On Jan. 6, a city North of China went on lockdown after experiencing an overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases.
Christians and missionaries were blamed by netizens on social media who suspect that they brought the recent COVID strand in Hebei province. Local priests, however, decry the allegations.
Asia News' report shows a quoted exchange between a Catholic priest and a parishioner over a news that circulated online suggesting that Christians and missionaries were the "carriers" of the recent virus outbreak. Per the conversation, dated Jan. 7:
"Father, there is a post that reads: the village of Xiao Guozhuang, near Gaocheng is a Catholic village; 20 days ago, there was religious activity here, there were several priests from Europe and the United States ... Is this news reliable?" the parishioner asked.
The local priest, who goes by the name Shanren Shenfu, replied that since it's his first time to have heard of it and he does not yet know all the facts, it's better to not draw any conclusion for the time being. Shenfu, a blogger priest as per Asia News, says that he also does not understand why one would invent such baseless news to provoke people at a crucial time when the Hebei province is battling a pandemic.
"First of all, the churches in the Shijiazhuang area received a notice on Christmas Eve (December 24th), asking them to suspend the Christmas celebrations; Christmas Eve masses were celebrated by there was the priest alone in his parish, and all the preparations for Christmas were abandoned."
"Secondly, exactly 14 days have passed from December 24 to today. but the experts' post says: "About 20 days ago, the village of Xiao Guozhuang organized a religious activity and there were several priests from Europe and the United States together ... "."
"Thirdly, today [7 January] at 11.40am an article written by an anonymous scribe was posted, entitled 'Religious proliferation in the villages: the village of Xiao Guozhuang, in Gaocheng, what mysterious activities does it organize every Wednesday and Friday?' What was the purpose of publishing such an article at such a critical moment?"
After he laid down his analysis on his blog, Shenfu added that he wonders what kind of "religious activity" could that have been that even "foreign priests" would attend as claimed by the rumor.
Another priest from Shijiazhuang also aired his thoughts against the rumor saying,
"The village of Xiao Guozhuang, Liu Jiazuo, Nan Qiaozhai are not Catholic villages, there are only a few Catholic residents. These villages do not have a Catholic place of prayer; they do not organize Catholic religious' meetings. To participate in the usual religious activities, all the faithful go to the adjacent village of Bei Qiaozhai, etc..."
Shenfu commended this prompt action from the local priests of Shijiazhuang.
"The Church of Shijiazhuang this time reacted in time, immediately issuing a statement to break through the lies and block the negative consequences," he wrote.
"But I still want to ask the question again: where does this evil wind blow from?" he rhetorically asked.
Shenfu said that this sort of witch hunt and blame shifting event is reminiscent of emperor Nero. On a whim, he ordered the torching of a city then passed the buck to the Christians.
The blogger priest hopes that this will not be overlooked knowing how Christians got unjustly persecuted throughout mankind's history.