’s Efforts to Mold Christianity in Its Own Image Draw Resistance

Image via RNS/Matt Moir.

In August 2014, a top-ranking official in the Chinese government informed the world that China was planning on nationalizing Christianity. Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, told a forum in Shanghai that the “construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s condition and integrate with Chinese culture.” The announcement, unsurprisingly, triggered significant consternation among Christian groups in China and around the globe.

Pope Francis Praises China in Latest Effort to Thaw Chilly Relations

Image via REUTERS/Stringer/RNS

Pope Francis’ impassioned praise of China this week is the strongest sign of the pontiff’s ambitious agenda to use his personal and political clout to transform the historically fraught relations between Beijing and the Holy See. “For me, China has always been a reference point of greatness. A great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom,” the pope said at the start of his interview with Asia Times, which was published Feb. 2.

‘Monstress,’ or How Not to Lose Yourself in Revenge

Image via 'Monstress'/Tumblr.

Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s new fantasy comic series Monstress approaches the topics of oppression and survival through one such richly imagined fantasy world. Inspired in part by Liu’s grandparents, survivors of the Japanese invasion of China during World War II, Monstress is a story about the difficulty of overcoming the pain of systemic oppression without losing yourself in rage, pain, and revenge

One Child Left Behind

STILLFX / Shutterstock
STILLFX / Shutterstock

IN OCTOBER, China’s Communist Party leadership announced the end of its nearly 40-year-old “one child” policy, announcing that all married couples could now have two children.

The one-child policy in China was established by Deng Xiaoping in the mid-1970s, first as a voluntary program, then as federal policy. He said it was necessary to make sure that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.” His tool for ensuring economic growth was the large-scale control of women’s bodies. The results have been well-documented: massive numbers of coerced abortions and sterilizations and women with “unapproved” pregnancies avoiding prenatal medical care for fear of such coercion. Women have been and continue to be intensely traumatized by a government policy that is indifferent to their pain.

This policy has also disrupted the gender balance in China. The introduction of ultrasound technology that easily identifies the baby’s gender in utero has led to female feticide—sex-selective abortions. Millions of little girls are dead because they were girls and not boys. Women are aborting their daughters because of their shared gender. What does this do to women’s own self-esteem and self-image?

This is not a glitch in China’s system of population control, but a central feature of it. If you have 50 women and one polygamous man, you can have many babies at once. But if you have 50 men and one woman, you get no more babies than if you have only one fertile man and one woman. If reducing the overall number of people is your goal, then targeting females gets you more bang for the buck, so to speak.

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Culture Wars and Destructive Dialogue

Fire and water illustration
O.M. / Shutterstock.com

Not too long after being introduced to John 3:16, I was taught Psalm 139:13: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Now that I was a Christian, it was important I understood that Christians are anti-abortion, that life begins at conception, and that terminating life is nothing short of murder. Throughout college, I carried the cause of the pro-life movement in a symbol tacked on my school bag: a miniature pair of feet, a replica of a 10-week old baby in utero, intricately shaped in sterling silver.

I didn’t think about it. I never HAD to think about it, having never carried an unwanted pregnancy. For me, the pro-life movement was simple, uncomplicated, pretty, and as sanitized as a small silver ornament. That is, until I moved to China, a country well known for its high rate of abortions — including forced abortions, particularly of baby girls.

Folk Religions Thrive with Women's Spirit

Tammy Bloome. Photo via Dede Smith / RNS
Tammy Bloome. Photo via Dede Smith / RNS

Unlike Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, historically all led by men, or the philosophies of the East such as Buddhism where male scholars and monks dominate, folk religions — close to village or tribe or ancestry — are often practiced and led by women.

Santa Muerte expert Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of a book on the Mexican folk religion, Devoted to Death, calls it “the fastest-growing New Religious Movement in the Americas,” with more than 10 million followers.

Dalai Lama Says Pope Francis' Unwillingness to Meet 'Could Cause Problems'

The Dalai Lama speaks to supporters in Berlin. Image courtesy vipflash/shutterst
The Dalai Lama speaks to supporters in Berlin. Image courtesy vipflash/shutterstock.com.

The Dalai Lama said Dec. 11 that he would not meet Pope Francis while in Rome for a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

“The Vatican administration says it is not possible because it could cause problems,” the Dalai Lama said, hinting that the Vatican may be unwilling to irk China, a country with which it wants to engage and perhaps re-establish diplomatic relations.

But the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to say whether the pope had personally turned down a request for a meeting with the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists.

“Pope Francis obviously holds the Dalai Lama in very high regard, but he will not be meeting any of the Nobel laureates,” Lombardi told journalists.

'Peace, Peace.' But For Whom?

Stop fighting. Image courtesy RYGER/shutterstock.com
Stop fighting. Image courtesy RYGER/shutterstock.com

Peace, with its connotation of tranquility and stillness, is the Christian’s most misunderstood concept. We have long sought to keep peace by silencing dissent under the guise of pursuing unity, coated with a zealous concern for niceties, unwilling to budge a status quo. We forget to ask the crucial question: for whom do we keep peace?  

Wherever peace is elusive, the first ones to suffer are the vulnerable.  

When corporations engage in legal battles, employees who don’t get a vote have the most at stake. When marital tensions rise high, children’s tender spirits lay at the parents’ mercy. When war ravages a country, the displaced peoples helplessly suffer.

When keeping the peace only benefits the powerful, it is not a Christian peace. The sweet baby Jesus portrayed in sentimental Christmas cards has taken an abrupt departure from the kind of peace we see Jesus embody in Scripture. Even as an infant, the baby Jesus so disrupted the power authorities of the day that sent them scrambling into every home killing firstborn baby boys.   

Christian peace is not about coddling people’s fear of conflict. It isn’t about making sure everyone is comfortable. It does not silence those for whom a lack of peace is a life or death situation. The irony is that often, the ones with feeble power are the ones who are told to keep peace and remain silent.   

When the society is disrupted by scandalizing conflict — whether it is the Bill Cosby rape accusations, or the “harsh disciplinary methods” of certain celebrity parents, or an entire neighborhood weary of losing their young men to police violence — the Christian dare not keep peace by silencing the voice of the victims.

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