Thursday, November 8, 2007

** Bibles Banned at Beijing Olympics

Bibles Banned at 2008 Beijing Olympics
November 5, 2007 - Organizers for the 2008 Olympics in China have released their list of items banned from the Olympic village where the athletes will stay.

Among the "prohibited objects" -- Bibles.

The Catholic News Agency reports that the committee behind the Beijing games cited "security reasons" for the ban.

China's Bible Debate Heats Up. Athletes are also prohibited from bearing any kind of religious symbol at Olympic facilities.

The ban seems to undermine comments released by the country's top religious affairs official. Last month, Ye Xiaowen acknowledged that he expected large numbers of religious faithful among the athletes, coaches and tourists to be swarming into the officially atheist nation during the Olympics.

Xiaowen, director-general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said on Oct. 17 that China plans to offer religious services for foreigners. He recognized that religion will play a positive role "in promoting economic and social development" in the future, Reuters reported.
"We are learning from practices in past Games to make sure that their demands for religious worship are met," Ye said on the sidelines of the ruling Communist Party's 17th Congress.
"Here I can promise that religious services we offer will not be lower than the level of any previous Games," Ye said. He did not say if proselytizing would be allowed.

The number of Chinese believers in Buddhism, Taosim and Christianity have been on the rise in recent years, Ye added.

Striking a Balance or Banning Religion?

But striking the balance between providing religious services for the faithful and banning personal religious materials outright may prove more difficult than safeguarding against possible security threats.

The Olympic charter says "no kind of political propaganda, religious or racial hatred is allowed in the Olympic areas."

The Spanish daily La Razon called the standard one of many "signs of censure and intolerance" towards religious objects, particularly those used by Christians in China.

There are some 10 million Catholics in China, divided between an "underground" church loyal to the Vatican and the state-approved church that respects the Pope as a spiritual figurehead but rejects effective papal control.

Currently in China, five bishops and 15 priests are in prison for opposing the state-approved church.

Other items banned from the Olympic village include video cameras and cups.

Sources: Catholic News Agency, Reuters