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Posts tagged ‘China’

UMCOR moves to support local partner in China fighting coronavirus crisis

Working to support the efforts of local partners in China dealing with the Coronavirus crisis, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is issuing an emergency grant to Amity Foundation in Nanjing, China. The grant will immediately enable infection, prevention and control (IPC) measures to limit the spread of respiratory diseases such as 2019-nCoV, in affected areas.

In response to the crisis, the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency of international concern. Cases have been reported in more than 25 countries and territories worldwide.

“Since the outbreak of 2019nCoV, the Amity Foundation has been responding actively to the epidemic by purchasing needed materials for medical staff at the frontline,” She Hongyu, associate general secretary of Amity Foundation, shared in an email to UMCOR International Disaster Response (IDR) leadership. “Relief materials have been sent to a number of hospitals in Hubei Province supporting medical staff battling against the virus.”

“At Amity, our colleagues are working around the clock searching, purchasing, delivering medical supplies to protect medical staff in the most affected areas in Hubei province as well as mobilizing more resources to support our work,” Hongyu added.

“As an international disaster relief agency, the United Methodist Committee on Relief works to alleviate human suffering and we are pleased to provide much-needed assistance to the people of China who are battling this growing epidemic,” said Laurie W. Felder, MPH, director of UMCOR International Disaster Response.

“Global Ministries has been a friend of the Christian community in China for many years,” said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of Global Ministries and a leader of UMCOR. “We will do our part, however small, to help our brothers and sisters deal with this situation which has already claimed hundreds of lives.”

Amity Foundation has been a long-time partner of Global Ministries and UMCOR for many years in both disaster response and development work.

About the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)

Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian aid and development agency of The United Methodist Church. UMCOR is working in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States and its territories.

Our mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering—whether caused by war, conflict or natural disaster— with open hearts and minds to all people. UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own. UMCOR works through programs that address hunger, poverty, sustainable agriculture, international and domestic emergencies, refugee and immigrant concerns, global health issues, and transitional development.

Learn more at www.UMCOR.org, www.Facebook.com/UMCOR and www.twitter.com/UMC_UMCOR.

 

 

No Christian Funerals, Says Chinese Communist Party

Chinese funerals cannot be Christian funerals, according to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Watchdog group Bitter Winter reports that the CCP is furthering its oppression of Christianity and other beliefs by denying people the option of a religious burial. The news comes only days before the government is set to release new regulations restricting religious freedom.

“The new rules codify the Chinese Communist Party’s ideological and leadership supremacy over all religious affairs in China,” says Bob Fu, the founder and president of ChinaAid.

“From now on, the Chinese Communist Party will become the head of the churches, temples, mosques, and other religious institutions. They will dominate every sphere of religion, from religious doctrines, leadership selection, financial management, and foreign exchanges.”

Regulating Even Chinese Funerals

ChinaAid says the CCP’s new regulations on religion, set to roll out on Saturday, February 1, 2020, will “extend the Chinese leadership’s leash to carry out acts against Christians.” The regulations have six chapters and 41 articles, the fifth of which says, “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”

The CCP has been increasing persecution of believers in China, as well as its efforts to “sinicize” religion in order to make it more Chinese and less Western. These efforts are part of a five-year plan President Xi Jinping has been implementing to reshape religion in the country. The government’s actions have included getting rid of religious language in student textbooks, preventing people from purchasing the Bible online, and demolishing churches

Now, Bitter Winter has compiled reports that Chinese officials are stopping people from burying their loved ones according to their religious beliefs and forcing them only to have what authorities deem to be Chinese funerals. A county government in Zhejiang province recently adopted a set of policies called Regulations on Centralized Funeral Arrangement. The regulations, which came into effect on December 1, 2019, ban clergy from attending funerals and say that “no more than ten family members of the deceased are allowed to read scriptures or sing hymns in a low voice.” The purpose of these rules is to “get rid of bad funeral customs and establish a scientific, civilized, and economical way of funerals.”

Other local governments throughout China are imposing similar restrictions, and not just on Chinese funerals. A village official from Henan province told Bitter Winter that a document from a local government states that clergy must be “stopped from using religion to intervene in citizens’ weddings and funerals or other activities in their lives.”

