12/23/2019, 09.32
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Beijing boycotts Christmas: a sign of distrust in Chinese culture

by Padre Pietro (伯铎神父)

A "war on Christmas" is underway to ban and punishment for school children who for attending mass. Nationalism and pride risk showing other cultures as enemies. In the history of China there has been Western imperialism, but also experiences of dialogue between Western and Chinese culture thanks to the Catholic Church and the missionaries.

Rome (AsiaNews) - There is a war on Christmas in China this year, considered an element of Western "spiritual pollution". A mixture of nationalism, resistance to human rights and pride has resulted in a ban on Christmas decorations (which China produces and sells all over the world), cribs, greetings cards, prayer meetings. In schools, there are principals who punish children who dare to say that they will go to mass because they "betray Chinese culture". Father Peter, a priest from Northern China, the author of this reflection, shows that China needs to distinguish more "scientifically" between "West" and "Christianity", but also must recognize that many great things of Western civilization, which is now making China strong, arrived through missionaries and Christians. Christmas is the feast of the incarnation, of God who mingles with man. In this way, this festival is also the model of integration and dialogue between cultures.

Both Chinese and Christian culture are two civilizations. The civilized world has different colors because it is made up of many civilizations. Different civilizations must tolerate and complement each other, so they can shine together. Unfortunately, the short-sighted nationalism and Nazism, the ignorant and uncivilized mentality of the anti-western Chinese struggle, can only lead to the destruction of cultures and civilizations on a worldwide and regional scale.

The so-called Chinese Cultural Revolution, which occurred in the last century, today is called "the 10 years of chaos". It not only aimed to destroy and eliminate Christian civilization, but also to target and damage Chinese civilization, causing such serious harm on an unparalleled scale in human history. Of course, western imperialism that invaded China during the Qing dynasty is to be condemned and deserved resistance from the Chinese. But it is unjust that people's anger against imperialism should have resulted in vented violence against Christian missionaries and believers.

A few years ago, 10 Chinese graduates proposed a boycott of Holy Christmas celebrations. Afterwards, there have always been angry young people, ready to boycott this holiday. Now, there are government, business and school executives who order that we should no longer celebrate Christmas, in deference to the flag of Chinese culture and civilization. But should Chinese culture and civilization reject other cultures and civilizations? If all nations care only about their own cultures and civilizations, how can cultural integration take place, through exchanges between different cultures?

Christianity has not only brought faith to the Chinese people, but also science, philosophy, medicine, mathematics. Most Catholic missionaries in the late Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty possessed scientific qualities and were specialists in mathematics. Just think of Matteo Ricci, Nan Huairen (the Belgian Ferdinand Verbiest, 1623-1688), Tang Ruowang (the German Adam Schall von Bell, 1592-1666) and others. They not only brought European science to our country, but even translated Chinese culture into books and brought it to Europe. If we had not learned from European civilization, I fear that we Chinese would still have a pigtail and would have neither planes nor cannons. During the Qing Dynasty, the missionary Tang Ruowang was rewarded by the Imperial Court for his valuable contribution to strengthening defensive capacity.

Without modern medicine introduced by missionaries, we would not have all these hospitals spread all over our country. And modern medicine is part of the western culture or civilization. The cultures of all nations belong to the whole world, without borders; as well as the truth, which does not belong to any one nation. Resistance to foreign cultures and Christian civilization demonstrates a lack of faith in one's own culture and also shows a petty and closed heart.

Jesus Christ was born Jewish, in Israel, a small Asian country. Christ's forgiveness and brotherhood have influenced Europe and the world. Wherever I go, the Catholic Church always presents the noble nature of faith to peoples, shows respect for local civilizations and the will to assimilate positive elements from them.

The Nestorian Church, which arrived in China in the Tang dynasty, interpreted the redemption of Christ, with a language rooted in Chinese culture and which was understandable for the local people. This wisdom greatly helped evangelization. There were missionaries, such as Matteo Ricci and Michele Ruggeri (Luo Mingjian), who, coming for the first time to preach in China, shaved their heads and dressed like "foreign monks". They later dressed like Confucian intellectuals. Of course, there are differences between European and Chinese culture. Now, the Chinese dress like Europeans or Americans. Maybe some would like to promote Chinese costumes, but it will not be successful, because although Chinese clothes can be pleasant to wear on ceremonial occasions, but they are not practical.

Holy Christmas is a Christian holiday, of a religious nature, in memory of the birth of Jesus Christ. But many business people take advantage of this holiday as a commercial occasion, without knowing the salvation and mercy of Jesus Christ and the meaning of Christianity at all.

Thus, those who feel the concern that Christianity destroys Chinese culture can rest assured. The tens of millions of Christians living in China pose no threat to Chinese culture. In fact, Chinese Christians feel proud of Chinese culture, and have a good desire to combine Christianity and Chinese civilization so that the two realities integrate perfectly. Chinese Catholic priests also endeavor to find ways to inculturate Christianity.

Jesus Christ became incarnate and became one of us, precisely because we men and women can understand that we are all brothers and sisters, loving each other as members of the same family. Only with this awareness can the world become truly beautiful, truly human, like an Heaven on earth.

December 21, 2019

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