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God is Red How a "foreign" faith suffered and served its way into the heart of Communist China By Flyn Ritchie

Liao was intrigued; he had earlier come to know a few Christians and admired their courage, even though he didn't — and still doesn't ­— share their faith. When Liao asked if he could interview Sun, he said he'd lived an ordinary life and suggested Liao Yiwu wrote his epic poem “Massacre” in the wake of instead that he accompany him to the mountains to hear some China's bloody crackdown on student protests in Tiananmen "extraordinary stories in the villages there." A year later Liao went on a month-long journey with Dr. Sun. Square in 1989. He spent the following four years in prison for his literary boldness. Since then Liao has begun to enjoy He was reminded of the old Chinese saying: “Heaven is high a near celebrity status around the world, and is a friend of the above and the emperor is far away," and wondered "how it was renowned human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded possible for Christianity, a foreign faith, to find its way and grow in such isolated locations." the Nobel Peace Prize while in jail in 2010. Local people told him that the China Inland Mission had Sometimes likened to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who so eloquently made the world aware of the Soviet prison camp system sent missionaries to Shanghai 150 years ago, and that they had in The Gulag Archipelago, Liao's status will likely be cemented quickly travelled to the furthest corners of China. "These forwith the long-awaited publication of his account of life in a Chi- eigners, 'with blond hair and big noses,' [arrived] . . . just in time to save the people from a bubonic epinese jail. demic." Liao, who had grown up in an era For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's when missionaries were portrayed as 'evil Journey Through a Chinese Prison won't be agents of the imperialists,' was surprised available in English until later this year, but by such stories. in the meantime, we can appreciate God is "Three or four generations later," Liao Red (HarperOne, 2011). This collection of 18 said, "Christianity was part of the heritage loosely linked interviews and essays explores of each individual family and an integral the ways in which spirituality, and especially part of local history . . . in the Yi and Miao Christianity, is thriving in post-Mao China villages, Christianity is now as indigenous in the face of widespread corruption and the as qiaoba, a special Yi buckwheat cake." loss of faith in Communism. The book exemHowever, it came at a great price. "The plifies his concern for those on the margins circuitous mountain path in Yunnan of society. Liao Yiwu at an event in the province is red because over many God is Red is based on Liao's experiencLiteraturhaus, Cologne. years it has been soaked in blood." His es in Yunnan, a province in the far southappreciation of the missionaries shines west of China. Liao had jumped from his through his interviews with old pastors, second floor apartment to escape public security agents who had come to interrogate him. "I fled to the nuns and lay people, in which their long-suffering hope for the sun-drenched city of Dali . . . Broke and depressed in a new city. future becomes apparent. "I was struck by the dedication of the missionaries," Liao . . I roamed the streets, hanging out with beggars, street vendors, musicians and prostitutes, listening to their life stories. says. Jessie McDonald from Canada arrived in China in 1913, and worked at a hospital in Kaifeng. When the Japanese took In the evenings, I doused my loneliness with liquor . . ." It was in this frame of mind that Liao met Dr. Sun in 2004. over that city, she moved the hospital to Dali, in Yunnan. She Sun had quit his position as dean of a large medical school near carried on until Communist officials seized the hospital and Shanghai to heal the sick and spread the gospel in Yunnan. forced her out of China in 1951.

60 | CONVERGE.

march

- april

2013

Photo © Elke Wetzig/CC-BY-SA

"Every inch of soil beneath my feet was red, shining under the frail winter sun, as if it had been soaked in blood." (Liao Yiwu, reflecting on trekking a narrow mountain path in Yunnan.)

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