Last October, Chinese authorities interrupted the Christian funeral of a woman in Hubei province (the province where the coronavirus outbreak originated) and arrested the woman’s daughter, who was praying. The daughter was released after her mother was buried without Christian rites. Officials apparently learned about the funeral because someone had informed on the family. As ChurchLeaders reported last year, people can earn substantial amounts of money for telling Chinese authorities that Christians in China are conducting “illegal religious activities.”

The government has been imposing similar restrictions on religious funerals in the country for the past several years. Said one church elder from a city in Henan province, “The government prohibits religious funerals, and doesn’t allow church choirs or orchestras to perform during them. Pastors can only sneak into believers’ homes for a hurried prayer. The situation is quite adverse, and some believers don’t even dare to accompany the deceased to the graveyard.” Authorities have also forced people to remove crosses and other religious symbols from funeral proceedings.

Persecution Roadmap

In addition to its ongoing oppression of Christians, such as Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church, and the “cultural genocide” it is conducting against the Uighur Muslims, the CCP has been implementing facial scanning technology throughout the country. The point of this technology, says Morning Star News, is to “to collect data for the purpose of establishing a ‘social credit’ system to monitor perceived loyalty and dissent.”

Open Doors president and CEO David Curry recently said, “China is creating what I believe is a ‘persecution roadmap’ against religious faith. It is the greatest threat, in my opinion, to human rights today.”

Elizabeth Kendal with the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin believes, “The days are coming when whole Christian families will find themselves unable to access not merely transport, but schools, hospitals, bank loans and jobs.”


This article was prepared by Jessica Mouser.  She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past two years. She especially enjoys evaluating how various beliefs play out within culture. When Jessica isn’t writing, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.

 

Pastor Wang Yi Sentenced to 9 Years in Chinese Prison

Wang Yi, a detained Christian pastor who’s been highly critical of religious persecution in China, was sentenced on Monday to nine years in prison.
 
In December 2018, the leader of Early Rain Covenant Church in China’s Sichuan province was arrested, along with his wife and more than 100 congregants.
 
A secret trial for Wang was held December 26, reportedly using false testimony extracted from church members through torture. The pastor’s relatives and supporters weren’t allowed to attend. Wang’s wife, Jiang Rong, was released in June after spending six months behind bars. And Early Rain elder Qin Derfu was recently sentenced to four years in prison.
 
THE CHARGES AND CONSEQUENCES
Pastor Wang, who’s also a lawyer and prominent blogger, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” (for not registering his church with the government) and “illegal trade” (for printing and selling religious materials).
 
In addition to the nine-year sentence, his political rights are suspended for three years, his books are banned, and his personal assets were confiscated, essentially resulting in a fine of $7,200 U.S. Many Early Rain congregants remain under police surveillance, and church properties have been seized.
 
Since 2018, China has cracked down on so-called house churches, requiring them to become part of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The country’s Communist Party also is conducting a sinicization campaign of Bible translations and using biometrics to track churchgoers.
 
On the latest World Watch List from Open Doors, China ranks 27th for its persecution of Christians, which has escalated under President Xi Jinping. Chinese villagers are being urged to rely on Xi rather than on Jesus.
 
On a Facebook page titled Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church, a post insists that Wang “did not commit any crime” but is facing “unjust persecutions.” It requests prayers for the pastor, for Early Rain leaders and members, and even for Chinese authorities. “May we be strong in his grace as we keep on fighting despite repeated setbacks,” it reads. “We do this to fulfill the Great Commission and to spread the gospel, that the glorious name of the triune God might be praised.”
 
HUMAN-RIGHTS GROUPS DENOUNCE SENTENCE
 
Human-rights groups—both religious and secular—are speaking out against Wang’s sentence and urging U.S. officials to condemn it and take action. “This grave sentence demonstrates [Chinese President] Xi’s regime is determined to be the enemy of universal values and religious freedom,” says China Aid President Bob Fu. “We call upon the international community to stand up to the Chinese Community Party and hold this evil regime accountable.”
 
Amnesty International calls the sentence “appalling,” saying it “makes a mockery of China’s supposed religious freedoms.” Amnesty’s Patrick Poon adds, “The message is very clear: You will be the next Wang Yi if you don’t register and follow the Communist Party’s line on religion.”
 
Based on his writings, Pastor Wang intends to stand firm, saying no authorities can make him renounce his faith in Jesus. “I will resist in meekness those who resist God,” he writes, “and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.”
 

