(Morning Star News) – Following the arrest of 44 worshipers from house church meetings in southwestern China in February, police in Chengdu this month arrested a married couple from the church and beat them during interrogation, the church reported.
The couple, identified as Liu and his wife Xing, of Early Rain Covenant Church, were visiting Christian friends when police from Chengdu Shuyuan Police Station on March 2 detained them and took them to Taisheng Road Police Station for interrogation, according to the church, whose pastor along with more than 100 others was arrested in a Dec. 9 raid.
“At 2 p.m., while being interrogated, they were personally humiliated, abused, and violently beaten by seven to eight police officers from the Chengdu Taisheng Road Police Station,” the church’s March 2 statement on Facebook reads. “They were detained for nearly eight hours. After being beaten by police officers from the Taisheng Road Police Station, sister Xing and her husband were escorted by an unidentified person back to their home.”
The unexplained violence was one of the latest instances of persecution of the church in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. After church pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, were incarcerated in the Dec. 9 raid, authorities on Feb. 24 detained 44 Early Rain members meeting for worship in several homes.
Some were released the next day, and seven others were released on Monday (March 11), the church reported. Pastor Wang and his wife were charged with “inciting to subvert state power” and are in secret detention. Ten others are also facing criminal charges, including four church elders, according to the statement.
Police have pressured landlords to evict some church members and compelled employers to fire others, and one church member has been missing since March 5. In a statement on March 8, the church reported that Pan Fei, who had lost his job because of his church activities, disappeared after his first day at a new job on March 4.
“He stopped going to work beginning on the following Tuesday morning,” the statement reads. “We have visited his apartment multiple times to look for him but to no effect. We have not been able to contact him.”
Police had arrested Pan Fei several times since May 2018 and had illegally searched his home, according to the church. After police compelled his landlord to evict him, community officers visited him at his new apartment and harassed him regularly, the statement reads.
“In the past, when brother Pan Fei would encounter harassment and persecution, he would ask his brothers and sisters to pray for him,” it reads. “But he has not sent any messages since disappearing four days ago. We are concerned that brother Pan Fei is being targeted for his faith.”
Yesterday (March 14) Early Rain member Zhang Ying and her daughters received a visit at their apartment in Chengdu from her landlord, accompanied by officers from the local police station, according to a church statement online.
“Six males and one female barged into her home,” the statement reads. “They insulted sister Zhang and her three children, threatened them, and derided them. Two of them were extremely aggressive and threatened to rape and beat sister Zhang. Community officers stood by the side and recorded their insults and verbal abuse with a video camera.”
Zhang has signed a two-year contract with her landlord for the apartment, but he falsely claimed that she had violated it without saying what she had done wrong, the statement reads.
“He was harassing her because community officers and police had pressured him to,” according to the church. “When the landlord and community officers left, they required sister Zhang to move out of her home by the end of March.”
One church member whose husband was arrested in the Feb. 24 raids said that a community police officer stopped her and her child during a visit to another Christian’s home, according to a March 1 posting. When she objected, she said, the officer called a police station director identified only as Ding.
Telling her that she was still in custody and needed permission to go anywhere, the police station director told the Christian woman, whose name was withheld, that she couldn’t take home the treat her friend had given her.
“He even grabbed my neck and told me to stomp on it,” she reported. “I firmly refused to stomp on it. He then said that if I didn’t stomp on it, he would throw it into the face of my child right in front of me. He also said that if I didn’t listen to them, he would put me in detention and send my child to a welfare institution. He said, ‘Your husband is still in detention. Do you think I won’t keep him there? I will send him to live with people with AIDS.’”
The official concluded by saying that if she didn’t “behave” that weekend, he would cause trouble for her. “I won’t be as nice to you as I was today,” he told her, according to the church posting. “If this happens again, you will be taken directly to the police station.”
Such threats have become commonplace for church members, according to the church.
“For the most part, there is no member of this church who has not suffered in some way,” the church reported in a Feb. 24 statement.
In the Feb. 24 arrests, plainclothes officers at the police station struck church member Tang Chunliang and his wife in the face, according to a church statement on Feb. 25. Surrounding several homes during worship and making arrests afterward, including all present in two homes, officers did not spare the elderly, 11 children and a pregnant woman, according to the church.
