Nun Helps Gay Community in Shenyang

Here’s a glimpse of one nun’s work with HIV positive men and women in Shenyang of the Liaoning Province from Mother Jones. Sister Fabian Han Fengxia leads a program unique in its work with the gay community because it is through the Catholic church.

The gray plaza in front of Shenyang’s century-old gothic cathedral is largely abandoned on this Sunday morning, the church’s twin spires separated from a bustling shopping district by a crusty wrought-iron fence that does nothing to keep out the thump of Chinese hip-hop blaring from nearby storefronts. From a bunker-like convent beside the cathedral, the Catholic seat of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, a nun in a calf-length habit rushes toward me. Sister Fabian Han Fengxia, 36, wears wire-rimmed glasses and a shiny silver medallion that signifies her place among the diocese’s community of 93 nuns. “We are very busy these days,” she says, firmly shaking my hand. “Many new clients.”…

While it’s not unusual for the Catholic church to assist HIV-infected men and women—according to the Pontifical Council on Health Care, Catholic organizations provide a quarter of HIV-related services worldwide—it’s quite unique that a church should work so closely with an organized gay community. Such alignments are rare in other parts of the world, where Rome’s canonical view of homosexuality as “contrary to the natural law” often sets the agenda. Yet in China, where the church was persecuted and cut-off from mainstream Catholicism for more than half of the last century, a more progressive and independent perspective has arisen. Fabian is certainly aware of Rome’s views. But she says she is unmoved by the prejudices of others. “We help whoever needs our help,” she says. “We don’t differentiate between gay men and poor farmers.”

February 14, 2008 12:33 AM
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Categories: Society