10/16/2018, 10.13
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AsiaNews Symposium: Young Catholics in China, suffocated by work and study in an atheist society

by Ruohan Shen Fu

In his intervention at the Symposium - and a contribution to the Synod on Youth - a priest from central China paints the picture of evangelizing young people in China: the urbanization of migrants, who distance themselves from the faith; rural churches that are empty; the "confusion" city life Parents are true catechists.

Xian (AsiaNews) - Education and the economy are important factors that influence human and social progress. But these two factors have become two important enemies and producers of a crisis of faith.

Above all, education. In these years, education has become a heavy burden for Chinese children. They study at school, after school, they have teachers at home for private lessons and homework ... Holidays are spent doing lessons in their various interests, such as dance, piano, art and other courses.

In theory, they have two months of vacation. But in reality the young people’s leisure time is all about education. It's only for elementary school kids. Their time is all about learning. They start classes in the morning early and do not leave school until 10 pm. Holidays are almost impossible. And unfortunately, in the end, not many have access to university.

With this educational background, cultivating faith is really difficult. And for one reason: learning is very demanding and there is no time to go to church. The disturbing fact is that the cultivation of the faith is very important, but Chinese Catholic young people are losing their faith. If we add the fact that the government prohibits children under 18 from entering the church, the situation gets even worse.

In the bulletins issued by many Chinese churches, there are news of many young people who participate in church activities in church. But these newsletters are not representative of the situation and most often incomplete.

And this is because, as China develops and urbanization increases, many children and young people from the countryside go to school and work in the city. Therefore, the number of people who go to churches in the city seems to be growing, but in fact they are the children of the peasants who have migrated to the city.

In conclusion, the situation of rural churches in China is very tragic: there are increasingly fewer young people, boys and girls. And even if these young people and children go to the city, the chances for them being educated in the faith are not very high. For economic reasons, it has become almost heroic for these young people to be able to participate in Sunday mass.

Let's talk now about the economy. With the increased urbanization of China, a large number of people from the countryside have moved to the cities to find work [there is talk of almost 200 million people-ed]. We all know that China is an atheist country and that education in the faith is almost zero. The young people who work see that their masters have no consideration for their faith. Therefore, many members of parishes, who were engaged in activities, especially the young, care less and less for their faith, because of work. If you add the pressure to get married, buy a house, etc., many young people do not even have time to think and take care of their faith.

Likewise parents who bring their children with them to the cities have to worry about wages often working until they are exhausted and so they do not have time to instill faith in children. Thus you can imagine what kind of faith their children have.

In this way the enthusiasm for the faith grows less and less and little by little they move away from the church. So a bunch of young believers become faithful in the holidays: when they are on vacation or at rest, they have the chance to go to church.

This is why many rural churches are full only during the Chinese New Year holidays. After that, only a few old people and a few children remain.

In a situation such as this, how can we cultivate the faith of young people?

Faced with these problems, I, as a priest in a rural parish, first of all must be able to take advantage of their limited time. When young people have time, I do my best to organize something and invite them to participate in some ecclesial activity, to keep them tied to the faith.

For example, during short holidays, especially those of the New Year and children's winter and summer holidays. If possible, I try to organize catechism classes for children on Sunday. This is important and necessary.

But it is also necessary to support the faith of the parents. Because their children are less and less in touch with the church because of their studies and work, encouraging parents to "re-educate" their children is urgent: because at least they have more opportunities than the priest to be in contact with them.

Thirdly, it is necessary to ask Chinese bishops and priests living in the city to pay attention not only to their relationships and economic problems, but also to the growing number of members of the rural Catholic community who have migrated to the city, since their faith decreases as urbanization grows.

China is growing faster and faster, and the Chinese Church is growing in many ways. In any case, the priests who live in contact with the lower levels of the Church in China are deeply aware that the faith of young people not only face challenges, but risks being eliminated.

From our point of view, when these young men and women arrive in the city, although the number of churches in the cities has increased, their education in the faith is not perfect and few people worry about them: they are treated like foreigners.

Thus, these young people not only face great crises and challenges in their faith, but also feel confused about life in the cities.

On the other hand, being within Chinese society, they accept atheistic education, along with political propaganda and political pressure. In this way, more and more young people abandon their faith and decide to pursue the ideals of a materialistic life, throwing away their human nature. For them, this becomes the value and meaning of life. And I think this is the biggest drama of Chinese youth.

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