“Some were not released until 2 a.m.,” the statement reads. “Tired children slept on ice-cold tables and floors. Others were not released until 6 a.m.”
Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” punishable by up to five years in prison or 15 in extreme cases, as the Communist regime views religion as a threat to its ideological control, according to advocacy group China Aid. It notes that Christian groups have no intention of threatening government power.
Pastor Wang was a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). In 2006, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.
The raids on the Early Rain church are part of a broader crack-down on unofficial or “underground” churches that Beijing escalated since last year following amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that give lower-level officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for “unauthorized religious gatherings,” according to the SCMP.
Unofficial churches decline to become part of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church, which would subject them to intrusive government controls. The Early Rain church on Tuesday (March 12) posted a video of Xu Xiaohong, head of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church, telling the National People’s Congress the previous day that officials planned to “Sinicize” Christianity. This plan would rid Christianity of all “Western” influences and ensure that all Christian doctrine and worship conforms to the government ideology, the church stated, noting that Xu denounced churches gathering in “private meeting places” and “black sheep” who are “subverting state security.”
The U.S. State Department announced on Dec. 10 that it had included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.
China ranked 27th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The Chinese government has implemented a crack down on the Church not seen since Mao began his war against Christians in 1949. More Chinese Christians were arrested during the Christmas season. Chinese authorities continue to raid and close churches, arrest unregistered church members, pressure them with round-the-clock surveillance and the threat of detainment. Pastors like Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church are encouraging their congregations to stand strong and to prepare for much greater hardships. See video sermons (below) given by Pastor Wang Yi to his church members before his arrest. Be encouraged in your own faith as well in your prayers for our brothers and sisters in China.
On December 9th, 2018, authorities arrested more than 100 members and leaders of Early Rain Covenant Church, including Pastor Wang Yi as we reported here. He and his wife have been charged with “inciting to subvert state power.”
Three church members who were released described being beaten, deprived of sleep, food or drink and even trampled by police at the station. One brother was dragged after his hands and feet were bound. His body sustained injuries from what he claimed as being tortured in multiple ways.
Early Rain Covenant Church is an “unregistered” church in Chengdu, with more than 500 members. During the raid, authorities confiscated items and sealed off the church including its offices, a kindergarten, a seminary, and a bible college blocking them from going to the church schools. The church’s accounts on Chinese social media was removed. They searched the homes of many congregants and tried to force church members to sign a pledge that they would only worship at meeting places that conform to the laws of the People’s Republic of China. The church building was guarded by police and plain-clothes officers who would not allow anyone to enter. Those that weren’t taken conducted worship service in two separate locations outdoors. One group was dispersed immediately by police, and more than 20 taken away. The other group was dispersed by police after about an hour, and the two people leading the service were taken away. Many if not most members were forbidden from leaving their homes by police standing guard outside, so these brothers and sisters worshiped in their homes.
A more recent raid against the Early Rain members ended in the arrest of 60 more members in addition to over 100 already in custody. On Christmas Eve, the 23rd-floor sanctuary of Early Rain Covenant Church was officially converted into an office space for community police. Community police, or shequ, are local authorities with less power and jurisdiction than typical city police. They are like community monitors. A translation of the notice is below.
Esteemed residents and friends,
Because of work-related needs, the community police will be moving to North Taisheng Road 56, Jiangxin Building, 23rd floor on December 24th, 2018. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience. The entire community police staff will be waiting for everyone to visit us at our new office location.
Shuangyanjing Community Police
Remaining members of the Early Rain church attended Christmas Eve services elsewhere. Follow latest updates here
Most Chinese Christians belong to “unregistered” churches. Chinese underground, house, or unregistered churches are those who refuse to be state-controlled such as the Three-Self Patriotic Church. The TSP church is considered by many believers to be corrupted for making doctrinal compromises required by the Chinese Communist Party and it’s agenda to force Christians to put the state before God.
Praise God for what He is doing in China. In the name of Jesus, pray for mercy and the perseverance of the saints in China. Pray that that they will gain a new strength of boldness sharing the Gospel, the message of what Christ did on the Cross for all. May the true Church continue the speed of expansion that has been witnessed for the last 20 years. All for the glory of God! Amen
Chinese Christians in dire need of our prayers. (Morning Star News) – Authorities in China have detained the pastor and more than 100 members of a prominent, unofficial church since Sunday (Dec. 9), according to media and advocacy agencies.