True Jesus Church Razed to the Ground in China

true jesus churchMonths after the fact, a report has surfaced that True Jesus Church in China’s Henan province, worth about $1.4 million, has been forcibly demolished by Chinese authorities.
The report comes from the religious persecution watchdog group, Bitter Winter, and highlights the speed with which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) moves as it continues to arbitrarily wipe out places of worship across China.

“The Communist Party will resort to any means possible to achieve its goals,” a believer connected to the True Jesus Church in Henan province, told Bitter Winter. This person compared the CCP’s demolition of the church to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

Fortunately in this instance, no one was killed. However, two elderly believers were injured when they were forcibly dragged from the church property. Additionally, eight leaders of the church and 13 members were charged with committing the “unlawful detention” of the director of the Religious Affairs Bureau. These people tried to convince the director not to close the church and repurpose the building. Obviously, their pleas were ignored and the church was eventually razed to the ground. Some of those who petitioned the director were also arrested.

The Demolition of the True Jesus Church

The demolition happened in two phases. On the morning of June 22, 2019, as about 200 believers were gathered at True Jesus Church, the church’s electricity supply was suddenly cut off. Officials climbed over the church’s courtyard wall and broke the gate lock to let about 60 officials inside the church property.

Officially, the church was being charged with raising funds illegally and therefore the church building itself was deemed illegal. The director of the Religious Affairs Bureau ordered a church leader to vacate the church and said the building was to be converted into a nursing home. However, those gathered for the church meeting refused to obey. Although the officials didn’t force anyone out of the church that day, they did continue to surveil the activities of the church, including recording its services.

Then, on July 26th around 3 a.m., approximately 1,000 government employees covertly assembled at a school nearby as they planned to demolish the church. Congregants, who suspected such an action might take place, were guarding the church overnight and were present when police officers came inside. The officers dragged the congregants outside, which is when the two elderly members were injured. The police searched the church and took away a piano and four air conditioning units, while leaving other valuables inside. The crew then began demolishing the church.

It took just a few days for the crew to raze the church and plant a new lawn with saplings in its place—making the plot of land look as if nothing was there before.

The True Jesus Church Movement

The True Jesus Church in Henan province, in the town of Caidu, is part of a network of churches by the same name. The original True Jesus Church started in Beijing in 1917 by Paul Wei (also known as Wei Enbo), who was a cloth merchant that converted to Christianity.

 Bitter Winter’s article reviewing a book about the True Jesus Church contains more detail about the movement and its ongoing scuffles with the Communist Party.

The True Jesus Church does not belong to the state-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Chinese pastors of churches belonging to the TSPM have been forced to sit through lengthy training conducted by the CCP to teach them in what to say during their sermons as well as what songs to sing during services.

The training, many warn, is just instructing pastors to spread communist propaganda and to turn worship services into patriotic ceremonies. The government has also directed a new translation of the Bible which attempts to make it more sinicized.

Other churches that don’t belong to the TSPM, like Early Rain Church in Sichuan Province, are facing raids and similar claims that their buildings and gatherings are illegal.

Chinese Churches Forced to Replace 10 Commandments

Chinese officials have replaced the 10 Commandments with quotes from President Xi Jinping in just about every Three-Self church in a county of Luoyang city in Henan province. This is just another in a series of steps the government is taking to systematically destroy all of the country’s churches, one pastor told Bitter Winter, which monitors religious and human rights violations in China.

(The Three Self Patriotic Movement, 三自愛國運動). is the “united Protestant Church”, established in 1954 and strictly controlled by the CCP

It stands for Chinese Communist Party, which from 1949 controls all social and political life in China. Members of CCP should in principle be self-proclaimed atheists. The ultimate goal of CCP is suppression of religion. However, how this goal is achieved has varied during time, and after Chairman Mao’s death the CCP has acknowledged that, notwithstanding its efforts, religions may survive in China for a long time.

“>Chinese Communist Party (CPP), which appoints its leaders and pastors. It is part of the Red Market

In the terminology of sociologist Fenggang Yang, the segment of religion in China including the five associations—Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Protestant (the Three Self Church) and Catholic (the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association)—allowed by the CCP, which appoint its leaders, to operate legally, although with restrictions.

