Hong Kong, May 21, 2015: A dozen Protestant churches have defied a cross removal campaign by the provincial government in Zhejiang by replacing crosses already forcibly taken down.
Authorities removed 12 crosses in Lishui City near Wenzhou in just three days from May 7 to 9 without resistance from church members, according to US-based China Aid.
Many affected churches have responded by re-erecting crosses – some larger than those removed – in defiance of recently a circulated draft law that would ban crosses from the tops of churches and restrict their dimensions and color.
“Some churches elsewhere [in Zhejiang province] have also done this but collective action is more obvious in Lishui,” a Protestant preacher who declined to be named for security reasons told ucanews.com.
As many as 20 Protestant churches are also facing the threat of demolition in Anji County near Zhejiang’s provincial capital, Hangzhou, the preacher added.
Zhejiang authorities have forcibly removed at least 470 crosses and destroyed more than 35 churches since the end of 2013, often following violent exchanges with local Christians.
Last month, China Aid said that the true scale of the demolition campaign may be as many as 1,000 crosses removed and up to 50 churches destroyed based on unverified reports in local media.
The campaign appeared to be slowing at the start of the year but in recent weeks dozens of crosses have been reported removed coinciding with the circulation of new draft regulations.
A number of church leaders have expressed alarm at the draft law – both privately and publicly – with many arguing it enshrines state meddling in everything from cross size to what heating systems churches may use.
Zhejiang authorities asked for feedback on the draft regulations up to yesterday. So far there has been no official word on whether the proposed rules will be amended following strong objections or when they may come into effect.
On Tuesday, the Catholic Diocese of Wenzhou became the latest critic of the proposed legislation in a statement arguing that only new churches should be required to comply.
The preamble to the draft law states that any changes or expansion to existing religious buildings will fall under the new rules, a “sneaky term” that could apply to old structures previously permitted by authorities, the diocese added.
“How could these churches be built in the first place? It reflects the lack of supervision from the relevant government departments,” the statement said.
“But now it throws a historical burden at the Church. How can the faithful not complain and oppose it?”
The diocese consulted opinions from all of its priests before issuing the statement, according to a Wenzhou Catholic who declined to be named for security reasons.
A Catholic priest in the city’s underground Church who also declined to be identified praised the state-sanctioned Church for publicly voicing its concerns.
“It is impossible for us to do the same. We can only tell our grievances to God,” the source added. “But I doubt the government would ever listen to the Church.”
Karachi, May 18, 2015: The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the Catholic Church’s human rights body in Pakistan, has called for better protection of minority groups amid renewed threats against them by Islamist militants.
The demand comes days after 45 members of the minority Shia Ismaili community were massacred in a gun attack on a bus in Karachi, claimed by several Sunni groups, including Islamic State.
Ismailis are Shia Muslims who also revere Imam Ismail who died in 765 AD. They number about 15 million worldwide with about 500,000 living in Pakistan.
The militants responsible for last week’s bloodshed also threatened to launch more attacks on minorities, including Christians.
In a joint statement condemning the attack, Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Coutts and NCJP National Director Fr Saleh Diego said the May 13 “killing of innocent people on the basis of their faith is unacceptable”.
“We demand from both the federal government and provincial governments to take serious and effective measures to prevent such atrocities and also plead to increase security for all minority groups.”
The NCJP also held a special service at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi on Friday to express solidarity with the Ismaili community and pray for the victims.
Leaders of various religious groups, politicians and human rights campaigners attended the service.
Addressing the gathering, Archbishop Coutts said attempts were being made to create a rift among religious groups in Pakistan.
“Our aim should be to foil such attempts and bridge the distance between religious groups,” he said.
Fr Saleh Diego said murder of one human is equal to murdering the whole community. “We should demonstrate unity to raise our voice against atrocities being committed by militants in Pakistan,” he said.
“We want to give a message to terrorists that we all are Pakistanis and no force, no religious leader and no government can divide us.”
Mehnaz ur Rehman, a women’s rights activist and the director of the Aurat Foundation, said the attack had shocked the nation.
“Irrespective to our faith and religion, we should jointly fight for a terror-free Pakistan,” she said.
“How can we allow such groups to spread hatred and call other groups as apostates and infidel?” she said citing intelligence agency reports that said elements within the International Islamic University in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad were stoking extremism.