Security authorities raided the 800-member Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province at about 6 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 9) and also took some church leaders and members from their homes or off the streets, according to the South China Morning Post. Pastor Wang Yi was reportedly detained on Sunday night for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power,” and officials also seized his wife, Jiang Rong, from her mother-in-law’s home; her whereabouts were unknown at this writing.
Chen Yaxue, Wang’s 73-year-old mother, told the SCMP that the couple’s 11-year-old son remains with her while security personnel maintain 24-hour surveillance outside her home.
The charge against Pastor Wang calls for a sentence of up to five years, or 15 years in extreme cases. Wang has reportedly yet to be allowed to meet with lawyers or family members.
Advocacy group China Aid said in a statement that Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”
“The Communist Party views religion as a threat to their ideological control and, as such, their rule,” the group noted. “However, China’s Christians practice their religion peacefully and never intend to threaten government power.”
Church members released an open letter Pastor Wang wrote in September in which he said he would use non-violent methods to stand in faith and oppose laws that contradicted the Bible and God, according to the SCMP. The pastor had given instructions that the letter be publicized if he went missing for more than 48 hours, the newspaper reported.
“My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws,” Pastor Wang wrote, according to SCMP.
He had been a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor, SCMP reported. In 2006, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.
“The round-up in Chengdu is part of a broader crack-down on unofficial or underground churches that Beijing has escalated this year,” SCMP reported. “The moves were bolstered by amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that gave grass-roots officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for ‘unauthorized religious gatherings.’”
Church members have practiced their faith openly, posting sermons online and evangelizing on the streets, RCMP reported. Weekly gatherings across more than a dozen meetings in Chengdu draw more than 800 regulars, the newspaper reported, adding that the church also has about 100 seminary students and an elementary school with about 40 children.
The crack-down on the Early Rain church came as the U.S. State Department announced on Monday (Dec. 10) that it had included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Wednesday (Dec. 12) released a statement condemning the arrest of Pastor Wang and the other church members.
“These actions, in addition to the continued systematic repression of Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners, continue a pattern of escalating violations of religious freedom and other human rights under President Xi Jinping,” USCIRF stated. “USCIRF strongly condemns these actions by Chinese authorities and calls for the immediate release of Pastor Wang and all of his fellow church members.”
China ranked 43rd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
VOP note: Please pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters as they prepare to celebrate the precious birth of Christ. Pray they will stand strong as the government puts more an more pressure on them. In the name of Jesus, Lord have mercy on these dear ones.
(Morning Star News) – The growing crack-down on unofficial churches in China deepened on Sunday (Sept. 9) when authorities closed one of the largest churches in Beijing, according to reports.
The Beijing Chaoyang District Civil Affairs Bureau informed Zion Church that it was “legally banned” for organizing events without registering as an official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church, Reuters reported. The church has faced growing threats from authorities, including eviction, since it refused to comply with a government order in April to install closed-circuit television cameras at its worship site.
Bob Fu, president of advocacy group China Aid, said authorities are enforcing rules requiring registration as a TSPM church in order to exercise increased control over ideologies. He called the church closure part of a larger crack-down on Christianity across China.
“The massive clampdown against thousands of churches in Henan [Province] and the forced closure and total shutdown of the largest house church in Beijing, Zion Church, represents a significant escalation on President Xi [Jinping]’s crack-down down against religious freedom in China,” Fu said in a statement. “Now that the Chinese Communist Party has started to burn Bibles and coerce millions of believers in the Christian faith and other religious minorities to even sign a written pledge to renounce their basic religious beliefs, the international community should be alarmed and outraged at this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief and demand the Chinese regime stop and remedy this dangerous course.”
Zion Church leaders have decided they will continue holding services outdoors, Fu said.
The Associated Press reported that about 60 government officials arrived at 4:30 p.m. accompanied by buses, police cars and fire trucks to close what is regarded as Beijing’s largest unofficial church. They reportedly sealed the church building and froze pastor Ezra Jin Mingri’s personnel assets, besides confiscating “illegal promotional materials.”
Reuters reported that the church had operated for years with relative freedom. China’s unofficial Christian institutions have faced increased harassment since new regulations took effect in February.
