As of today, Dec. 3 2003, www.asianews.it can be read in English and Chinese. We are very encouraged by the success of the AsiaNews on-line edition in Italian. In the previous month of November alone, there were 150,000 visitors to our site, whose articles were diffused among major Italian press agencies. Thanks to the re-launching of our news by Catholic press agencies such as MISNA and Zenit, AsiaNews articles have also reached other parts of the globe.
The need for an English edition is evident. More than 70% of our world's communications occur in English as the lingua franca, or common language. Being able to offer AsiaNews articles in this language allows us to communicate with major English and American news publications, in addition to churches in America and Africa. Above all, it permits us to communicate with the churches in Asia which use English as an international communications tool. In this sense, AsiaNews articles on Asian ecclesial communities allows these very churches to share and know the fate and mission of their sister communities on the continent. Thus, information becomes a means of communion for them.
Yet we are even more enthusiastic about releasing our on-line edition in Chinese. We believe that this commitment is the most free-giving and missionary aspect of our news agency. It is free-giving, not only because it is economically onerous, but because it is nobly dedicated to China and her people.
Nowadays, curiosity about Christianity, the Church and pope John Paul II is widespread among the Chinese populace –above all in university environments. A sociological study conducted by China's Open University (Renmin Daxue) demonstrates that 61.5% of Peking's students are interested in Christianity and want to be believers. The majority of them search for information on the Christian faith by way of literature. Since university students have internet access, we think that AsiaNews will help them to be familiar with the impact Christianity has on Asian and Chinese society. Already many Chinese intellectuals think China can be saved by Christianity, so as not to explode into a soulless market or a dictatorship that humiliates the individual.
Hence our dedication is a missionary gesture. Among the articles we present in today's edition concerning the Peoples Republic of China are interviews with a priest who was the first ever Chinese religious to receive a doctorate since the 1950s. In addition, there is an interview with recent converts. They have all become priests and deacons and emphasize the urgent need for stable formation, an education dedicated to studying the faith on a deeper level in terms of culture adapted to Chinese customs and modern life presently invading their country.
This urgency becomes even more heightened because of two facts:
1) the Chinese government is empowering and promoting atheism in schools and the mass-media (even in television soap operas) without giving any space to religious education;
2) China's youth want to know more about Christianity, but Christians have not spread their faith to Chinese culture due to past and recent persecution. This fact often renders them silent when confronting questions about the faith.
The AsiaNews Chinese web-site serves as a means of information. Yet it is also serves as a way to make educational tips and suggestions via news, testimonials, reflections, and the words of the pope and church personalities –all of which all bolster the Church's mission in China.
We wish to place the beginning of our mission on the internet under the protection of St. Francis Xavier, whose feast day we celebrate today (Dec. 3) and who died desiring to go to China. He is the patron of foreign missions and is venerated in China and throughout Asia.
This effectiveness -at a distance- adapts well to our brand of news service, while being far yet near to the heart of the Church in China and her people.