Chinese Churches Facing Government Crackdown

Image: pewresearch.org

 

A new wave of fear has fallen upon China’s Christians as their government continues its crackdown against Christianity. In light of recent news that Pastor Zhang Shaojie of Nanle County Christian Church has been sentenced to 12 years in jail for “gathering crowds to disturb public order” and “fraud”, the church community is witnessing its faith being put to the test through continued persecution.

 

Pastor Zhang was detained in November 2013, along with more than 20 other staff members of the church, “presumably in retaliation to their efforts to help others redress for rights abuses.” Of these rights abuses, Pastor Zhang voiced his protest against the forced demolition of churches in Nanle.

 

In recent months, across Zhejiang province, (particularly in Wenzhou, also known as China’s Jerusalem) churches have been forced to make alterations to their buildings. Many churches have had their crosses removed, and in some cases, buildings have been reduced to rubble. Despite pleas from Christians, over 360 churches have been targeted by the government, and still more are coming under attack.

 

In the town of Sanjiang, a church that had received local government approval and had been budgeted at close to $5 million, was demolished. Authorities maintain that their actions are justified through a campaign against “illegal structures,” but it is clear that churches are under attack.

 

Government approved churches in China exist under the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the only state-sanctioned Protestant church. TSPM’s three guiding principles are self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation. These principles aim to remove foreign influence from the Chinese churches and to guarantee the government that the Chinese churches will remain patriotic.

 

Critics of the movement say that it has allowed the government to control and organize Christianity. There are seven rules that the official churches must follow, and Carl Lawrence, author of The Coming Influence of China, states that these rules force Christians to value socialism above their faith. TSPM has also been accused of being an instrument for China’s secular government.

 

Therefore, this crackdown on state-approved churches comes as a surprise to many observers, since the Communist government only allows Christians to worship in these “official” churches. Government approved churches, such as the one in Sanjiang, had never been under threat in this way before. With this in mind, it is easy to see, from the behavior of the government, that certain members within the government are becoming less tolerant of religion, even its own approved forms.

 

The punishment and harassment felt now by these official churches mirror those normally reserved for the underground churches in China. Underground churches, or “house churches”, operate independently from the TSPM and are not officially registered. With regards to recent events, house churches, which have already been in hiding, are now more fearful than ever as they are facing increased risk of persecution.

 

The persecution of Christians in China is not something new, but it seems that the Chinese Communist Party is growing increasingly wary of activities connected to religious institutions. Some have expressed fear that this crackdown is becoming the biggest threat for Christians in China since the Cultural Revolution, when religion was outlawed.

 

One pastor commented that “the number of Christians has grown to such an extent that there are now more Christians in China than [communist] party members, and that scares them.” While the government denies staging a crackdown, its actions are visible all across China.

 

Many speculate that because Christians are moving away from being a minority in China, the government feels threatened. The increasing size of the Christian group gives existing Christians more confidence to resist maltreatment from the government.

 

Even as the government continues to show its intolerance of religion, Christians are standing firm and continuing to pray unrelentlessly. The power of God is stronger than anything, and in the storm He will make a way. In times of peace we will praise the Lord, and even in times of trouble we will praise the Lord. In all things, He brings blessings and His light stands as an unyielding beacon of hope.

 

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

 

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

 

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

 

- Romans 8:31-33, NIV

 

By Stacey, All Girls Allowed

 

All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy.  “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”




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