More than 100 security guards removed two church crosses in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, on 7 July.
At 5am, more than 100 government personnel arrived at Aodi Christian Church and Yinchang Christian Church. Christians in Wenzhou said they came with cranes, broke the church locks, and entered the churches. They also destroyed church property.
Church members at the scene tried to stop the officials, but several security guards beat them, resulting in several injuries. A man in his eighties was shoved to the ground.
When someone tried to call the police, no one answered the phone.
Crosses at both churches were removed. Some Christians prayed and sang hymns outside while the demolition went on.
After the incident, the local government pretended to not know what had gone on. Some Christians now fear Zhejiang could see a second large-scale cross demolition movement, similar to the one that occurred in 2014.
- Thank the Lord for the resilience of the church in China.
- Pray the believers will continue to stand firm on the Word of God and in spite of the increasing opposition, will continue to meet for worship.
- Pray those directly affected may be healed, comforted and strengthened by the Lord.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
In the morning of 12 June, around 200 officials from various government departments arrived at the Sunzhuang Church with cranes and heavy-duty machinery.
Personnel from the Zhengzhou High-Tech District Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau forced their way into the church and took control of the Christians gathered there. They did not show any legal documents.
Some of the church’s property, including chairs, were tossed outside. At least one Christian woman resisted, and she lost consciousness and had to be taken to the hospital after being pushed to the ground. Another Christian was hospitalised after officials beat her. One male church attendee was taken into custody.
The church was then demolished.
Sunzhuang Church joined China’s network of government-run churches in the early 1990s. In June 2013, the Sunzhuang Village Committee issued a demolition notice to Sunzhuang Church, stating Christians failed to completely follow the procedures for building a church. In response, the church presented authorities with a certificate showing they had obtained prior government approval. At that time, the government sent out a group of people to demolish the church and cut off its electricity and water supply. However, Christians protected the church, and the officials were unable to proceed.
Source: China Aid
- Ask the Lord to help the church members to overcome the shock and disappointment over this development. Pray those who were injured or detained will be restored.
- Pray the Lord will enable the church leaders to minister to their members and continue to bring teaching, guidance and fellowship.
- Pray the believers will continue to be strong in faith and not lose heart over the increased opposition. Ask God to bring good from the church’s suffering.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
Xiao Hongliu, the wife of an imprisoned Early Rain Covenant Church elder, wrote a plea for prayer.
Xiao’s husband, Qin Defu, is serving a four-year prison sentence for his involvement with the church. He was taken into custody on 9 December 2018, along with approximately 100 others, during a mass crackdown on the church. He was later charged with “illegal business operations”.
During his trial, it became apparent that the charge related to Christian books used by the church.
In her letter, Xiao begged other Christians to pray for her. She described the intense pain she has undergone since she lost contact with Qin in March, saying it, “makes my heart worry.”
Xiao’s letter can be read below.
Dear brothers and sisters,
My name is Xiao Hongliu, I am Qin Defu’s wife. I am begging for intercessory prayers for my family and me. Defu has been in jail for more than six months.
I had received his phone calls from the jail at the beginning of his sentence. Although the calls were only two or three minutes long, as long as I could hear his voice, I knew he was safe and alive.
Although I could not see him personally, I knew he was alive somewhere, where God could see him. However, since the end of March, I have not received his calls anymore. I have lost contact with him for more than 70 days, which makes my heart worry.
My reasoning makes me believe he is still alive, and God is with him. However, not hearing from him is like an enemy. It hurts me so much that I suffer every day.
Normally, my husband would be managing the church, busy before and after, and I would merely hope for him to return home a bit earlier each night. Now, my hope is causing me pain. Every day, I just want to receive one three-minute call from him, but this apparently has become an extravagant hope.
Dear God, please let me follow behind you, pulling on the hem of your clothes, because I am no better off than the women who suffered from a blood issue for 12 years.
I know my weakness, so I am begging for my brothers and sisters to pray for me and Qin Defu.
God, please, out of charity, give us mercy. We are so lowly we cannot bear it!
Source: China Aid
- Uphold our brethren Xiao, Qin, their children, loved ones and church family. Ask the Lord to give them His strength.
- Pray that Xiao will experience His ministering presence and know the comfort that comes from believers all over the world praying for her and her family.
- Pray Xiao will receive word from her husband soon.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
Authorities in China’s Fujian province destroyed more than a dozen Christian homes on 11 June.
