|Bush Challenges China on Religious Freedom
29 November 2005
Shining a spotlight on China's religious freedom record. Will the communist nation heed President George Bush's call for greater religious tolerance?
A high-profile visit raises questions about religious freedom in China. President George W. Bush completed a tour of Asia this week. The highlight of his trip came during a short visit to the communist nation of China.
Improving trade relations with China was at the top of his agenda. But so too are the rights of religious minorities. President Bush began his 36-hour visit to China by attending Sunday church service at one of only five approved Protestant churches in China. He used the venue to speak-up for China's persecuted Christian minority.
President Bush said, "My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly."
But there is little sign that China's leaders are listening. Millions of Chinese Christians routinely face persecution. Many are forced to worship in secret by attending 'house churches' outside of government control.
The U.S. considers China one of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. At least 300 Christians have been arrested this year alone. Authorities reportedly rounded-up several Christian activists just before Bush's arrival in Beijing.
Condi Rice, Secretary of State, said, "We've certainly not seen the progress that we would expect; and I think we'll have to keep working on it."
Inside the church, President Bush signed a guest book, and wrote the words "May God bless the Christians of China." After the service, the pastor of the church presented the President and First Lady with Chinese Bibles. Bush said, "The spirit of the Lord is very strong inside your church. We thank you for carrying a message of love, like you did."
Meanwhile, international evangelist Luis Palau also joined the president during Sunday services. Palau was in Beijing on a week-long trip promoting greater religious dialogue.
Palau and a top Chinese official, who happens to be a staunch atheist, are scheduled to release a new book soon, entitled A Dialogue Between An Atheist and A Christian.
Palau hopes the venture will help foster better understanding between the two countries.
By Stan Jeter
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