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Current Religious-Based Conflicts


Government versus Religion

          From its earliest recorded history, going back more than 4,000 years, China has been ruled by a series of dynasties based on a powerful religious foundation.  For generations, until the early 1900s, the principles and philosophies of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism signifcantly influenced successive Chinese rulers.  Paradoxically though, this pervasive religious  influence did not lead to lasting peace and prosperity.  Rather, China's history is saturated with rampant violence, intertribal warfare and death.

          Prior to 1925 and due to its geographical size, the country was seldom ruled by one government.  Often two or three kingdoms would co-exist.  Then, in the early 1920s, having fought against Western invasion for decades, things began to change for China.  Under revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen, China accepted political guidance and support from the Communist Soviet Union, and Sun proceeded to sow the seeds of unity in China.

         Though the Chinese government officially sanctions five religions;Buddhism, which has 100 million adherents;   Islam, with 18 million;Protestantism, with 15 million;Catholicism, with 4 million; anda smaller number of Taoists;unapproved cults, sects and so-called underground religions are prospering, and given the government position, beginning to be the root of religious-based conflict.  The government crackdown on the Falun Gong meditation movement is well known in the west. What is less well known is the government's use of the law outlawing the Falun Gong to designate 10 Christian sects as illegal, while turning to what it calls "the illegal network of house churches" (mostly Protestant and Catholic) which serve an estimated 30 million to 40 million believers.  In 1999 alone, more than 100 Christian leaders were arrested on such charges.

          In fact, a 1999 US State Department report placed China near the top of a list of countries that suppress religion. This apparent increase in religious persecution follows a period in which China seemed to be growing more tolerant in spiritual matters.  Apparently the Communist government perceives unregulated religious gatherings as a potential challenge to their authority.

          In 2000 an article in the Washington Post by John Pomfret stated "A series of recent clashes between the Chinese government and a variety of spiritual groups indicates that religion, more than traditional kinds of political dissent, is now seen by the Communist Party as one of the most serious threats to its monopoly on power" (WP, January 11, 2000).

          In 2001 China became more and more concerned about the Islamic ethnic Uighurs in its western and northwestern provinces where Uighur communities have been attacked and even razed under the guise of China’s "Strike Hard" campaign against the increasing force of Islam.  However, it is not only in the west that trouble brews. I n the eastern Shandong province after a dispute between a shopkeeper and the local Moslem community which were offended over his display of "Halal Pork", police opened fire on a group of nearly 300 Moslems, killing five and injuring more.  It is also in southern Yunnan province that the government fears the spread of Islamic militancy seeping up from Southeast Asia.

          We will closely watch developments in this great country.


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