At around 9am, more than 100 officials from various government departments arrived at the homes of Xingguang Church members. They moved furniture from the homes into the hallway. They yelled, “What are you recording!” at a person filming the incident and took the person’s phone away.
The authorities then proceeded to destroy property. In all, more than 12 homes were ruined, all had served as worship places for the church.
Wang Xiaofei, the wife of Xingguang Church’s pastor, asked for prayer from her friends on the social media platform WeChat.
This is the second wave of persecution against Christians from Xingguang Church since the outbreak of the coronavirus. On 3 May, more than 100 law enforcement personnel raided a worship service held by Xingguang Church and beat Christians and onlookers, injuring some. They also seized some Christians.
Source: China Aid
- Pray for the members and leaders of Xingguang Church who have been affected. Ask God to help them encourage one another and not lose heart.
- Pray for provision for those who have suffered loss and damage.
- As the opposition from the Chinese authorities continues to increase, pray that the Lord will give believers strength to withstand.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
Every Sunday at the appointed time, a moderator sets up a private online meeting, and usernames begin to appear on the screen as church members join the video feed. Then, as in any other church service, the online worshippers sing hymns, offer their prayers and listen to the preaching of God’s Word. This is an illegal church meeting in China.
In 2018, the Early Rain Covenant Church of Chengdu was ordered to close after refusing to give in to government demands.
Since the closure, the government has forced church members to sign false confessions, detained them and tortured them to the point that some have considered suicide.
Yet even though their head pastor Wang Yi is serving nine years in prison, the congregation has courageously continued to gather for worship.
While some are too afraid to be associated with the church, most of Early Rain’s 500 members – even those with policemen posted outside their apartment doors and those banished to faraway home towns – are committed to keeping the faith.
Shortly before church elder Li Yingqiang was arrested, he encouraged the church with these words: “How wonderful it would be if, because of this suffering, we might be able to give off the sweet fragrance of the Gospel.”
The Early Rain Covenant Church began as a home Bible study in 2004 and then became an independent church in 2008.
Pastor Yi, who was appointed head pastor the following year, was a lawyer, and a lecturer at Chengdu University when he became a believer in 2004. By April 2006, he had become such a prominent member of the house church movement that he and two other Chinese Christians were invited to speak with President George W Bush about supporting religious freedom in China.
From the outset, Early Rain was transparent about its worship. The church published its sermons online, printed weekly bulletins and even posted its name on the lift buttons where it met.
The church’s strategy was to hide nothing from the government and to hold fast to its Christian convictions. “The Bible teaches us that in all matters relating to the Gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men,” Pastor Yi wrote.
Early Rain was known among Chinese house churches for its emphasis on evangelism and mercy missions. These values were generally avoided by churches wanting to stay off the government’s radar.
Early Rain church leaders also spoke out against abortion and denounced the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) for cooperating with the government.
In March 2018, the TSPM and the China Christian Council, another government-sanctioned entity, launched a five-year plan promoting the “Sinicisation of Christianity”.
The plan proposed retranslating the Bible and rewriting biblical commentaries to introduce Buddhist and Confucian teachings as well as draw parallels to socialism.
At official TSPM churches, pastors must now also submit every sermon to authorities before delivering them.
Bob Fu, of the China Aid Association, believes this plan initiated “the worst persecution in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution”. Throughout the country, officials have removed crosses from church buildings, even those on government-sanctioned churches.
Authorities have also begun to offer house churches a form of ‘legal’ registration, which many see as a thinly veiled attempt to gather the names of church members and pressure them into joining the TSPM.
Government officials have closed many primary schools operated by churches and issued notices forbidding minors from receiving religious education.
Foreigners with even the hint of connection to a religious entity have been deported, and house churches that had been meeting quite openly in large groups have now been banned. Churches are required to sing the communist national anthem at the beginning of every worship service and hang pictures of President Xi Jinping on the walls.
Facial recognition cameras, pointed at the congregation, are now required inside church auditoriums and many churches have been closed for refusing to conform.
One of the major initiatives of the Regulations on Religious Affairs was to cut Chinese churches off from foreign support and influence. As a result, well-known churches like Early Rain and Damazhan were closely monitored, making it difficult for the global body of Christ to provide outside support.
In Guangzhou and other cities, officials offered financial rewards for information on “illegal religious activity” or foreigners involved in religious activity. One church after another was closed, and authorities detained many pastors, lawyers and lay leaders, some of whom received fines and lengthy prison sentences.
