President Bush made a symbolic visit to one of 5 sanctioned Protestant churches in Beijing during his recent trip to China. This article from the Washington Post, with a superb commentary by Rick Moore of HolyCoast, points to an important event. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy, and expanding such freedoms in China will lead, over the long term, to greater personal and democratic freedoms.
The President, while a Protestant evangelical himself, did not specify his actions and comments directly at promoting the Christian faith in China. The San Diego Union Tribune reports:
"Prodded by U.S. evangelical Christians and a bipartisan group in Congress, he has long championed the cause of Chinese persecuted for their religious beliefs. Bush met with Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, long denounced by China, in Washington before the trip.
The president made his case directly to Hu yesterday when the two leaders met in the Great Hall of the People just off Tiananmen Square. 'It is important that social, political and religious freedoms grow in China,' he said in his formal statement read standing next to the Chinese leader. 'And we encourage China to continue making the historic transition to greater freedom.'"
From the same article here are some of President Bush's comments while in China regarding religion:
- "As he entered Gangwashi Church with first lady Laura Bush, he was greeted by pastor Du Fengying, who gave him two Chinese bibles. He then wrote in her guest book, 'May God bless the Christians of China.'"
- "'My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly,' he said during the church service, after applauding the small choir's rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy. 'A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty.'"
- "After the services, Bush remarked that 'the spirit of the Lord is very strong inside your church.'"
- "'I will continue to remind President Hu about . . . my personal faith and the belief that people should be allowed to worship freely,' he said in a pre-departure interview. He added, "And a vibrant, whole society is one that recognizes that certain freedoms are inherent and need to be part of a complete society.'"
It is important for the President to speak out about religious freedoms. They often go hand in hand with how a country approaches human rights. As the move to abolish slavery, to restore civil rights to black Americans and efforts to affect poverty in the United States have been largely driven by religious organizations from a Judeo-Christian perspective, so too will a greater level of religious freedom in China lead to a better Chinese society with dignity for all peoples.