More than 30 of Beijing’s hundreds of unofficial Protestant churches released a statement in July lamenting interference, assaults and obstruction since the new regulations came into effect.
In Luohe, Henan Province, more than 50 officials stormed into Meisheng Church on Sept. 2, beat worshippers and confiscated most church property, China Aid reported.
“Uniformed and plainclothes police, as well as agents from the local religious affairs and cultural bureaus, invaded the service as the pastor, Chen Qi, was reading the Bible,” the organization reported.
One Christian told China Aid that officials grabbed the pastor’s microphone and forcibly stopped worship. The director of Luohe’s Yuanhui District Religious Affairs Bureau, identified only as Li, walked to the podium and announced that the fellowship was “illegitimate,” according to China Aid.
“After reading a document about the church’s supposed violation, he asked Chen to sign it, but Chen refused and was taken away,” the group reported. “An official said to him, ‘The document will be effective no matter if you sign it or not.’ During the ordeal, a woman stood in the hallway and photographed the situation. Police pulled her hair and slapped her face as they pushed her up against the wall. Once they were finished, they took her into custody.”
Several police officers also kicked another woman who disobeyed their orders to refrain from taking photos.
“She fell to the ground, and her cell phone was confiscated,” China Aid reported. “When her fiancé confronted one of the officers, saying ‘How can you bully a girl?’ he was punched and accused of assaulting the police.”
Also on Sept. 2, authorities in Xinyang, Henan Province, entered a church service without showing identification, expelled worshippers and welded the door shut, according to China Aid.
“Some of the congregants attempted to film evidence, but police took their phones,” the group reported. “Later on, the church rented a storage unit to hold their services in.”
Officials in the same area closed off the road leading to another church, prohibiting church members from entering, the advocacy group reported.
“Similar disturbances occurred in other areas of Henan, including Hua County, where Christians gathered in front of Baidaokou Church to prevent authorities from breaking in,” China Aid reported. “After a short confrontation, the authorities forced their way into the church and took chairs, desks, and a variety of other items. As they resisted, some of the Christians were injured and fell to the ground. After the authorities left, however, some of the congregants stayed and sang worship songs.”
Article 36 of China’s Constitution stipulates that all Chinese citizens have freedom of belief.
Last year the Henan Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Committee and the Henan Provincial China Christian Council issued an order forbidding churches from organizing summer camps for minors and students, citing high temperatures as a possible health risk.
Also, the Nanyang Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau in Henan ordered all 20,000 house-church members in the province to join the Three-Self Church, according to China Aid. Many Chinese Christians disagree with the Three-Self Church based on theological discrepancies and rampant government censorship, making the forced merging of these two branches a violation of religious freedom, the advocacy group asserted.
By Dan Wooding (Assist News) The Roman Colosseum will be illuminated by red lights later this month to draw attention to the persecution of Christians around the world, and especially in Syria and Iraq.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution, according to Crux.
Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lit, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past Dec. 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.
The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) — follows a similar initiative last year, which lit-up London’s Parliament building in red, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. In 2016, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit.
Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists on Feb. 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”
“One of the children was killed,” he said, “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”
Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said. [Read Voice of the Persecuted’s (VOP) report: Held Captive For 2 Years By Boko Haram: Rebecca’s Story and the relief sent to them through VOP’s aid mission, Project 133 Nigeria here.]
Aid to the Church in Need released a biennial report on anti-Christian persecution Oct. 12, 2017, detailing how Christianity is “the world’s most oppressed faith community,” and how anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak.”
The report reviewed 13 countries, and concluded that in all but one, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms for the period 2015-2017 than during the prior two years.
“The one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse,” the report said.
China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”
The Middle East was a major focus for the report.
“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”
The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
The departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo, ACN said. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.
Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence, according to the report.
ACN also discussed the genocide committed in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State and other militants. While ISIS and other groups have lost their major strongholds, ACN said that many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would likely not survive another attack.
A spokesperson for Aid to the Church in Need, said, “We invite everyone to attend, either in person or in spirit, on February 24, 2018 at around 6 p.m. in Largo Gaetana Agnesi, Rome.”
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 77, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 55 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan has written numerous books, and his most recent reporting trip for ANS was to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
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