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Shanxi government desecrated the resting place of 20 missionaries, who worked and died in China nearly a century ago, and destroyed a house for visiting believers.
(Bitter Winter) by Zhang Feng — Protestant missionary Verner Wester and his six family members were buried nearly a century ago in the Swedish missionary cemetery in Xiezhou town, administered by the Yanhu district of Yuncheng, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi. He was a member of the Swedish Mission in China (Svenska Missionen i Kina (SMK)), who lived in China from 1903 to 1930.
SMK missionaries established their first mission station in Yuncheng in 1888 and later expanded to other areas in Shanxi and adjoining provinces of Henan and Shaanxi. Through their charitable work building schools and hospitals, which residents could use for free, the missionaries played an important role in the areas’ development and led numerous locals to Christianity.
“Swedish missionaries bought a plot in Yuncheng’s Xiezhou town cemetery for themselves,” an elderly Christian from Yuncheng told Bitter Winter. “This meant that they devoted their hearts, souls, and entire lives to China.”
Earlier this year, the Church of Christ’s Family (基督家園教會), a local house church established in 2008, ordered to make gravestones for the 20 Swedish missionaries in the Xiezhou cemetery. The Church also established contacts and communicated with Verner Wester’s granddaughter Mick Lidbeck, who recounted her grandfather’s story in the book Min farfar i Kina (My Grandfather in China).
In a short time, the cemetery started attracting Christians who came to pay respects to the missionaries and pray. To accommodate them, the Church of Christ’s Family renovated an old four-room house near the cemetery and displayed a series of photographs depicting missionaries’ work in China. The move immediately drew the local government’s attention.
At six in the morning on September 12, the Yanhu district government dispatched over 100 special police and public security officers and personnel from various government institutions to block the street leading to the cemetery. Onlookers trying to take photos were threatened and told to leave immediately, as an aerial drone hovered above them, observing the scene.
About two hours later, three excavators were brought in to destroy the Swedish missionaries’ gravestones and the adjoining house as “illegal constructions.” To conceal the demolition, government-hired personnel planted vegetation atop the ruins overnight.
A government insider revealed that all villagers living near the cemetery were summoned to the local police station prior to the demolition, and their cellphones were confiscated to prevent information leaks. Heads of the Church of Christ’s Family and directors of several church venues were lured to neighborhood committees and put under control. Their cellphones were also confiscated. The Church of Christ’s Family was blacklisted and targeted for priority surveillance because of contacts with Verner Wester’s family in Sweden.
Ironically, or maybe intentionally, four months before the gravestones were destroyed, the Yanhu district government opened an exhibition of old photographs depicting Swedish missionaries’ activities in China for over ten decades. In an article dedicated to the show, Sweden is hailed as a world leader “in the fields of innovation, green development, and environmental protection.” “With the predestined relationship between Sweden and China, which was established by Yuncheng city and over 100 Swedish missionaries in China one hundred years ago,” the article states, “we will surely be able to complement each other’s strengths, integrate deeply, and promote the development of both countries.”
In reality, however, bulldozing the gravestones of those who built this “predestined relationship” speaks to the contrary. Which “strengths” is the CCP going to complement? Clearly, not democratic values, respect for human rights and religious liberties.
“The CCP portrays missionaries in a negative light, depicting them in films and novels as spies cooperating with imperialist countries to invade China,” a member of the Church of Christ’s Family commented. “Believers renovated the cemetery to show their positive influence, but the CCP can’t tolerate that the missionaries’ Christian spirit will spread across China. Missionaries’ gravestones can be demolished, but their spirit has been deeply rooted in our hearts and inspired generations of believers.”
More warnings coming out of China. (Bitter Winter) The story in John 8 is presented to Chinese students as one where the Savior waits for the Pharisees to leave, then stones the adulterer himself.
Every Christian knows the story. It is told in the Gospel of John, 8:3–11. “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” Jesus at first ignored them, but then told the Pharisees, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Since they knew they were not without sin, “they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.” Jesus said to her, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’”
It is a powerful story about mercy and forgiveness. Jesus does not condone the sin, but forgives the sinner with his divine authority. Mercy and forgiveness, however, are unknown to the CCP. Perhaps in anticipation of the future promised “sinicization” of the sacred scriptures of all religions, a textbook published by published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press for teaching “professional ethics and law” in secondary vocational schools tells a different version of the story, as revealed by UCA News.
Here is how the textbook presents the story of the woman taken in adultery: “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’”
Christians in China are protesting against a textbook making Jesus a sinner and a killer. Actually, however, the incident is subtler than that. It is not, or not mostly, about painting a negative image of Jesus. It is about the CCP itself. Many CCP bureaucrats, judges, and police officers are notoriously corrupted. Yet, the story teaches that they should be obeyed. If “sinners” would be prevented from “executing the law,” including administering the capital punishment with or without due process, “the law would be dead.”
