Washington: The trade war that Donald Trump has initiated with China by imposing massive tariffs on the Chinese products has upset one of his core support bases, the influential church community, that fears the US President’s import duties would increase the cost of the Bible in America. The US and China have been locked in a bruising trade war since Trump imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items from China in March last year, a move that sparked fears of a global trade war. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: London Trump has already imposed 25 per cent tariffs on USD 250 billion in Chinese imports and China has retaliated with tariffs on US goods. In response, China imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars worth of American imports. The church community is up in arm against President Trump as his import duties on Chinese products will increase in the United States the cost of the holy Bible, which is significantly imported from China. According to Congressman Josh Harder, more than half of the Bibles produced in the world originate from China. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassador “The recently proposed tariffs on an additional USD 300 billion in Chinese goods, including printed materials, could have significant negative effects on our religious groups, churches, schools, ministries, and nonprofit organisations,” Harder said. “More than half of the Bibles printed in the world originate in China due to the unique paper and technologies required,” he said. Unless the Bibles are excluded from the tariffs, churches, religious schools and other organisations would be forced to pay more for the scripture, he said. “I don’t think the president planned to add an extra tax on Bibles, but that’s the practical effect these tariffs would have, and that would make connecting with scripture more difficult for our Christian communities,” Harder said. “We need all of these trade wars to end, but in the meantime, we can’t allow our congregations to become collateral damage,” he added, after he wrote a letter to Trump. The Congressman urged the President to exempt the Bibles printed in China from import duty. In the letter dated June 25, the Congressman from California expressed his concern regarding tariffs on printed books which would amount to a “Bible tax”. If printed books, including the Bibles, are not removed from the list of products that could be impacted by tariffs, consumers and religious groups will be forced to pay higher prices for their Bibles, Harder said. “While I do not believe this was an intended policy aim, the outcome would be harmful to our religious communities who rely on these sacred texts. I respectfully request that you reconsider the proposed tariffs for books and Bibles,” the Congressman said. Christian publishers and Bibles societies in the US depend on the capacity and expertise of printers in China to help supply the 20 million Bibles bought each year by Americans, said Stan Jantz, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. “A Bible tax would mean fewer Bibles at much higher prices would be available to people who depend on the Bible for their daily spiritual nourishment,” Jantz said. A 25 percent tariff imposed on Bibles would cause a hardship for many publishers, Jantz said. “There will be significant damage to Bible accessibility if Bibles and books are not excluded from the tariffs. Some believe such a tariff would place a practical limitation on religious freedom. For sure we know that competitive options for printing Bibles outside of China are limited, especially if the current average price of a Bible is to be maintained,” he said. According to Mark Schoenwald, president of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, the Trump administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on the publishing industry generally, and that it never intended to impose a “Bible Tax” on consumers and religious organisations. HarperCollins owns Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, two of the largest Bible producers in the United States. “If printed books, including the Bibles are not removed from the fourth list of products from China to be subject to tariffs and the tariffs go into effect, publishers will reduce investment in their businesses, consumers and religious organisations will face higher prices, and churches, schools, ministries, and nonprofit organisations will have fewer resources to educate others and connect them with the Holy Bible,” Schoenwald said in a statement. One of the most critical issues facing the book publishing industry is the strong possibility that a tariff of up to 25 per cent will be placed on goods imported from China, including books and the Bibles. As such Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) has expressed its concerns to the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Books and the Bibles should be exempted from the Chinese tariff, he argued in a testimony before the USTR this week. Schoenwald and ECPA board member Paul Hendrickson, general manager of Hendrickson Publishers also gave testimonies. The ECPA said a large number of Bibles well over 50 per cent – were printed in China. While there are some domestic Bible options available, the US printers comparable to China on price and quality do not have the capacity to meet the current demand. The same can be said for four-colour books printed in China.
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AUDIO: In her call to the authorities on World Press Freedom Day, Sheila Keetharuth, a UN investigator, said the more than decade-and-a-half long detention of journalist Dawit Isaac in Eritrea must end. Credit: UN News In a “post-truth” world with “fake news” on the rise, and media accountability and credibility falling under question, free, independent and professional journalism has never been more important, the United Nations today said.“We need leaders to defend a free media. This is crucial to counter prevailing misinformation. And we need everyone to stand for our right to truth,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message to mark World Press Freedom Day. This year’s theme highlights media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies and builds on the theme ‘Critical Minds for Critical Times.’ The 2017 commemoration comes at a time when “free, independent and pluralistic media has never been so important to empower individual women and men, strengthen good governance and the rule of law, and take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) said in a statement.The agency is also tasked with defending press freedom and the safety of journalists, and is spearheading the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.“Far too often, murder remains the most tragic form of censorship,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in her message on the Day, noting that 102 journalists were killed in 2016. She noted that “facing a crisis of audience identity, journalism stands before a horizon where old challenges are merging with new threats,” which include the Internet’s blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial material, businesses pushing for profits and private censorship. RELATED: UNESCO award for Dawit Isaak ‘sign of hope’ to free imprisoned Eritrean journalistIn her message, Ms. Bokova cited Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist assassinated in 1986, whose name was lent to the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. He wrote: “Only the independence, the character, the objectivity and the good judgment of the journalist and the media can overcome the terrible storms of the new world that threaten freedom of information everywhere.” Ms. Bokova noted those words, written two years prior to his death, “continue to resonate today, 33 years later.” She called for “original, critical and well-researched journalism, guided by high professional, ethical standards and a quality media education” and for audiences who “have the right media and information literacy skills.” VIDEO: “Defend those that give voice to the voiceless” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres on World Press Freedom Day 2017.Press Freedom is marked annually on 3 May. UNESCO’s main celebration of this year’s edition of the Day will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 1 to 4 May.The programme of the four-day conference has been designed to raise awareness of the importance of free and fact-based journalism in promoting peace and justice, and supporting the efficiency, accountability and inclusiveness of institutions, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs). The event is organized with the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Press Council.During the event, Ms. Bokova will award the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Dawit Isaak, the imprisoned Eritrean-born journalist who will be represented by his daughter, Bethelem Isaak, during a ceremony hosted by Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia. In Geneva, a UN human rights expert welcomed the granting of the prize to Mr. Isaak, and urged Eritrea to free him. “The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, in a new release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). A special event will be held at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday.