Sunday, May 24, 2015

Moving photos of Chinese underground church

Maureen Mullarkey is probably best know for her acerbic brilliance, her insights and cutting remarks about Church politics. A great example would be her most recent analysis of two of the Pope's historical associates, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríquez Maradiaga and Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of Argentina, by means of one of Aesop's Fables, "Birds of a feather flock together," and alternately, "You are known by the company you keep."

But as a son of Protestant missionaries in China during the Marxist Revolution, what caught my eye was her recent piece on Lu Nan, China’s foremost documentary photographer. According to Lu Nan, publicity is meaningless for an artist: "If the pictures are good, it doesn’t matter who took them, and if the pictures are not good, it also doesn’t matter who took them." Fair enough.

But these pictures are not only taken in by the eye, but by the viscera. They are, some of them, gut wrenching. They are pictures of inmates in mental hospitals, prisoners, and -- most significantly -- Chinese Christians in the underground church. These are pictures you don't generally see in the news or public media. They are moving beyond words, although I cannot say to what extent this is so for me because of the black-and-white photographs I still have from my parents' days in China back before most of you were born. Anyway, here are a couple:

Lu Nan. Yunnan Province (1993). The funeral of a Tibetan Catholic girl, 4 years old, who had died of a sudden illness. This village is located in the heart of the mountains, and it takes two and a half days to reach the nearest hospital. Children with an illness cannot often get cured, and on average, one or two die very young each year.

Lu Nan. Shaanxi Province (1995). Mass is offered in a Catholic's home in a village with no local church. Mass in a family house is officially prohibited by the government. But “unofficial churches” take the risk.

It's a bit surprising to learn that there are entire villages in remote parts of China's interior and Tibet that are Catholic. Pray for these good folk. We shouldn't think that their lot in life could never be our own.

In the meantime, have a closer look at the photos for yourself HERE.

[Hat tip to JM]


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