A report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier this month listed Pakistan as one of the worst places in the world for religious freedom of countries not currently designated by the US as “countries of particular concern”.
“Pakistan continued to experience chronic sectarian violence targeting Shia Muslims, Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, and Hindus,” the report said.
“Despite positive rulings by the Supreme Court, the government has failed to provide adequate protection to targeted groups or to prosecute perpetrators and those calling for violence,” it said.
Pakistan, May 14, 2015: When Sunni extremists boarded a bus carrying Ismaili Muslims on their way to work in Karachi, in Pakistan, on 12 May, they gunned down 44 of the minority Muslim sect and injured a dozen more. Claiming responsibility for the country’s deadliest sectarian attack to have occurred since January, the spokesman of extremist group Jundullah, Ahmed Marwat, said: “These killed people were Ismaili and we consider them kafir (non-Muslim)… In the coming days we will attack Ismailis, Shias and Christians.”
Saleem, one of the survivors, reports, “I saw five men who started targeting passengers individually… They want to target us because we are not Muslims according to most people in Pakistan”. Ismaili Muslims belong to a branch of Shia Islam where most follow the Aga Khan. The majority of Ismaili Muslims are found in India, Pakistan, parts of Iran, Syria and Africa.
After Shia Muslims split from Sunni Muslims, following Muhammad’s fourth successor, Ali, Ismaili Muslims splintered from majority Shia Islam after the death of the sixth imam, Ja’far ibn Muhammad (765). Those who accepted Ja’far’s eldest son (Ismail) as his final successor became known as Ismailis (or Seveners, because they believe in seven imams) whereas those who accepted his younger son (Musa al-Kazim) and his subsequent five successors are known as Ithna Ashariyah (or Twelvers, because they believe in twelve imams). An imam in Shia Islam is one of the descendants of Ali, fourth successor to Muhammad.
Jundullah, a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban, claimed they were behind the attack and threatened future attacks against Ismaili and Shia Muslims as well as Christians, all of whom the Sunni extremists disregard as non-Muslim. The group was reported to have formally declared its allegiance to Islamic State in November 2014, which perhaps explains the fact that leaflets claiming that Islamic State militants were behind the attack, were also found at the scene of carnage.
Christians in Pakistan are in serious danger as a minority population, deprived of religious freedom and victim to mob attacks. In March this year, 19 Christians were killed in twin suicide bomb attacks in Lahore.
Colombo, May 7, 2015: Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, or Buddhist Power Force), a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization, announced this week it will try to register its own political party, saying the group had been let down by previous political alliances.
BBS, which has sought greater power in the majority Buddhist nation, previously held close ties with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), though former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has since claimed his recent election defeat was the fault of the extremist group.
In January, the SLFP failed to secure another term for Rajapaksa, who was ousted by reformist Maithripala Sirisena.
“BBS discussed with the Elections Commissioner to establish a political party to contest the forthcoming elections and the BBS will never support any political party at the forthcoming elections,” BBS Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Withanage told ucanews.com.
“There are various allegations against BBS and there is no political platform to raise these issues,” he continued. “There is a big demand to form a new political party and many people are ready to contest for the elections.”
Withanage said the group was unhappy with parliamentarians who fail to support the needs of the country’s majority Buddhist population, and did little to defend against allegations directed at BBS.
“There are verbal attacks to the BBS as a racist organization involved in religious attacks and disharmony among religious communities,” he said.
BBS, Sinhala Ravaya, Ravana Balaya and other Buddhist organizations have been blamed for the country’s growing religious extremism. Tensions hit their peak last year, when anti-Muslim riots broke out in July, resulting in at least four deaths and the displacement of thousands.
Withanage said that the new political party would protect the interests of Buddhists.
“We are not going to transform BBS into a political party but form a separate political party and BBS will remain as a political organization,” he said.
BBS last year joined hands with Myanmar’s controversial 969 organization to campaign against Muslims and Christians.
The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said yesterday that a radical Buddhist political party would inevitably incite religious tensions.
“Everybody has a right to form a political party but they form a new party to spread hatred, violence and intimidation,” said Sym Saleem Been, a member of the Dambulla Mosque, which was attacked several times by unidentified gangs.
“The BBS took laws into their hands to attack minority religions during former government’s period,” he said. “The BBS doesn’t care on sensitive issues among religions.”
