‘The Chinese are not the virus, we face this epidemic like everyone else’
Pastors of the Chinese Christian Church in Spain explain how they handle the Covid-19 crisis. “At work, we notice discrimination. Many think that the Chinese are carriers of the virus”.
Protestante Digital · BARCELONA · 10 MARCH 2020 · 15:04 CET
As soon as the narrow shutter opens, a wider hall appears. The distribution, certainly labyrinthine, continues through a corridor that leads to a spacious auditorium with wooden benches and a glazed nursery with one of those children's floor mats that simulate the road plan of an imaginary city.
We are in the premises that the Chinese Christian Church in Spain has in a district of Barcelona.
The church has 34 communities throughout Spain, with more than 7,000 members.
In this local church alone, more than 350 people gather each week, in the two worship services they celebrate on Sunday mornings and in the afternoon.
An informative poster about the basic measures of hand hygiene at the entrance of the premises, and a table with a box of latex gloves, another of masks and some bottles of alcohol, bring the reality of the coronavirus epidemic inside church.
We are meeting the President of the Chinese Christian Church in Spain, Zhengbo Chen, the pastor of the local community, Koikam Fu, the pastor of another Chinese church in Barcelona, Rongen Li, and Rebecca Sun, who translates the conversation.
“Knowing that this virus is very contagious and dangerous, we are very cautious and have taken all kinds of prevention measures”, says Chen.
PRUDENCE, HUMILITY AND FAITH
In addition to preventive hygiene, this church have also voluntarily decided that the people of the congregation who have traveled to China recently do quarantine.
“Being Chinese, we are afraid of the coronavirus, and non-believers even more. Because of security issues, the unity in the churches is not so firm at the moment”, Fu explains.
The virus not only affects “Chinese businesses in Spain”, which represent the source of income for a large part of the community. But it has also affected “the relationship with people who are not part of the church”.
“On the one hand, many Chinese believe that it is necessary to wear masks, to protect us and prevent the spread of the epidemic, but many Spaniards do not think alike, so we do not know what to do”, the pastor says.
Additionally, “unbelievers see that we still hold our Sunday meetings, and for them it is just a group of Chinese people gathering together, which they see it as dangerous, and criticise it”, he underlines.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, up to six communities of the Chinese Christian Church in Spain have stopped to celebrate their services in person, and now celebrate online services, says Rongen Li, pastor in another congregation in Barcelona. The crisis “has also decreased attendance in churches that continued to offer face-to-face meetings”, he adds.
The president of the community, Zhengbo Chen, points out that “from the experience of China, we know that the infection and toxicity of this virus are more potent than the common flu - we should not take it lightly. In China, emphasising prevention is better than treating”.
However, “Christians must keep humility, prudence and faith. We will continue to remind the brothers and sisters of the church to take the necessary precautions and we hope that the Spanish government will take more precaution”.
“WE ARE WORRIED THAT SPAIN WILL BECOME A SECOND ITALY”
The Chinese Christian Church in Spain also considers that the Spanish government's attitude “has been lighter” and they don't know “if the health system is prepared to face a crisis of the Covid-19”.
“Italy has become the center of the epidemic in Europe. We are worried that Spain will become a second Italy. The number of people diagnosed in Spain is rising every day and the Chinese are not the origin or focus of the outbreak”, says Chen.
The Chinese Christian Church in Spain has also observed that the Chinese population in Spain is moving, due to the uncertainty.
“I know Chinese students who have put their studies on hold, taken a plane and returned to China, because of the lack of knowledge about the capacity of the Spanish Health System. We don't know the virus and the reality of this disease”, Rebecca Sun points out.
Chen recalls that “the outbreak coincided with the Chinese new year, which is a special and important date for our culture. Families meet at those parties to spend a vacation enjoying moments together. I can't think of the pain of people who have lost loved ones during this epidemic”.
“The church must be a priest, stand up for forgiveness and the healing of this world. It must be like a prophet, pointing to sin and leading the world to repentance and conversion”, Chen adds.
“PEOPLE LOOK AT US”
Our meeting with some leaders of the Chinese Christian Church in Spain, comes shortly after hearing about a young man from Singapore who was beaten in London. His assailants shouted: “I don't want your coronavirus in my country”.
According to Sun, “when we go to work, we notice discrimination. People look at us. Many think that the Chinese are carriers of the virus. There has always been racism, suspicious looks, insults, negative comments. Those who are racist, will always be, and the coronavirus is just one more excuse”.
“I used to wear a mask because pollen affects me, but now I don't dare to wear it. Talking about the situation with people close to us, we laugh because we have realised that we have begun to hold back the urge to cough or sneeze when we are on the street, especially in the subway. We endure with itchy throat, so that nobody is alarmed”, he explains.
When we go out again, some pedestrians seems surprised to see a Caucasian shaking the hand of four Asians.
This article is the first in a series of reports about the Chinese Christian Church in Spain.