As told to Chinese students, the story teaches that the law and the Party are good and pure, and transcend the impure human beings who happen to represent them.
Even if the officers are corrupted, their decision should be accepted—because, honest or corrupted, they represent the Party, and the Party’s law should never be questioned.
This is standard CCP theory, but totally distorts the meaning of Jesus’ teaching in John 8. Mobilizing Jesus for the CCP propaganda is blasphemous and offensive to Christians. Yet, we can expect more such distortions as religious scriptures are gradually “sinicized.”
CHINA — “According to several shop assistants, the venues’ managers were demanded to arrange spaces according to the Mao-era style. The site’s administration even provided all statues and portraits of Mao Zedong. All employees must swear allegiance to the CCP in front of the Mao Zedong statue every Monday morning.” Read more
Some state-run churches were allowed to reopen in China after a 5-month lockdown. But only after proving their loyalty to the Communist Party.
(Bitterwinter) The Lishiting Catholic Church in the Shunhe district of Kaifeng, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan, reopened on June 14, after staying closed for five months. “We solemnly raise the national flag here today after the epidemic, witnessing the fruits of all people working together under the leadership of Xi Jinping who directs the government and the Party,” a priest told a gathering of about 20 people, supervised by government officials.
The Gangxi Christian Church in the district was also reopened at 8 o’clock that same morning. “The church finally reopened after five months, 147 days, or 21 Sundays, but instead of singing hymns to praise God, the government required us to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem, praising Xi Jinping’s ‘victory in fighting the epidemic,’” a congregation member commented. “This is completely contrary to our belief.”
Some state-run places of worship were allowed to reopen in June, long after other public venues in China returned to normal after coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. But only those who commit to endorsing patriotism are permitted to open their doors to congregations.
The Two Chinese Christian Councils in Henan, Zhejiang, and other provinces demanded that on the relaunch day, churches must promote patriotism, raise the national flag, sing the country’s anthem, and tell believers “moving stories about China’s battle with the pandemic.”
At 7 a.m. on June 13, over 20 clergy members of the Quannan Church, the largest Christian church in Quanzhou city in the southeastern province of Fujian, held a flag-raising ceremony in its courtyard. An eye-catching slogan promoting the core socialist values was posted on the wall behind the flagpole. (see top photo, Quannan Christian Church)
That day, under the supervision of officials from the city’s United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau, the church pastor praised President Xi Jinping’s achievements in fighting the epidemic.
“We should love the socialist system and the Communist Party,” he said, going on to promote the “superiority of the socialist system” and criticizing the United States for its efforts battling the pandemic.
“The United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau demand to hold flag-raising ceremonies and promote patriotism,” a church member commented. “From now on, all churches have to do so, or they will be shut down, and their leaders dismissed.”
A preacher from Henan’s Zhumadian city told Bitter Winter that before his church reopened, he had to attend a conference organized by the local Two Chinese Christian Councils. Participants had to study Xi Jinping’s major speeches on preventing and controlling the coronavirus outbreak and listen to “heroic stories of fighting the epidemic.”
“The government demands to promote these things to congregations after churches reopen,” the preacher explained. “These texts are published in a booklet, over 100 pages long. Preachers must mainly talk about the state’s policies. Those who disobey will be arrested.”
A pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church thinks that the requirement to raise the national flag and promote patriotism on the day churches reopen is aimed at “disturbing the minds of believers to transform their ideologies and change the essence of their beliefs.” He is concerned that the CCP will further intensify its control over people of faith through patriotic education and indoctrination.
“Its ultimate goal is to make all people believe in communism only, to ‘sinicize’ Christianity,” the pastor added, calling on believers to “stand guard against the CCP’s vicious intentions, not to become prisoners of communism.”
“Three-Self churches should follow the path of house churches and hold meetings in secret, to avoid being controlled by the CCP and save their pure faith,” the pastor concluded.
VOP NOTE: In a repeat of history, the Chinese government has been implementing tactics to remove not only Christianity but all religion from society. Pressure is being put on Chinese citizens to pledge allegiance and have faith solely in President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China.
Threatening and intimidating Muslims, the CCP implemented forced rectifications of mosques in Hui-populated areas in Henan, Hebei, and Ningxia. According to an imam from Shangqiu city, five mosques were forcibly rectified in the city’s Minquan county in April, following the central government’s orders to “sinicize” over 1,000 mosques across the province. Mosques in Bodang township’s Zhaizhuang village and Huji township’s Zhangzhuang village were among the targeted places of worship. The imam added that officials threatened to arrest anyone who dared to protest or oppose the state’s policies.