Pressure had been increasing steadily on Early Rain. When the church held a prayer service in May 2018 for those affected by the Sichuan earthquake, police raided the meeting and confiscated more than 10,000 Bibles, books and CDs.
A month later, when authorities raided church member An Yankui’s home and detained him for questioning, he encouraged other church members in an online forum: “We will not stop our gathering in the Lord, but we are prepared to bear all possible persecutions and costs for our Lord Jesus Christ – to go to jail or sentenced or beaten or killed. We are willing to entrust ourselves to God.”
After enduring months of government persecution, Early Rain’s leaders prayerfully decided it was time to speak up. In September 2018 they published A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith, which emphasised the supremacy of God and the role of the church. It concluded with this bold statement:
“For the sake of the Gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses, even the loss of our freedom and our lives.” Pastor Wang Yi’s name was first on the list of signatories, followed by the names of many other pastors and leaders of unregistered churches throughout the country. To date, 439 Chinese pastors have signed the declaration, publicly opposing the government’s campaign against religious freedom.
On 9 December 2018, police in Chengdu carried out a massive raid on Early Rain, shutting down the church-operated school, the seminary and the church itself. In the space of three days, authorities arrested more than 100 church members.
Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jing Rong, were both detained, accused of “inciting subversion of state power”. Other church leaders, including Li Yingqiang, were accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
Days after the raid, Early Rain published Pastor Wang Yi’s Declaration of Faithful Disobedience, which he had written in October with instructions that it be published if he were detained for more than 48 hours. “I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the Gospel and persecutes the church,” he wrote. “The goal of disobedience is not to change the world, but to testify about another world.”
In the months that followed, Early Rain’s main site as well as four satellite sites were closed, and the church was declared illegal. Whenever believers tried to gather, the police followed and shut down their meetings, sometimes beating those in attendance. One woman was beaten so severely that she lost her unborn child.
Yet church members continued to view these attacks and interrogations as opportunities to share the Gospel. They had been taught how to react under questioning.
“By the grace and help of the Lord, try to turn the interrogation process into a process of evangelism,” read a post on the church’s online platform.
Some church members reported seeing jailers come to faith in Christ or policemen soften toward the Gospel after witnessing the testimony of believers’ lives.
Pastor Yi’s wife, Jing Rong, was released six months after her arrest, but she remains under constant surveillance and is denied the opportunity to communicate with anyone. His parents too are continually under police watch.
Elder Li Yingqiang was released on bail in August 2019 and returned to Hubei province with his family. He must report to the police station regularly while his case is pending. All of the Early Rain church members arrested since 2018 have since been released, with the exception of elder Qin Defu (sentenced to four years in prison) and Pastor Yi. His sentence is the longest given to a house church pastor in more than 10 years.
Earlier this year, a photo from an anonymous church member was released of Pastor Yi in prison. He was meant to be transferred to a detention centre in January, but it was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In the photo Pastor Yi appears thinner but reportedly full of “calm and perseverance”. The photo was released to encourage his family and church members that he was keeping well.
While pastors like Yi remain faithful to the call, the government shows no sign of backing down from its five-year plan. There have been more arrests, raids, church closures and even demolitions of church buildings every month.
If, however, China is entering a second period of extreme persecution such as followed the Cultural Revolution, this time the church is prepared.
“Christians in China are better prepared for persecution today because more believers have their own copy of God’s Word,” said VOM’s regional director for the Asia Pacific region, “and because they have seen the fruit of their predecessors’ faithfulness in enduring persecution.”
While nearly all Chinese churches have abandoned the large-group format, they haven’t abandoned meeting for worship. Many large urban churches now meet in smaller groups or by using technology to create online meeting spaces, and fewer churches were raided or shut down in 2019 as a result.
Although some have left the faith or chosen to stay home, many more are firmly committed to following Christ despite persecution and this new era of persecution may be a period of refinement for the maturing Chinese church.
Chinese Christians need our continued, faithful prayers and support more than ever. They must remain faithful to Christ alone as their government tries to dilute the Gospel with Chinese culture. Many believers, like those at Early Rain Covenant Church of Chengdu, have prepared to confront persecution through sound teaching and the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the words of Li Yingqiang, “May the whole world know that we are joyfully willing to receive this persecution for the sake of our faith.”
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