Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - Many missionaries present in China at the time of the Japanese attack witnessed a great love for the Chinese people, to the point of being killing in an atrocious manner, while defending Chinese women and children from the violence of soldier invaders. The significant recognition comes from scholars and professors of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). The statement that those Catholic missionaries carried out such gesture of free oblation, not because of a vague humanitarian sentiment or the choice of wanting to be heroes, but only because of their Christian faith, also comes from the academics of the largest historical and social research center in the People's Republic of China, think tank of the government of Beijing. The great appreciation of Chinese scholars emerged from the works of the conference organized on the occasion of the 80th Anniversary of the so-called "Massacre of Zhengding Church".
The symposium ("The Conference on the 80th Anniversary of Zhengding Church Massacre at the start of the anti-Japanese War") was held on 25 October in Beijing by the Institute of Christian Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and by the Faith Cultural Society of the Catholic Church.
The initiative focused on one of the strongest and most impressive expressions of free love towards the Chinese people nurtured in many missionaries by the faith in Jesus: the story of Bishop Frans Schraven and the eight missionaries from Europe who were killed by Japanese soldiers for having tried to protect more than 200 Chinese girls that the military wanted as sex slaves.
The conference is based on various initiatives carried out in China and the Netherlands to commemorate the eighty years of the massacre committed in Zhengding Church on October 9, 1937, when Bishop Frans Schraven CM of Dutch nationality, since 1921 Apostolic Vicar of Zheng Ding (today Shi Jiang Zhuang) was burned alive by Japanese occupiers along with eight mission companions because he had welcomed and defended from the violence of the military thousands of Chinese displaced persons who had found refuge in the church.
Academics, ecclesiastics, historians and political representatives present at the conference - local sources report to Agenzia Fides - agreed to recognize the objective contribution that the Catholic Church in China offered to the nation and to the Chinese people during the war with the Japanese invaders. Various interventions, starting from that bloody episode, have also enhanced in greater terms the contribution provided by Catholic missionaries to the development of the Chinese society, especially in the fields of education, culture and health, and also through charitable works in favor of the most needy.
Professor Li Qiu Ling, of the People's University of Beijing has called everyone to reconsider, objectively, with justice and historical meaning, the issue of the Catholic missionaries in China, taking into account also the spiritual and faithful factors that animate their works and their initiatives in favor of the Chinese people. "Those missionaries - recalled Professor Li - have always been called 'international friends of the Chinese people' and their social contribution cannot be separated from their faith", limiting oneself to interpret it only as an expression of abstract humanitarian impulse. "Our missionary assessment - the Chinese academic remarked - must return to consider their identity and status as missionaries. The profound reason why they did not withdraw, during that tragic moment that China faced, is in their faith: they helped thousands of women and children in danger precisely because of faith, which aroused in them that great love and that humanitarian spirit".
Frans Schraven was born in Lottern (The Netherlands) on October 13, 1873 and grew up in Broekhuizen. After his formation at the Lazzaristi, he was ordained a priest in Paris in May 1899. In the same year, in August, he set sail in Marseilles to reach China. In 1924 he was ordained Bishop and became Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate of Zhengding (Chengtingfu, corresponding to the current city of Shi Jiang Zhuang).
During the Japanese invasion, Schraven and all his Vicariate collaborators took care of over 5,000 displaced persons. On October 9, 1937, he was burned alive by Japanese soldiers along with eight missionary companions because he refused to hand over over two hundred Chinese young women whom Japanese soldiers wanted to use as "comfort women". The eight martyrs who were with Bishop Frans were all European missionaries from different nations and peoples: one Croatian, one Slovak, two Dutch, three French, one Polish. The faithful of the local Catholic communities immediately erected a monument in their memory, and they never stopped praying for their canonization. The processes for their beatification, which began in Holland, have already concluded the diocesan phase. And many Chinese Catholics already show their devotion to the holy martyrs of Zhengding. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 9/11/2017)