A Dutch bishop and eight Austrian, French, and Polish missionaries were killed by the Japanese army for defending hundreds of Chinese women and girls in their church. For Zhuo Xinping, head of the Institute of World Religions, Catholics shared the destiny of the Chinese.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – A conference was held on 25 October in the Chinese capital to mark the 80th anniversary of the Zhengding Church Massacre when foreign missionaries were killed by the Japanese army trying to protect lives to hundreds of Chinese women and girls, the China Christian Daily reported recently.
The event took place on 9 October 1937, during Japan’s occupation of China, a few months before the Nanjing Massacre, when more than 300,000 Chinese were killed.
Dutch Bishop Frans Schraven (1873-1937) and eight other Austrian, French, and Polish missionaries were killed trying to defend hundreds of Chinese women and girls to whom they had offered protection in their church.
The little-known story came to light thanks to the research of Professor Li Chen, which was followed up by others.
The conference took place at the Institute of World Religions (IWR) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and was co-sponsored by the Hebei Faith Cultural Society (HFCS).
Mgr Joseph Ma Yinglin, head of the Council of Catholic Bishops (not recognised by the Holy See), and Prof Zhuo Xinping, director of the Institute of World Religions, took part in the conference.
According to HFCS director Fr Zhang Shijiang, soldiers from northern Korea and ethnic Manchus (Mongolian) enrolled in the Japanese army carried out the massacre.
Prof Zhuo noted that this incident shows how Catholics shared the same outlook and fate of the Chinese people, based on Catholic’s sense of brotherhood and love towards the population.
Fr Zhao Jianmin, of the Archdiocese of Beijing, agrees. The event was a sign of brotherhood through sacrifice.
The conference seems to fit with President Xi Jinping's recent call to "sinicise" religions, making them closer to Chinese culture and directed at the development of the Chinese people.
In any case, the research shows a side of the work of foreign missionaries in China that is far too often forgotten.
Officially, Chinese media tend to relegate the role of foreign missionaries and their work to marginal support for China's foreign enemies.