Islamabad, May 6, 2015: The government of Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has begun reconstruction of a century-old Hindu temple occupied and destroyed by Islamic militants in 1997, Hindu groups say.
The reconstruction and preservation work on the Samadhi temple, dedicated to the Hindu saint Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj, in Karak was ordered by the Supreme Court.
According to the Express Tribune daily newspaper, provincial law officer Waqar Ahmad Khan told the court on Tuesday that a long-standing dispute over rebuilding had finally been resolved.
Construction of the temple is being allowed after certain conditions were accepted by local leaders of both the Hindu and Muslim communities after lengthy meetings.
The conditions state that the Hindu community will not preach their religion, will only offer prayers at the temple and not hold large-scale religious gatherings.
Other conditions are that the Hindus are not allowed to construct any large-scale prayer buildings on the site, are prohibited from buying more land in the area and that all activities take place within the compound of the temple.
“Our first priority and demand has been to ensure the preservation and reconstruction of the Samadhi temple,” Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council [PHC], told ucanews.
“We welcome the reconstruction of the temple, though the conditions set by the local clerics are too harsh and unconstitutional,” Kumar said. “We have agreed to these conditions as we don’t want to provide authorities with any excuses at this stage.”
Pakistan’s constitution guarantees religious freedom for minorities.
“Authorities wanted us to stop reconstruction on the pretext of upcoming local government elections in the province, but we refused,” Kumar said. “I am planning to visit the shrine in a few days to oversee construction work.”
The PHC chief lauded the Supreme Court of Pakistan for fulfilling the longstanding demands of Hindus.
The Samadhi temple was built in 1919 as a shrine to Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj. His followers made annual pilgrimages to the temple until 1997, when Muslim militants destroyed the temple and occupied the land.
Malaysia, April 22, 2015: Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in incidents where pockets of protesters demonstrate against places of worship in Malaysia. Almost all of these protests are about non-Muslim places of worship. Of particular offense to people recently, seems to be the humble cross. It’s amazing that two simple bars, placed diagonally from each other, can cause this much rage.
A cross is used nearly universally as a multipurpose symbol: mathematical, scientific, architectural and biological. It is used to symbolize safety and health. It is used in half the flags and crests of European countries, sports clubs and royal houses. Everywhere else, people just see it as it is — a symbol. But somehow, somewhere along the line, some Malaysians have been taught to believe that the mere presence of the cross is enough shake their faith.
I am sorry, but even vampire movies have moved on from that premise. Have you seen Twilight? Modern vampires love garlic and have church weddings.
There seems to be a pattern every time an insensitive thing like this happens. A group of people who look like redneck hillbillies will draw badly spelt English slogans on mono-colored posters with marker pens and manila cards, rage for a few minutes in front of a building while shouting slogans and then move off, presumably to pat each other’s backs and enjoy a well-earned cup of teh tarik (milk tea).
Social media will be abuzz with “cross” jokes, comments about the protesters’ fashion sense, and a deluge of write-ups decrying the sad state of affairs that is now Malaysia. Politically inclined commentators would, of course, blame the other party for this state of affairs.
In the coming days, the media will be abuzz with comments about the demonstration. Typically there will be three types of comments by both politicians and non-governmental organizations (NGO).
The first would be the ambivalent, government-style answer:
“It’s an isolated incident.”
“This does not reflect the real state of affairs in Malaysia.”
“This is not the government’s stand.”
“Malaysia masih aman (still peaceful).”
The second would be the slightly more assertive, but still cautious type of requests for action:
“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should say something.”
“The police should investigate.”
“Action should be taken against the protesters.”
The third would be the downplaying type of comments:
“They mean no harm.”
“No one was hurt.”
“We have explained the issue.”
Then, depending on the backlash, there would be harmonious images of local leaders and representatives of religious bodies shaking hands and making up.
Crisis averted. Problem solved.
How many times must this scenario be played out before some assertive action is taken to ensure it does not repeat? Is it too much for law abiding, tax paying citizens to ask for the right to worship freely without the fear of people crucifying them to their own religious symbol?
Truth is Malaysians have become so desensitized to sensitive issues that tact and thoughtfulness now goes out the window. More sadly, it has been replaced with a crude form of crassness we call “dialogue”.
The danger of this trend is, with the moderates being pushed out of the conversation, and the mainstream discussion becoming increasingly radical, the day will come where the roles are reversed — what once was radical will be moderate and vice versa.
Then we really will have crossed a line.
