On May 14, 2018, a new online news magazine has been launched at the International Book Fair of Torino, in Italy, Bitter Winter. The name refers both to the difficult situation of religious liberty in China and to a theme in classical Chinese painting.
The launch of Bitter Winter came at the end of FIRMA-Faiths in Tune, a five-day festival of religions and music that ran parallel with the Book Fair. At the Book Fair, two FIRMA awards were presented by an international jury, one to President Daisaku Ikeda of Soka Gakkai for his lifelong commitment to religious dialogue, and one to The Church of Almighty God, a Chinese new religious movement, for its resistance to religious persecution in China. Authorities, journalists, and a significant public attended both the festival, where The Church of Almighty God’s performers were among the most admired groups, and the award ceremony.
“This has a lot to do, commented Bitter Winter’s editor-in-chief, Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne, with our new magazine. I am a scholar of new religious movements. They are often the most persecuted groups in China and The Church of Almighty God is now the most persecuted of them all, replacing Falun Gong as the religious minority most severely targeted by the regime. While other worthy publications on China ignore the new religious movements, we will cover them together with mainline religions.”
Bitter Winter is in English, but Chinese and Korean editions will be online soon. Assistant editors of Bitter Winter are Willy Fautré, the veteran and highly respected Belgian human rights and religious liberty activist who leads Human Rights Without Frontiers in Brussels, and Rosita Šorytė, president of the International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees and former chairperson of the European Union Working Group on Humanitarian Aid. Italian journalist Marco Respinti serves as technical editor.
“What is also new in Bitter Winter, added Introvigne, is that we were able to establish a network sending news and pictures directly from China. To these unpublished news, we add a digest taken from international and Chinese media.”
Bitter Winter also publishes articles and interviews. In the first issue, the magazine publishes an interview with Father Bernardo Cervellera, the leading Catholic expert of China. He explains that the agreement between Holy See and China, much rumored about in the last months, is not being signed due by resistances within the Chinese regime. He also believes that claims that the agreement would be signed soon were spread by factions within both the Vatican and the Chinese Communist establishment favorable to it, while other factions are hostile.