Nora Connor: In 2008 the Chinese government recognized the annual Qingming festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, as a national holiday. Fifty-plus years of dormancy and state denunciation of the practice as superstitious apparently did little to erode the Chinese desire to honor the ancestors, and four years in the official holiday is creating epic traffic jams, and generating beautiful photographs.
An Indian court sentenced 18 Hindu men to life imprisonment for their role in the 2002 Gujarat state sectarian mob violence which resulted in 23 Muslim deaths. Seven Iranian Bahai leaders passed 10,000 days in prison for “spreading corruption” in the form of the Bahai faith.
There’s been a spike in both hunger strikes and self-immolation as protest against persecution—much of it religiously based. These forms of protest frame an oppression as so severe that the only answer is to articulate the very limits of the oppression itself. I’m also reminded that this is a very old use of the body , as with this example from Buddhist history:
Most of the protesters have been members of the Buddhist clergy…The latest were two monks, aged 21 and 22, on Friday. For Buddhists, as most Tibetans are, burning the body is seen as a selfless act of sacrifice, especially in defense of religion, and it carries a resonant history. In the 6th century, the Chinese monk, Dazhi, used a red-hot iron and a knife to burn and then peel the flesh from an arm then removed the bones and set them on fire to protest limits on the Buddhist community ordered by a Sui dynasty emperor, said James Benn, author of “Burning for the Buddha,” a book about Buddhist self-immolation.
The preponderance of religious imagery connected with the Latin American illegal commodities trade has been noted in noted by the press and law enforcement for years now. With last month’s arrest in Mexico of a family suspected of sacrificial murder, RD’s Joseph Laycock observes, Santa Muerte, or “Saint Death,” beloved of narcotraffickers and the poor, may be poised to infiltrate yet another economy—that of the broad circulation of social fear, in service of various political agendas:
Mexico may have experienced its own “Manson moment” last month when eight devotees of “Santa Muerte” were arrested for the murder of three people, allegedly as human sacrifices. While the media has been fairly restrained in covering this event, these murders will likely have lasting consequences for alternative religion in North America. Like the Manson murders, the Santa Muerte murders present a concrete instance of violence that can be used to support much broader claims about the dangers of the religious and cultural Other.