Emmanuel Joseph works with IT projects in a Malaysian GLC. In his free time he juggles between NGOs and his part time law degree.
- the malaysian insider
Colombo, April 7, 2015: Police and Buddhist protesters clashed in the town of Balangoda on Saturday after members of the hardline Sinhala Ravaya group demanded that an ancient Buddhist archaeological site be cleared of all Muslim structures.
Police fired water cannons at the protesters, who held their demonstration in spite of an injunction aimed at preventing further flare-ups at the historic Kuragala religious site.
Muslims and Buddhists are split on the site’s original purpose; it contains an ancient Sufi shrine and Arabic inscription dating back to the 10th century, but Buddhists maintain its original purpose was a monastery that dates back to the 2nd century BC. They have repeatedly called for the removal of newer mosques built on the site.
Magalkande Sudantha Thero, a monk and the convener of Sinhala Ravaya, said hundreds of protesters including dozens of monks were attempting to enter the rock temple to “remove illegal Muslim constructions”.
“We appealed to government officials to remove illegal constructions before April 4 but they ignored us. Therefore as Buddhist monks we have a right to protect Buddhism since this is a Buddhist country,” Sudantha Thero told ucanews.com.
According to Muslims, the cave is a holy meditation site of one of Islam’s greatest saints, Sheikh Mohiyadeen Abdul Qadir Jilani.
Sym Saleem Been, a member of the Dambulla Mosque committee, said Sinhala Ravaya’s demands were pointless. In 2012, Buddhist protesters firebombed and stormed the Dambulla mosque, claiming it was an illegal structure on a sacred Buddhist site.
“There is no Buddhist temple or even a Buddhist statue at Kuragala,” Been pointed out. “This beautiful ancient mosque remains in its current location and it holds great significance for Muslims all over the country.”
Tensions between Buddhists and Muslims have been rising in recent years amid outgrowth of radical Buddhist groups. Last June, four Muslims were killed and more than 150 people injured after the hardline Bodu Bala Sena launched attacks on Muslim majority coastal towns.
Also this week, Sinhala Ravaya called on the government to ban niqabs and burqas, saying the full-face coverings posed grave security risks.
The cabinet is working on a draft bill that would hand down harsh punishment for those found guilty of hate speech, particularly that which leads to violence.
Malaysia, March 30, 2015: When I joined the foreign ministry in 1972, a major foreign policy concern in the region was that Southeast Asian nations would soon fall like dominoes to militant communism supported and abetted by the People’s Republic of China. Fortunately, the dominoes held.
Today, the old domino theory may well be applicable to a new danger: Islamic extremism.
Violent jihadi groups drawing inspiration and support from Al-Qaeda and ISIS have sprouted in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Armed attacks, suicide bombers, beheadings and violence against innocent civilians have made the news.
Young Southeast Asian Muslims are also gravitating to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq to join some of the most violent and extremist jihadi groups. The Jakarta Globe, for example, recently reported that more than 500 Indonesians have joined the ranks of ISIS. Militants from Indonesia and Malaysia fighting in Syria have reportedly even formed a military unit for Malay-speaking ISIS fighters — Katibah Nusantara Lid Daulah Islamiyyah (Malay Archipelago Unit for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and have participated in suicide missions.
According to some experts, jihadi groups in the region are using the Syrian war to create a pool of combat-trained and indoctrinated recruits for eventual deployment at home. Local security forces have responded by rounding up ISIS militants and sympathizers.
Just as worrying, religious extremism is now reaching alarming levels within Muslim societies with profound political and security implications for the entire region.
Once moderate Malaysia, for example, is awash in an acrimonious and polarizing debate about the imposition of sharia law that could drive the country to the brink of chaos. Muslims and others who speak out against sharia are threatened, intimidated and harassed. The inspector-general of police, no less, has warned that even questioning sharia law might provoke an ISIS attack! The very fact that a constitutionally secular and democratic nation like Malaysia is even having a discussion about amputating limbs, beheading, stoning, and even crucifixion is mind-boggling, and telling.
While militant groups and hot-button issues like sharia law have understandably drawn significant attention, more fundamental questions about the causes of Islamic extremism in the region have not been adequately examined. Why is the culture of intolerance, hate and violence that permeates so much of the Middle East now being manifested in Southeast Asia? What has caused this rising tide of Islamic extremism that is now threatening to overwhelm the region’s fragile democracies, stymieing nation-building agendas and fraying already tenuous inter-communal relationships?