“>Red Market. The CCP’s project was, and is, that all Chinese Protestants should join this Church, but many resist and gather in House Churches

(家庭教會). Protestant Chinese Churches (some may have millions of members, so that the label house Churches may be somewhat misleading, as is the alternative translation “family churches”) that refuse to join the government-controlled Three Self Church. The majority of Chinese Protestants belong to the house churches. Part of the gray market (except those the CCP decides to label as xie jiao, thus moving them to the black market), they are increasingly persecuted under the new Regulation on Religious Affairs.

“>house churches.)

“The Communist Party’s ultimate goal is to ‘become God,’” he said. “This is what the devil has always done.”

10 Commandments Removed 

An anonymous source told Bitter Winter that after the church finally gave into the state’s demands to replace the 10 Commandments, officials still reprimanded the congregation. At the end of June, authorities told them, “The Party must be obeyed in every respect. You have to do whatever the Party tells you to do. If you contradict, your church will be shut down immediately.”

Officials have already shut down some Three-Self churches for not complying with its demands, while other congregations were told they might be blacklisted. Being blacklisted would mean the government would impose restrictions on members’ travel, future employment, and their children’s education. 

This is not the first time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has tampered with the 10 Commandments. Last December, Bitter Winter reported that 30 officials inspected a church in Dongcun (also in Henan province) and ordered the first of the 10 Commandments to be erased. This is the command saying, “You shall have no other gods before me.” According to the report, one of the officials told the offending church, “Xi Jinping opposes this statement. Who dares not to cooperate? If anyone doesn’t agree, they are fighting against the country.”

Different Varieties of Oppression

Xi Jinping has expressly stated the CCP is pursuing the sinicization of religion in China. To “sinicize” means “to make Chinese.” Per the government’s interpretation of what that means, sinicizing Christianity includes compelling churches to use a government-approved translation of the Bible, school textbook censorship that removes terms like “God” and “Bible,”  and the re-education of Chinese pastors so that their preaching complies with the wishes of the CCP. Fox News also reports that the government has banned minors from attending church, although that can be difficult to enforce.

It’s not just Christianity that the government is targeting, but any religion it perceives as a threat. In inner Mongolia, the state has eliminated writing in Arabic, as well as symbols associated with Islam, such as the moon and star and even halal symbols on grocery bags.

And this is not to mention the overt oppression that is taking place in China against Christians and other groups. The state’s persecution of Early Rain Church in Sichuan that ChurchLeaders reported on in December is a story that continues to develop. Pastor Wang Yi is still imprisoned, and an associate with ChinaAid told the Washington Examiner, “Based on past imprisonments of previous people, he is almost definitely being tortured.” This is only one example of many of how the government has been putting various levels of pressure on Chinese churches in recent months.

Furthermore, the state is committing extensive and troubling human rights violations against the Uighur people, a predominantly Muslim people group living in China. These abuses include detaining, re-educating, and at times torturing at least a million people for crimes like having “extremist thoughts.”

The Gospel Is Growing

Despite the government’s attempts to suppress the gospel, Christianity is growing in China. One group estimates that if underground Christians are taken into account, there could be close to 100 million believers in the country.

Let us continue to remember and pray for people across the world who are suffering under oppressive regimes.

 

China Bans Beijing’s Biggest House Church

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An article in Christianity Today provides a chilling tale of increasing religious persecution of Christians in China.


Beijing authorities recently threatened to close Zion Church last month after the 1,500-member congregation, one of the Chinese capital’s largest house churches, refused to install surveillance cameras in its sanctuary.

After services on Sunday, officials delivered on their threat to the unofficial Protestant congregation, which meets in a renovated hall in northern Beijing.  Zion is now banned and its religious materials have been confiscated.

Zion, the biggest house church in Beijing, has decided it will not be swayed by the ban and instead hold services outdoors.

Zion had received a letter from city authorities in April, asking the church to install 24 closed-circuit video cameras in the building for “security reasons.”

Following the church’s refusal, state security officials and police started to harass churchgoers, going as far as contacting their workplaces and asking them to promise not to go to church.

The church was in the process of being evicted from the building it occupies, despite assurances from the landlord that it could rent the facility until 2023.

Rental leases are being used as a new weapon to suppress Chinese house churches.

Pressure is applied through opaque queries of fire protection measures, by questioning the legality of printed materials used by the church, through harsh and unfair applications of business licensing requirement.  The common feature of these legal tactics is the effort to close houses of worship for ‘non-religious reasons,’ and in so doing, sidestep the accusation of suppressing religious freedom.

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s government has sought to increase control over religious affairs.

