Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CHINA ASCENDANT -- PERSECUTION INTENSIFYING

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 031 | Wed 18 Nov 2009

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CHINA ASCENDANT -- PERSECUTION INTENSIFYING
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By Elizabeth Kendal

As US President Obama visited China this week, Chinese church leaders hoped he would raise the issue of religious persecution with their government, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, the US is desperate for Chinese co-operation on climate change, global economics, trade and nuclear proliferation. Therefore the US was not going to risk offending China by criticising its human rights, especially when the UN's Human Rights Council has already affirmed China's human rights as 'on track'. Furthermore, when it comes to quid pro quo politics, human rights are the usual currency and totalitarian regimes know well how to extract maximum price. Emboldened by its sense of ascendancy, the Chinese government will no doubt increasingly oppose anything it deems threatening. Repression and persecution are likely to intensify.

At around 3 am on 13 September, a 400-strong mob in police uniforms invaded the 'Good News Cloth Shoes Factory', meeting place of the Linfen Christian Church in Linfen City, Fushan, in the north China Shanxi Province. Bulldozers were used to demolish structures on the site as the pack -- armed with bricks, bats, bars, pikes and shovels -- beat church members sleeping there. The devastation was total. Everything of any value was 'confiscated' (looted). Around 100 believers were injured. Several who were bleeding heavily were treated in the hospital emergency department and those who were unconscious were admitted. By noon, thousands of church members had gathered at the site. Shocked and filled with indignation and grief, they prayed to God for justice (see http://shanxifushan.ning.com/ ). According to Compass Direct about 5,000 of the 50,000-member Linfen House Church network had worshipped there weekly. China Aid Association (CAA) reports that some '30 daughter churches in nearby townships' are also prohibited from gathering for worship. According to CAA, the destruction of the Linfen church was authorised not by local authorities but by the central government in Beijing.

Then on Friday 25 September, nine Fushan Church leaders, including Pastor Yang Rongli, were kidnapped by Shanxi authorities while en route to Beijing where they had hoped to petition the central government for justice. Pastor Yang has been charged with illegal activities because for years the church she leads has 'sent missionaries, appointed pastors, set up fellowship sites, and organised large conferences [...] and besieged government officials with requests'. According to the authorities these 'illegal' activities 'disturbed the social order and are very harmful to social stability'. The church also 'illegally shared the gospel with the young . . . which violated the Constitution, Education Law and Regulations on Religious Affairs'.

What unsettles the government is the growth in unregistered fellowships (i.e. those not under CCP control). No longer are they just small groups shut away in apartments. Increasingly they are very large, public and active fellowships. In preparation for President Obama's visit, large unregistered fellowships in Shanghai and Beijing were targeted. On Sunday 2 November, Shanghai's 2000-member Wanbang Missionary Church was ordered to close down. When the believers continued to meet, the persecution grew more intensive. The church's communications were cut and every member was interrogated, fingerprinted and forced to promise not to gather on Sunday 15 November, the day President Obama arrived in Shanghai. Seven Shanghai pastors have been declared criminals. In Beijing, government intervention led to the Shouwang congregation losing its place of worship in Huajie Plaza. Undeterred, about 800 members gathered on 1 November and worshipped together in a park in the snow for 2 hours! This unsettled the authorities so much the government provided the Shouwang congregation with a university auditorium for worship on 15 November -- but placed its preachers under house arrest.

The Exodus was a divine work of God in fulfilment of a promise, which occurred at God's appointed time and was enabled through his divine provision. May the Chinese Church, in her longing for freedom, never lose the vision of her deliverance coming in God's way and time.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will bless the efforts of all those who are faithfully promoting religious freedom in China, especially courageous Chinese nationals -- pastors, lawyers, writers and others -- who risk being beaten, imprisoned and 'disappeared' for their efforts. 'The king's heart is a stream in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.' (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

* the Church will resist all temptation to secure God's blessings through 'the flesh' (Galatians 4:23) and will stay prayerful, obedient and faithful amidst trial, for the glory of God.

* all Christian pastors and religious liberty advocates suffering 'reform through labour' in over 900 state-run slave labour camps (laogai) will know the sustaining grace of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9); may God provide them and their families with spiritual comfort and strength, and all their earthly needs.