Former Director SARA on Three Issues of Religions in China

By Grace Zhi, July 19, 2017 05:07 AM

Ye Xiaowen, Former Director of SARA

Christianity in China, as one of the Five Major Religions, receives much attention. And it's inevitable, for Christianity in China, to interpret the national religious policy and to learn about the present situation of religions development.

Ye Xiaowen, former Director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) once talked about the religions in China, in an interview with a government press. In his talk, three major issues were mentioned: what is Marx's view on religion, how does atheistic ruling party offer religious administration, what are the prominent problems in the current Chinese religion work.

Humor in Mr. Ye Xiaowen's talk would leave a deep impression in the three videos posted in his personal WeChat account.

#1 What is proper application of Marx's View on Religion?

To understand Marx's View on Religion, a premise is a good understanding regarding the origin and trends of religions. Ye points out that the roots of religions go far deep including social class root. According to Marx's view on religion, religion is long-standing and it will exist for a long time, which could be longer than the state.

The duality of religion, according to Marx's view on religion, is that religion is helpful yet it's spiritual opium. On one hand, religion guides its believers on the way to seek happiness; on the other hand, religion comforts its believers if there is any suffering.

"There are 200 million religious believers In China. They are nobody but our people." says Mr. Ye Xiaowen,"Times have changed. We should have our proper application regarding Marx's view on religions, e.g., marxism (view on religion) needs to be Sinicized."

#2 How does an atheistic ruling party offer religious administration?

How could the Communist, the ruling party of atheism, show kindness to religions? Many westerners really doubt that. Mr. Ye Xiaowen once was questioned by the US Customs when he was invited to visit the United States by the religious community. Doubting his official identity, he was asked, "State Administration of Religious Affairs? We US have no this kind of institution even we have so many religious people."

When being heckled that "you atheist administer religions, aren't you controlling them?" Mr. Ye Xiaowen pointed out that Every society set standards according to their conditions. He added that SARA officials are to serve the religious people, so it would be unfair if party members believe in any religions.

He was also asked regarding how SARA "serve" the religious people. At that time (1980s) China were implementing religious policies. Mr. Ye Xiaowen told the US Customs officer some stories about how they helped the repair work of several churches. Misunderstanding removed, finally he was given permission to enter the US.

#3 What are the prominent problems in the current Chinese religion work?

Market economy's impact to religions is a prominent problem, leading a commercialization of religion. "Some places are doing business under the cover of religion. They build huge Buddha and change the place into a tourist spot and attract people there to worship. Some even build that huge Buddha and set Cara OK rooms inside the Buddha's belly.

Another problem is the de-sinolization religions. Ye Xiaowen pointed that there is a tendency, among some religious groups, that the religion building was built in Gothic, or mosque in Arabia. And they might never know what was that meaning. If you go to Beijing Niujie to have a look at the best mosque in China, you could see that it was completely built in Chinese style.

Besides, deliberately making believers and non-believers being opposite to each other. For example, some believers claim that "believe and you'll go to heaven, or you'll go to hell." Not only that, some religious activities were carried out disregarding the law.

To face these problems, the central emphasis is that there is no small matter in religions. Mr. Ye Xiaowen suggested that the religion work should focus on the adherence to the direct of Chinese religion in China. Besides, comprehensively manage religious affairs on a more law- and procedure-based basis.

Translated By: Alice Wang

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