In February, revised regulations came into force on religious groups; where implemented, churches have started to face increased pressure to “sinicize”—to be “Chinese” in orientation—culturally and to be in submission to the authority of the Communist Party.

This involves burning of crosses and replacing them with the Chinese flag; showing slogans praising the Communist Party and the values of socialism in religious buildings; and taking away sacred images seen as “too Western,” according to a report by AsiaNews, referring to incidents in several provinces.

In Shangrao, a city in Jiangzi province, at least 40 churches were forced to display banners that forbid foreigners from preaching, and anyone under 18 from attending, the Catholic news site reported.

It added that in Shenyang in Liaoning province and in Xuzhou in Jiangsu province, “dozens of domestic churches have been closed … forcing communities to join the Three-Self Movement, the official government controlled Protestant community.”

Meanwhile, on August 26 the Communist Party published revised regulations for its own members, including a clause for those who are religious. 

“Party members who have religious belief should have strengthened thought education. If they still don’t change after help and education from the party organization, they should be encouraged to leave the party,” state the new rules, according to Reuters.

The rules also warn that those who attend “activities that use religion for incitement” face expulsion.


Please pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in China as they face increasing persecution.

 

Communist Officials in China Harassing, Arresting Christians on a Regular Basis

Here is an update from Susan Wright about ongoing persecution of Christians by the Chinese government.


I’ve been speaking for some time about how blessed Christians in the United States are. We are free to gather and worship with no worry or governmental interference.

I’ve also said that if the greatest attack on the American church is a coffee shop putting “Happy Holidays” on a cup, rather than “Merry Christmas,” then we have nothing to stress about.

We are not oppressed.

And yes, I do realize that leftists and humanists in this nation often attempt to challenge Christianity’s place in the public square, through lawsuits, shaming, and other misguided machinations. That is to their detriment.

They know not what they do.

Recent court cases have affirmed the First Amendment right of Christians. We have options. We can walk into a church any time the doors are open and pray. Nobody blinks an eye.

We can organize public rallies and prayer meetings, to pray for our communities and our nation. We can do this and there is no chance of government officials coming to take us away in chains. We’re not being pressured to sign on with a state-approved “religion.”

We’re not China.

The Christian Post is reporting that a Christian church in Guangzhou, Guangdong was the target of government harassment, recently, when thirty members of China’s Communist government broke in and levied heavy fines against the church for “illegally gathering.” The pastor of the church was also arrested in the incident.

“20-30 government officials broke in (to Bible Reformed Church) while I was delivering my sermon and asked us to stop gathering. They also ordered us to submit our ID cards,” Pastor Huang Xiaoning told ChinaAid, describing the June 10 incident.

Communist authorities are arguing that the building used for worship violated Article 41 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs, namely that it was not registered with the state.

Huang and three others were held and interrogated. The church was also fined what amounts to $7,685.45 in American currency.

Many Chinese Christians choose to meet in underground “house” churches, as they attempt to worship without fear of being bullied by the overreach of the Chinese government.

These are people hungry for the Word of God, so they risk it.

Pastor Huang went on to say that the Communist authorities have tried for years to crack down on his congregation, in order to pressure them to join up with the state-authorized “Three-Self Churches” network.

Another name for the Three-Self Church network is the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). It is a network of about 60,000 churches, and given its principles, is no actual Christian church, at all, but allegiance to the Communist Party and China above anything else.

The “Three-self” portion consists of “self-governance,” “self-propagation,” and “self-support.”

Western influences are rejected. The rules associated with the church are absolutely anti-Christian, as well.

For instance, the Communist Party determines who can preach and how many people can be baptized each year.

Also, preaching the resurrection or return of Jesus is forbidden. Preaching against religions that deny the deity of Christ is forbidden. Preaching against abortion is forbidden. There is no teaching that atheist Communists who die go to Hell, or that Communists are kept from Heaven. Printing Bibles is forbidden. Evangelizing is forbidden.

Government officials, teachers, police officers, and children are forbidden to be Christian.

That is the Three-Self Church network.

Pastor Huang spoke further.

“I’ve been a pastor for nearly 20 years,” Huang explained.

“I don’t [own] a car or a house. I don’t owe anything. A while ago [people] asked me, ‘Pastor Huang, aren’t you afraid of being fined?’ I answered, ‘No, I don’t have any money for them to confiscate.’ They also asked, “Aren’t you afraid of being imprisoned?’ I said that I never feared imprisonment, since I never even feared death.”

