The destruction of Christian schools has become a new trend to suppress religious freedom in Asia, warned a priest-journalist on June 29. Father Bernardo Cervellera, director of AsiaNews, described the problem when presenting the "2004 Report on Religious Freedom," written by the Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity organization.
"In Communist areas and those influenced by religious fundamentalism, they are no longer content with suppressing individuals; they destroy all objects and all buildings linked to freedom of worship," Cervellera said.
For example, in Vietnam, the freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution, however in practice this freedom is violated by the continuous abuse and arrests of believers and by the destructions of churches and temples. According to the report, government policies in Vietnam are aimed at controlling all religious movements.
"Of course, churches are destroyed, as happens in Indonesia, China, and India," stated Cervellera. "But they also destroy the homes of Christians and above all their schools. Destroying schools is an element of persecution that is now almost a trend in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nepal, India and Pakistan."
"In this case, it is not only a community's faith they wish to silence, but also all possible social influence exercised by religions, and in particular the Christian one," he said.
Such an example is Myanmar where Christians face discrimination and restriction of education, evangelism and church construction activities. According to a report made by Calif.-based Open Doors, the Myanmar government is opposed to the spread of Christianity, and thousands of young Christians are umemployed because of their faith. The country was also listed by the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom as one of 11 nations that abuse the religious freedom of their citizens. In 2003, several Christian churches and homes in Myanmar were burned.
"Destruction is used not only to kill the faith, but also to impoverish, to frustrate populations, to have fewer social prospects," commented Cervellera.
The Report on Religious Freedom is an annual report released by the Aid to the Church in Need. Founded in 1947 and headquartered in Konigstein, Germany, Aid to the Church in Need has national offices in 16 countries, including a U.S. office located in New York City. They serve the persecuted and suffering Church in more than 120 countries around the world.
Other countries included in this year's report included Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Georgia, India, Iraq, Laos, and Uzbekistan.