“The state won’t allow temples to spring up all over the country,” a government employee from the southeastern province of Jiangxi told Bitter Winter. “Religion is certainly restricted in China. People can believe in nothing other than the Communist Party, which will resolutely crack down on anything not supported by it.”
The Chinese government is expanding the scope of crackdowns on religions by stifling businesses that produce religious items.
Quyang county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Baoding in the northern province of Hebei, is renowned across China for stone carving crafts. During the reign of the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), Emperor Wu (157 BC-87 BC) named the area the “carving town.” Religious statues made in the county are sold all over China and also in Taiwan, but amid the CCP’s campaigns against people of faith, even those who make religion-related items are not spared.
(Bitter Winter) By Even though China’s economy has been severely affected by the coronavirus, and many residents suffer financial difficulties, the CCP threatens to take away the last means of survival from elderly believers—government-issued subsidies. To keep them, they must stop believing in God.
A Catholic from Fuzhou city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi has been receiving monthly 250 RMB (about $ 35) from the government since 2018, the year her husband died. At the end of 2019, local government officials threatened the woman, in her 60s, that the subsidy would be withdrawn unless she removes images of Jesus from her home. “Because the Communist Party feeds you,” they told the woman, “you must only believe in it, not God.” Two months later, the pension was canceled because she refused to remove the symbols.
“It has become difficult to maintain belief in God because of religious persecution,” the woman told Bitter Winter helplessly.
On April 30, community officials in Fuzhou forced to cover up a cross image in the home of an 80-plus-year-old Christian, threatening to scrap her subsistence allowance otherwise.
In late April, the Fuzhou city government intensified religious investigations through “return” inspections—visits to the places that have previously been stifled to make sure that people don’t resume practicing their faith. During one of them, Civil Affairs Bureau officials threatened a Sola Fide believer in a nursing home, who has been paralyzed for eight years, to drive him out of the residence if he continued his belief. His “five-guarantees”—government aid in the form of housing, food, clothing, medical care, and funeral expenses to people who cannot work and have no income—would also be revoked. Officials tore down images of Jesus in his room already last autumn.
“The officials said that I am supposed to believe in the Communist Party since it feeds me, or else all my social benefits would be canceled,” the believer said. “I won’t give up my faith no matter how the government pursues me. If it cancels my benefits, I will meet God earlier.”
On January 19, officials from Jiangxi’s Yingtan city deprived a local Christian of her government aid for hosting religious meetings at home, even though the woman was immobile from an illness. In March, officials from the city’s Yujiang district destroyed religious calendars in the homes of two believers who receive government benefits.
On January 23, Taian city officials in the eastern province of Shandong harassed a Catholic, in her 70s, because of religious symbols in her home. The woman told Bitter Winter that they told her to replace the tokens with portraits of Xi Jinping or Mao Zedong since “she lives on the Communist Party’s welfare,” which might be canceled if she didn’t listen to them.
“By forcing me to remove the portrait of the Lord Jesus, the government tried to stop my belief in God, but they cannot take away my belief from my heart,” she said.
In late April, officials from Heze city’s Cao county in Shandong destroyed crosses and other religious symbols in the homes of several elderly believers who were also receiving poverty alleviation subsidies. A local churchgoer said that these state representatives claimed that no poverty alleviation resources should be given to the people who have religious symbols at home; they must believe in the Communist Party to enjoy aid from the state.
In April, officials from Kaifeng city’s Lankao county in the central province of Henan removed a religious calendar and couplets with cross images from the home of a poor Christian and scratched her poverty alleviation aid. They also ordered her to renovate the house and install a toilet ahead of an inspection by higher-ups. The demand was against poverty alleviation regulations, which stipulate that the state should cover such expenses.
“What should I do without my income? How can I reason with them? It’s just like the Cultural Revolution,” the distraught believer lamented.
(Bitter Winter) By – Venues of the old Local Church (Laodifangjiaohui, 老地方教會)—unregistered Christian congregations that follow the teachings of the Chinese minister Watchman Nee (1903-1972)— were among many other victims of China’s religious persecution in the past few months. More than 40 churches were suppressed in four cities of the southeastern province of Jiangxi: Shangrao, Jingde, Yichun, and Fuzhou. Some were demolished, while others closed or repurposed by the government.
At least 28 venues were stifled in Shangrao city’s Guangfeng and Guangxin districts and Yugan county. A local government employee revealed to Bitter Winter that the CCP is fighting Christianity for “ideological territory and people’s hearts” in rural areas and wants to limit its development. To achieve this goal, the municipal government requires localities under its jurisdiction to strengthen atheist propaganda, demolish unregistered places of worship, and intensively “sinicize” the state-run venues.