The Wahhabi factor
Clearly, this growing extremism is not happening in a vacuum and neither are its roots entirely home grown. Security experts increasingly point to the Wahhabi ideology that is being aggressively exported by Saudi Arabia as the single biggest cause of extremism in the region.
Wahhabism, the official religion of Saudi Arabia, is an exceptionally virulent, narrow and militant interpretation of Islam based on the teachings of an austere 18th-century preacher and scholar, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792). Over time, it has morphed into an all-encompassing politico-religious theology that considers all other faith groups deviant, has no tolerance for other cultures, no respect for human rights, no love for democracy and an abiding distaste of Western values. It is harsh, puritanical, unforgiving and violent.
The ultimate goal of Wahhabism is one global community with one creed (Wahhabism) ruled by one Khalifah (ruler), presumably the House of Saud. It makes for a grand strategy not just for hegemony in the Middle East but for global domination.
Over the last few decades, Saudi Arabia has spent more than US$100 billion exporting Wahhabism to all corners of the globe. Thousands of mosques, seminaries, universities, schools and community centers have been built, while thousands of preachers, teachers and activists have been educated, trained and dispatched across the world along with Wahhabi-approved textbooks and other literature.
The Saudi-Wahhabi nexus has such a stranglehold on Sunni religious discourse that its views now predominate. The House of Saud has also deftly used its unique position within Islam as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to leverage strategic influence, respect and power over the global Islamic community.
The Saudi-based, Saudi-funded Muslim World League (MWL), founded in 1962, is one of the principal channels of Wahhabi infiltration, influence and control. It actively promotes Wahhabi doctrines, theology and practices on a global scale. The MWL has more than 56 offices and centers on five continents. No surprise, therefore, that Wahhabism has emerged as a major, if entirely negative, force in the world today.
Wahhabism also provides the theological underpinning for almost every violent jihadi group, is behind much of the impetus to replace secular democratic institutions with fundamentalist Islamic ones and is the main driving force behind the radicalization of young Muslims.
Unquestionably, the Saudi-Wahhabi nexus has become the greatest single threat to peace and stability in the world today.
And it is now casting a long shadow over Southeast Asia as decades of Wahhabi infiltration, indoctrination and influence come to boil.
Southeast Asia: the next battleground?
Most of Southeast Asia’s radical groups — certainly groups like Jemmah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf, Laskar Jihad, Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia and Jemmah Salafiyah — have ties to the Saudi-Wahhabi nexus as did the 9/11 terrorists. Saudi organizations like the International Islamic Relief Organization (once headed by Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law) have been implicated in funding a number of these jihadi groups as well, prompting the US treasury department to declare some of its branches terrorist entities.
Over the years, Saudi Arabia has also built up a significant cadre of Wahhabi-trained academics, preachers and teachers across the region. Many of them are now in the forefront of movements and lobby groups agitating for greater Islamization, demanding the imposition of sharia law, pushing for stricter controls on other faiths, and working behind the scenes to influence official policy and shape public opinion. What is unfolding is nothing less than the gradual “Saudization” of Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asian governments have clearly been far too complacent and have failed to adequately respond to the mushrooming Wahhabi threat both from without and from within. They appear to be in a state of denial about the magnitude of the problem, responding with half-hearted measures to address the more immediate threat posed by militant groups while leaving the Saudi-Wahhabi infrastructure of extremism intact. They are too intimidated by Saudi Arabia’s religious credentials and too mesmerized by its wealth for their own good.
Worse still, negligence has often been compounded by complicity with some political leaders exploiting religion for their own purposes. It is no secret, for example, that in Malaysia a dangerous political game is being played with the sharia issue despite the enormous damage it is doing. And in Brunei, the sultan has sought to out-maneuver the Islamists, as well as consolidate his own position, by pre-emptively declaring an Islamic state replete with sharia law and restrictions on other religious groups. Only time will tell whether such a strategy will assuage the extremists or merely feed their appetite.
There is now a real danger that unless Southeast Asian governments act quickly and decisively, the region could end up a zone of violence, instability and stagnation instead of the vibrant and stable community they have spent many years developing.
Here are some urgent steps that should be considered in addition to security measures against jihadi groups:
Begin an honest conversation with the Saudis about the damage that Wahhabism is doing to their societies.
