Reporters on the Job

Blasé Diners: It is perhaps illustrative of the tensions in Kirkuk, Iraq, that no one seems to pay any attention to the active insurgency here, says correspondent Nicholas Blanford. Although Iraqi policemen are often killed and wounded by insurgents, most people are more concerned at the tensions between the Kurds and Turkmens. "While I was eating dinner in my hotel restaurant for two consecutive nights, the insurgents shelled a US military base at the airport," Nick says. "The loud crump of exploding mortars or rockets made no impression on the other diners, who were more interested in discussing the latest political developments in the city."

New Foundations: An official invitation to visit the sites of where two Christian churches will be built in Beijing was enough of a novelty to prompt two busloads of foreign journalists to sign up, says the Monitor's Robert Marquand.

Chinese officials were eager to show their openness to Christianity. "Our handlers went out of their way to tell us that not only is religious freedom expanding in China but it had never been lost, except during the Cultural Revolution," says Bob.

Still, tensions over Christian worship in China were evident. "We met the head pastor of the Beijing Christian Council, and he was asked about the arrest of a church historian, Liu Fenggang, who had been arrested in Hangzhou last month. His response was less than friendly. It underscored the fact that there's still animosity between the official and unofficial practices of Christianity here."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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