Country in Spotlight:
China under Persecution
Just two weeks ago, Preacher Wu Wuqing and his wife were being locked inside their home, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, with the main exit chained and guarded. From June 8, visitors have been prevented from visiting their home as new orders were enacted for the guards. Again, just last month another Pastor, Yang Hua, of a house church in China’s southwest Guizhou Province, was hospitalised after being detained and brutally beaten by Chinese Communist Party authorities as he planned to visit Christians in Qingdao.
This persecution is particularly harsh for those who publicly proselytise their Christian faith. It is the Chinese Communist Party who controls public religious matters in the country. Churches are monitored and occasionally shut down at the local and national level when they are deemed to be operating outside the rules or venturing into political policy. There is a strong surveillance culture with restrictions on personal confidentiality. As such, Christians feel constrained in their religious freedoms.
There has also been an increase in raids and harassment in the past year. Thousands of churches have been damaged or destroyed in a campaign that has spread to almost every region of the country. Churches are now being pushed to incorporate communist ideology and “Sinicization”* in their theology and religious observance. Crosses have been removed from churches and replaced with pictures of Xi Jinping. Bible sales have been restricted, even online. Effectively, the public presence of the church is being pushed to become an agent of the state, promoting communist ideology and nationalism above religious creed or deity. It seems that the new pressures of the current political rulers is an effort to consolidate power and curb social unrest. It is based upon a two-fold strategy of suppressing non-traditional or ‘foreign’ religions while promoting traditional faiths. The first part of its strategy is rooted in the party’s deep-seated fear that religious individuals could form allegiances to authorities outside the state’s control.
It is not surprising then, that an estimated one-half to two-thirds of Protestant Christians worship in underground congregations, primarily in house churches. If authorities become aware of these gatherings it may result in aggressive persecution of those who choose to worship in these groups. House churches are regularly raided, church leaders increasingly detained at police stations and/or imprisoned, and laypeople intimidated for practicing their faith outside the narrow confines established by the government. Elderly Christians can even have their government assistance taken away for professing their faith. There are also reports that citizens can be financially rewarded for sharing information on Christians to the authorities.
Though secrecy and security is a big issue with these believers, many are faithfully following Christ in their lives and reaching out relationally to their neighbours and extended family. Many, many people are coming to faith in Christ and being discipled. So, in spite of the public resistance, we may be praying as Jesus said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.’ May these faithful believers, while unable to practice their faith freely, leaven the culture with the values of the kingdom of God.
*In its academic sense, ‘sinicization of religion’ refers to the indigenisation of religious faith, practice, and ritual in Chinese culture and society.