Work with the international community to identify and dismantle the entire infrastructure of extremism (the institutions, the organizations and groups, the schools and madrasas, the funding, the dissemination of extremist literature).
Reaffirm commitment to pluralism and democracy, and aggressively incorporate its values into the political, educational, social and legal fabric of society.
Urgent action now might just give the many Muslim moderates in the region — like the Group of 25, Sisters in Islam and the Islamic Renaissance Front in Malaysia — the space and the time they need to reclaim the middle ground and reassert the essentially moderate, peaceful and tolerant nature of their faith before the dominoes fall to the extremists.
Dennis Ignatius is a retired Malaysian diplomat. He served in London, Beijing and Washington and was ambassador to Chile and Argentina, and High Commissioner to Canada.
- the malaysian insider
Asif Khan, a local township police officer, confirmed the attack, which took place outside St Peter’s Catholic Church and High School day.
“Two masked men riding a motorbike fired on policemen, who were deployed outside the church,” Khan told ucanews.com. “Police retaliated, after which the assailants sped away.”
Two passersby were injured in the crossfire but no other injuries were reported, Asif said, adding that police had obtained CCTV footage from the Church and have launched an investigation.
According to local media reports, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has directed police to submit a report of the incident.
Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said he was aware of the incident and that no Church or school staff were injured in the attack.
Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Christian rights activist and lawyer, condemned the attack.
“It is unbelievable how militants fired at the church guards and managed to flee,” said Gill. “We urge the government to beef up security at churches.”
He added that twin suicide bombings by the Pakistani Taliban’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction in the Youhanabad neighborhood of Lahore earlier this month had created a sense of fear and insecurity among the Christian minority community.
The bombings, which left 14 dead and more than 70 others inured, also sparked riots in which two men thought to be associated with the bombers were beaten to death — a rare example of violence on the part of Christians in Pakistan.
Vatican City, March 13, 2015: For Pope Francis, the Church of Korea, carried forward for two centuries by lay people, “drenched” in the blood of the martyrs, is a “promise for all of Asia”. Currently, it must be on guard against “religious affluence,” which can turn Christians into wishy-washy softies, since the “devil is clever” and seeks to weaken the faith.
The Holy Father spoke yesterday afternoon, greeting Rome’s Korean community, led by the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea who are in the Eternal City for their quinquennial ‘ad limina’ visit.
In remembering his “beautiful, very beautiful visit” to Korea in August, the pope highlighted two traits of the Korean Church. “First, the laity. Your Church was carried forward for two centuries only by lay people. Help the laity be aware of this responsibility. They have inherited this glorious history. First, the laity: let them be brave like the first ones! Second, the martyrs. Your Church was ‘drenched’ in the blood of the martyrs, and this created life. Please, do not give in. Be on guard against ‘religious affluence’. Be careful, because the devil is clever.
“Let me tell you an anecdote: during the period of religious persecution, the Japanese tortured Christians – a lot of torture in your country too – and then took them back to prison. However, a month before their sentence, when they had to abjure, they took them to a beautiful house, gave them good food, in a nice environment. Why did they take them there a month before? To soften their faith, so that they would feel good, and then they proposed them to abjure their religion when they were at their weakest. Cardinal Filoni gave me a very good book on the history of the Japanese persecution. Some people gave in and fell by the wayside, whilst others fought on, until the end, and died.
“I am no prophet, but this can happen to you. If you do not go forward with the strength of faith, with zeal, with the love of Jesus Christ, if you go soft – [adhering to a] weak, wishy-washy Christianity – your faith will fail. As I said, the devil is clever and he will propose this to you, this religious affluence – ‘Let us be good Catholics, but only up to a point . . .’ – and will take away your strength. Please do not forget, you are children of martyrs, and apostolic zeal cannot be negotiated.
“I remember what the Letter to the Hebrews says, ‘Remember the early days, when you fought and suffered for the faith. Do not go back now (cf. Heb, 10:32-36). In another passage, towards the end, it says, ‘Remember your fathers in faith, your teachers, and follow their example’ (cf. Heb, 12:1). You are the Church of martyrs, and this is a promise for all of Asia. Go ahead. Do not give up. No spiritual worldliness, nothing. No easy Catholicism, without zeal. No religious affluence. Love for Jesus Christ, love for the cross of Jesus Christ and love for your history.”