Covid-19 has halted many activities around the world but in China it is an opportunity to further clamp down on religions.
Early on religious bodies were encouraged to collect donations for epidemic relief but warned that in the process ‘religion could not be promoted or evangelical activities allowed.’
However, by 20 February, in Wuhan (home of the virus) people were being accused of ‘handing out face masks as part of missionary work’.
Oven in Hanyang, one of the three cities that make up Wuhan and once was home for the Irish Columban Missionaries, local officials were ‘immediately assigned to all sub-districts and communities to cooperate with the Public Security Bureau police stations to make arrests and curb any likelihood of such occurrences.’
No religious symbols are allowed on disaster relief materials.
Meanwhile shops and restaurants are allowed to reopen in many Chinese provinces but churches and mosques must remain shut. If any religious ceremonies are held, those responsible are to be arrested. Church buildings continue to be demolished.
In Ireland the distancing of disaster relief efforts from religious motivation would seem unlikely. However even here some large charitable organisations find it is easier to get funding if they do not dwell on their Christian credentials. In China, it is fear of religion getting a good name that has led to downplaying its charitable efforts. In Ireland there must be some other reason and I’m sure the Chinese authorities are wondering how they can learn from it.