This is just what it is to be a Christian in China. Open Doors USA, a watch group that monitors Christian persecution in the world, as well as providing support for the world’s persecuted believers, has China listed as #43 in the top 50 worst persecutors of the faithful.

North Korea holds the #1 position, and has for several decades. Not surprisingly, just as it is with China, Communism and atheism are the factors behind the persecution.

In May, a pastor was detained and 200 Christians were taken away by authorities while attempting to hold a worship service in Chengdu, China, in memory of the 70,000 or so people who died during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

As The New York Times reported at the time, Protestant pastor Wang Yi and his Autumn Rain Blessing Church saw their service for the victims shut down, with officials stifling “any unapproved commemorations” of the tragedy.

Other pastors, such as Pastor Yang Hua of Living Stone Church, who was released earlier this month, have suffered torture and say they were falsely imprisoned for years.

When you weigh out our current troubles with those of nations under true persecution, there really is no comparison.

Pray for the persecuted church.

 

 

China Bans Bibles from Online Sellers Like Amazon

The following article appeared in the April 5, 2018 issue of Christianity Today:

________________________________________________________________

As atheist government pledges to promote “Chinese-style Christianity and theology,” changes at JD.com, Taobao, and Dang Dang may revive debate over Bible access.

China Bans Bibles from Online Sellers Like Amazon

Last week, Chinese social media users began noticing that they couldn’t find Bibles listed on some of their nation’s most popular e-commerce platforms.

Shoppers who searched the word Bible on retailers such as Taobao, Jingdong, Dang Dang, and Amazon.cn began receiving a “no results” response, reported the South China Morning Post.

Search analytics revealed a significant spike in the keyword Bible on March 30. But by April 1, analytics showed a zero, suggesting that the word may have been censored, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Two days before the Bibles were banned from online purchase, the Chinese government released a document outlining how it intends to promote “Chinese Christianity” over the next five years. According to the document, one of the government’s key objectives is to reinterpret and retranslate the Bible in order to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology.”

Among China’s main religions—which include Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and folk beliefs—Christianity is unique for having its holy text banned from commercial brick-and-mortar bookstores. Until the internet, Bibles could only be obtained via church bookstores (because they lacked a barcode), a reality that in the past has dissuaded house church Christians wary of official Three-Self churches from purchasing the text.

China’s Bible crackdown may renew a debate about whether Bibles should be smuggled into the world’s most populous country. As Gary Russell, now the president of China Harvest, told CT in 2010:

Amity Press Bibles are legal, authentic, and available in many areas, and have made a substantial contribution to the need. But the Amity route is limited in quantity, variety, and distribution. Editions for children and pastors have barely been addressed. And millions of Chinese still have no regular access to a Bible.

Given these realities, covertly supplying Bibles to China is not only legitimate—it is a necessary element of obedience to Christ. While civil authorities are to be honored and respected, their authority is delegated by and limited under God. Restrictions against evangelizing and providing Scripture are not legitimate, and those who love God and China serve well by increasing the country’s Bible supply.

This latest crackdown on China’s Christian community comes two months after the government began implementing a number of regulations on faith. Under these restrictions, religious groups must gain government approval for any sort of religious activity, including using one’s personal home for a religious practice, publishing religious materials, calling oneself a pastor, or studying theology.

Earlier this year, the government announced it would drop presidency term limits, effectively allowing current president Xi Jinping to serve indefinitely. Few Christians may back this development. Overall, Xi’s first (and current) five-year term has not been particularly positive for believers. A provincial government engaged in a multi-year campaign to remove crosses from the tops of churches, while Xi has suggested that religions that inadequately conformed to Communist ideals threatened the country’s government and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.”

Last fall, the Communist party reportedly visited Christian households in Jiangxi province, forcibly removing dozens of Christian symbols from living rooms and replacing them with pictures of Xi.

In the midst of these crackdowns, some Christians have still chosen to speak out against the government, said Fenggang Yang, the director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, who joined CT’s Quick to Listen podcast recently.

Yang read a social media post by a Chinese pastor angry at Xi’s term limit extension and clampdown on Christians, calling him a tyrant: “Making politics a religion is an evil act and a violation of the Ten Commandments. This will make the country once again fall into the idolatry of worshipping a person as a God. This will make the nation once again fall into sin provoking Jehovah’s wrath.”

