Beijing Olympics shine light on strained US-China relationship

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Hours after securing a spot at next month’s Winter Olympics, American skater Timothy LeDuc reflected on the dark cloud hanging over the 2022 Games.

“These are horrific human rights violations that we are seeing happening. And it can seem very helpless when you read these things, because you think, “What can I do?

LeDuc’s statement is remarkable not because of its content, but because it happened. Faced with similar questions about human rights and the Beijing Winter Games, most Olympic athletes have “tiptoed” about the subject, according to USA Today.

United States government officials, on the other hand, are tackling the problem head-on. Last month, President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics and Congress passed a law that blocks the importation of certain Chinese products for human rights reasons.

Both measures were primarily motivated by the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, a minority ethnic and religious group based in the Xinjiang region. In recent years, officials have reportedly sent hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs to re-education or forced labor camps due to the government’s belief that they posed a threat to the country.

“You can’t help but talk about China when you talk about religious persecution. They are the main catalyst for human rights abuses around the world, ”said Sam Brownback, who served as the United States Goodwill Ambassador for International Religious Freedom under President Donald Trump, at an event on January 5 jointly by the Religious Freedom Institute and The Religious Freedom Institute. Catholic University of America.

The new law, which was passed with bipartisan support, bans imports from Xinjiang that were made with forced labor. It builds on the Trump administration’s efforts to exert economic pressure against the Chinese government.

“Now you have successive generations of administrations aggressively attacking China,” Brownback said.

But what the US government does not have is the full support of the business community. Leading companies are pushing ahead with development plans in Xinjiang even as US officials call for disengagement, as Omar Suleiman pointed out in a recent column for Religion News Service.

For example, Elon Musk recently announced a new Tesla showroom in Xinjiang, sparking an outcry from human rights activists.

“No American company should do business in an area that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement.

It is not yet clear whether companies like Tesla will face a decline in the share of everyday consumers. As Phelim Kline noted in a recent article for Politico, some companies, including the corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics, seem convinced that ordinary Americans do not know enough – or care enough – about the plight of Muslims. Uyghurs to boycott or otherwise punish. companies that continue to work in partnership with China.

“The companies supporting the Beijing Olympics in 2022 are betting Americans don’t care. They are betting that despite a months-long campaign by US lawmakers and activists to try to leverage sponsorships as pressure against Chinese government human rights violations, their brands will move away from damage to their reputation, ”he said. writes Kline.


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Church attendance and membership are declining across the country, and as a result, a wide variety of denominations are facing rapidly shrinking congregations. Amid this trend, religious leaders are trying to figure out what to do with declining churches. They can ask the faithful to partner with another congregation, allow the church to die quietly, or take a more radical course.

Bob Smietana of Religion News Service recently wrote about a group of churches that have chosen this third option and partnered with ministers specializing in launching new communities to “replant” their congregation. Although this process differs a bit from place to place, the main goal is to rejuvenate the dying church by launching new initiatives and attracting new members.

“The idea is to provide resources and new energy to an old congregation, rather than shutting down the church and starting over,” Smietana wrote.


What I’m reading …

As the country continues to grapple with the legacy of the January 6, 2021 riot at the United States Capitol, a group of academics from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama released a project that will help Americans understand the role of religion on this day. Entitled “Uncivil Religion”, it presents essays and photographs exploring the interest and the expression of the personal faith of the demonstrators.

Religious smartphone apps won more than users in 2021; they have also seen an increase in venture capital funding. Over the past year, investors have invested around $ 175 million in “software companies developing spirituality tools for smartphones, betting big that tech startups can find a way to cash in on prayer, daily devotion, meditation on the scriptures and reading the Bible, ”reports Christianity Today. .


Tips

I attended a conference at the University of Notre Dame last month that aimed to revisit and tackle some of the most controversial events of 2020: the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the gunfire protests policemen against black Americans and the presidential election. (Last month I wrote about the presentation I gave on what I regret about my early coverage of the pandemic.) Video of the public event held at the end of the conference is now available in line.

I’m so used to talking – and typing – the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I forget it’s not on the tip of most people’s tongue. Americans. A recent episode of “Jeopardy!” reminded me of that fact.


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