America’s annual celebration of Independence Day was accompanied this year by the U.S. bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom, a round of prayer and advocacy dedicated to the preservation of religious liberty. The exercise renewed debate over whether there is or isn’t a war on religion in America, fueled, of course, by the politics of the 2012 election.
There are undeniably important church/state issues in play in America, but if they constitute a “war,” it’s a metaphorical one, waged in legislatures and courthouses. Too often lost in the shuffle is the fact — not a hunch, theory or conjecture, but hard empirical fact — that in a growing number of other places, there’s a decidedly literal war on religion under way. Its victims don’t just lose government contracts or debates over insurance mandates; they’re threatened, beaten, imprisoned and even murdered.
Here’s a snapshot of what was going on around the world at the precise moment Americans were marking the July 4 holiday:
- Fr. Joseph Zhao Hongchun, apostolic administrator of the Chinese diocese of Harbin, was taken into police custody July 4 to prevent him from galvanizing opposition to the illicit ordination of a new Harbin bishop orchestrated by the government. He was detained for three days and released only after the ordination took place.
- New auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai was placed under house arrest in a seminary after he publicly resigned from the government-controlled “Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics” during his ordination Mass on July 7, which took place with the pope’s blessing.
- Rev. Kantharaj Hanumanthappa, a Pentecostal pastor in the Indian state of Karnataka, was leading a prayer service July 4 when 20 radical Hindus stormed in to accuse the Christians of proselytizing, threatening them if they didn’t leave. A police complaint was filed, but no action has been taken.
- The private home of Pastor Ramgopal, a Pentecostal minister in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was raided by police allied with the Hindu radicals. The pastor was reportedly told, “Either you go away and never come back or we’ll arrest you.” He was released only after signing a statement promising not to lead any more prayer services in the area. Read more
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