 

China Tells Christians to Replace Images of Jesus with Communist President

Here is an alarming article from today’s Christianity Today online describing new anti-Christian measures in China.

Thousands of Christian villagers in China have been told to take down displays of Jesus, crosses, and gospel passages from their homes as part of a government propaganda effort to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party.”

 The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that Communist Party of China (CPC) officials visited believers’ homes in Yugan county of Jiangxi province—where about 10 percent of the population is Christian. They urged residents to replace personal religious displays with posters of President Xi Jinping; more than 600 removed Christian symbols from their living rooms, and 453 hung portraits of the Communist leader, according to SCMP.

The efforts were part of a government campaign to alleviate poverty in the region, since some CPC members believe families’ faith is to blame for their financial woes, according to SCMP. The poster swaps in villagers’ homes represent the party’s desire to have residents look to their leaders, rather than their Savior, for assistance.

“Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses,” the head of the government campaign told SCMP. “But we tried to tell them that getting ill is a physical thing, and that the people who can really help them are the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi.”

Though the party denies the claim, some Christians in Yugan county say they were told they would not be eligible for government assistance unless their posters were removed.

The news comes weeks after the CPC held its national congress, where Xi continued to consolidate party power and passed a historic measure to write his political philosophy into its constitution. SCMP called Xi “the country’s most powerful leader since Mao” Zedong, who also developed a personality cult through portraits in Chinese homes. The news outlet also noted Xi’s efforts to reign in the grassroots of Chinese society.

Xi continues a longstanding tradition by Chinese leaders to assert state power as an ultimate force and to reign in social movements that threaten it, according to Brent Fulton, president of ChinaSource.

Before Christians were asked to take down religious displays from their homes, the Yugan church removed its cross, as dozens of churches across Zhejiang and other Christian areas have done in recent years in order to comply with government regulations.

In September, China passed tighter restrictions regarding religious gatherings, teachings, and buildings. Though they are not slated to officially go into effect until February 2018, Christians in some provinces have already noticed a crackdown on their activity. Police detained leaders of a house church, as well as a three-year-old, who were caught singing in a public park.

In an analysis last year for CT, Fulton wrote:

The CPC’s control over religion is to be exerted not only through law, but also by reconciling religious doctrine with the party’s socialist values. While “religion serving socialism” has been in the CPC lexicon for some time, direct intervention in the beliefs and practices of individual religions—including calls for the “Sinification” of Christian theology—have become more common under Xi.

His speech directed religious groups to “dig deep into doctrines and canons that are in line with social harmony and progress … and interpret religious doctrines in a way that is conducive to modern China’s progress and in line with our excellent traditional culture.”

In an August op-ed for The New York Times, Chinese student Derek Lam called out “perverse” efforts to co-opt Christianity to endorse Xi’s political agenda.

“Judging by recent events, the party is very close to completing its mission of bringing Christianity under its thumb,” he wrote. “Although there is nothing I would love more than to become a pastor and preach the gospel in Hong Kong, I will never do so if it means making Jesus subservient to Xi Jinping.”

 

 

Chinese House Church Leaders and Toddler Arrested After Singing in Public Park

The Communist country proves that it is serious about its newest religious restrictions.  Here is an article from today’s Christianity Today by

Chinese House Church Leaders and Toddler Arrested After Singing in Public Park

Chinese officials warned Xu Shizhen in August that publicly sharing her faith puts her in violation of the government policy. It wasn’t her first run-in with authorities; five years before, her previous church was forcibly seized by officials and given to China’s official Three-Self Patriotic Movement church, according to ChinaAid.

After that, she started Zion Church. By singing, dancing, and preaching in the parks and public spaces of Xianning, Hubei province, Xu’s ministry broke the new law, which confines most faith activities to the walls of registered churches.

Last month, Xu, her daughter Xu Yuqing, and her three-year-old grandson Xu Shouwang were arrested; the two women were transferred to other facilities while the boy was held at the station. Christian advocates in China report that their exact whereabouts remain unknown.

Their detention came just two weeks after China toughened up its restrictions on religious activities.

“The new religion regulations are sweeping in scope and, if fully enforced, could mean major changes for China’s unregistered church, not only in its worship and meeting practices, but also engagement in areas such as Christian education, media, and interaction with the global church,” wrote ChinaSource president Brent Fulton.