On April 27, as local government officials oversaw the demolition of an old Local Church venue in the Guangxin district, they warned its congregation that “believing in Jesus is believing in a foreign god.” And “since the coronavirus was brought to China from abroad, believing in Jesus means going against the Party.”
“If believers protested against the demolition, they would be labeled as reactionary elements,” a local believer said helplessly. “The Communist Party is so unreasonable!”
On the morning of May 22, an old Local Church in Guangfeng district’s Hengshan town was cleared out on orders from the local government. Its chairs and tables were confiscated. [Without warning,] officials brought in a crane to remove the church’s cross.
In late April, another old Local Church meeting venue in the district’s Shatian town had its cross, the Ten Commandments, and other religious symbols removed. “The government is like a stone, and we are like an egg—we cannot defeat them!” a church preacher told Bitter Winter.
Since quarantine measures were relaxed, authorities throughout Jiangxi intensified crackdowns on Christian churches, even those administered by the state. In the past few months, crosses were removed from at least 26 Three-Self churches in Duchang, a county in Jiujiang city. From April 18 to 30, 48 Three-Self venues were shut down in Shangrao’s Yugan county.
On May 12, an old Local Church venue in Yugan county was repurposed for an activity center for the elderly. A congregation member recalled that the government arranged people to climb over the church’s courtyard wall to remove its cross. They later used shovels to take off the venue’s signboard.
A local official revealed to Bitter Winter that the government is eliminating unregistered churches now, and state-approved Three-Self churches will soon be targeted for elimination too.
On May 17, seven police officers and village officials raided an old Local Church venue in Taqian, a town in Leping city. They tore down Biblical verses and religious symbols from the walls and burned them, as well as smashed the church’s donation box.
A congregation member told Bitter Winter that the local government pressured the church to register with the state, or the congregation would not be allowed to hold gatherings. They could even be arrested, or the venue could be destroyed. “We won’t register,” the believer explained. “If we surrender, we’ll be controlled by the government, forced to raise the national flag, and sing the national anthem. It means believing in the Communist Party, not God. But gatherings can’t be organized unless we register. By doing so, the government aims to eliminate our faith.”
ISTANBUL (Armradio) — The Surp Grigor Lusavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) Armenian Church in Istanbul’s Scutari district has been attacked, Ermenihaber.am reports.
According to the source, on May 23, an unknown person brutally ripped off a cross from the church door. The moment of the attack was caught on cameras.
The church leadership has issued a statement on the incident, noting that a complaint has been filed with the police.
A new cross has been placed on the gate.
Istanbul police arrested the suspect caught on video, Diken news site reported.
The incident comes weeks after an attack on an Armenian church in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district.
(Morning Star News) – Unable to return to her home in western Uganda due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Rehema Kyomuhendo was in the eastern part of the country when she first heard about Christ.
In March she had accompanied her father, a sheikh (Muslim teacher) on a business trip from Mbarara District to Mbale District, 492 kilometers (305 miles) away, and began listening to Christian programing aired on an FM radio station. They were still at her aunt’s house in Nawuyo village, Mbale District, on May 4 when at 10 p.m. she called a business friend of her father’s whom she knew to be a Roman Catholic.
“She explained to me about Christ and the way of salvation, and I got convicted and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” Kyomuhendo told Morning Star News by phone. “As she was sharing Christ with me, I was so overjoyed, and my father heard my joy and woke up, came from his bedroom furiously and started beating me up with blows, slaps and kicks.”
Her father, Sheikh Hussein Byaruhanga Husain of Mbarara District, shouted at his 45-year-old sister who was sleeping in another room, telling her that his daughter had converted to Christianity and that therefore he was going to kill her, Kyomuhendo said.
He quickly broke a jerrican, lit the pieces with its remaining fuel and began burning her, a source who spoke with Kyomuhendo told Morning Star News. Kyomuhendo screamed for help, and her aunt got out of bed and shielded her from her father, the source said.
“She carried her outside of the room together with a Christian neighbor who arrived,” the source said. “The neighbor arranged for a taxi-van that took her to a hospital, and she got immediate treatment.”
Kyomuhendo is expected to remain at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital more than a month with serious burns on her leg, stomach, rib area, near her neck and on part of her back, he said.
“Please pray for Kyomuhendo for a quick recovery on her hospital bed,” the source said.
Kyomuhendo and the neighbor have not reported the assault to police for fear that her father might try kill her, he said.
The attack was the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.
Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.