“Yet the nature of these activities and, indeed, of much religious practice throughout China, makes enforcement extremely problematic.”

It appears enforcement, at least in Xu’s Xianan district of Xianning, is going to be strict. The regulations—which include prohibitions against publishing religious materials without approval, accepting donations without approval, or renting space an unregistered church—don’t even officially go into effect until February 2018.

Other provinces have been coming down especially hard on religious education for children. In Zhejiang province—where hundreds of crosses were torn off churches over the past several years—elementary and middle school children weren’t allowed to attend church or Sunday school this summer.

In Wenzhou, a coastal city in Zhejiang province nicknamed “China’s Jerusalem,” officials warned more than 100 churches to keep their teens home from summer camps or Sunday schools.

North of Zhejiang, officials in Henan province also forbid church summer camps, claiming the hot summer temperatures would be unhealthy for youth.

China’s young Christians drew international attention over the summer when two were killed by ISIS in Pakistan. Meng Li Si, 26, and Li Xinheng, 24, were teaching in a private school in Quetta when they were kidnapped and murdered.

Their deaths prompted scrutiny from both China and Pakistan, where interior minister Chaundhry Nisar called for a tightening of the process that issues visas to Chinese nationals.

Meng and Li were in Pakistan on business visas, two among the thousands of Chinese sent west to help build infrastructure and trade routes as part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” trade push. The initiative has already been identified by China’s Christians—who want to send out thousands of missionaries—as a natural avenue for the gospel.

Persecution of Christians – After Removing 400 Crosses, China Proposes Where Churches Can Put Them Instead

After Removing 400 Crosses, China Proposes Where Churches Can Put Them InsteadCourtesy of China Aid
Government workers remove a cross in Zhejiang city of Lishui on May 4.

Christianity Today reported this morning that days after at least a dozen crosses were forcibly removed from churches, China formally protested a United States report on its lack of religious freedom.

Now a proposal has surfaced to ban crosses entirely from the rooftops of churches in Zhejiang, one of China’s most Christian provinces.

Zhejiang cross removalImage: Courtesy of China Aid

Zhejiang cross removal

In March, a Chinese bishop reported that the government was finally halting a campaign which has removed hundreds of crosses from “China’s Jerusalem,” the coastal city of Wenzhou. (An interactive timeline was produced by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.)

But stories of more removals continued to surface. The Chinese government now says it won’t stop the campaign until 2016, according to China Aid, which has closely tracked the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign.

In fact, officials have proposed a new rule that would prevent future crosses from topping churches. According to the Associated Press:

A draft of rules on religious structures released by government agencies this week says the crosses should be wholly affixed to a building facade and be no more than one-tenth of the facade’s height. The symbol also must fit with the facade and the surroundings, the proposal says. The draft does not provide the rationale for the proposal.

Zhejiang cross removalImage: Courtesy of China Aid

Zhejiang cross removal

Last week, Zhejiang officials removed 12 crosses from churches in the city of Lishui, burning one when a removal machine malfunctioned. On Monday, the Chinese national government filed a diplomatic protest over this year’s annual report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which labeled Chinese religious freedom violations “severe” and “systematic.”

“This report … is full of political bias and makes arbitrary and unfounded criticism of China,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told news outlets in a daily briefing. She said that Chinese citizens had “ample” freedom religious freedom under law.

But USCIRF’s 2015 report noted that more than 400 Chinese churches in Zhejiang have had their crosses removed or torn down in the past year, and in some cases those who protested were arrested or imprisoned. The report also states that China designated some house churches “cults” and then issued a directive to “eradicate” them over the next 10 years. One example: more than 100 Christians were arrested during a single raid on a house church last year in Foshan City.

Zhejiang cross removalImage: Courtesy of China Aid

Zhejiang cross removal

“People of faith continue to face arrests, fines, denials of justice, lengthy prison sentences, and in some cases, the closing or bulldozing of places of worship,” the report stated. “Based on the alarming increase in systematic, egregious, and ongoing abuses, USCIRF again recommends China be designated a ‘country of particular concern.’” USCIRF recommended that China be relisted as a top offender, along with countries such as Myanmar and North Korea.

Meanwhile, China Aid’s 2014 report, released last month, said that persecution in China increased 150 percent over the course of last year, with nearly 3,000 detained and close to 1,300 sentenced.

Please remember in prayer our Christian brothers and sisters and their Churches as they continue to be persecuted in Communist China.