China has intensified its attack on the country’s Christian community, as the authorities recently ransacked a Protestant Church and shut it down. Several members of the congregation were arrested, with the pastor potentially facing a 5-year prison term.
On December 9, 2018, police officers stormed onto the premises of the Early Rain Convent Church in Chengdu and arrested Pastor Wang Yi and over 100 Christians. The Early Rain Church is considered by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as an “underground” church in the sense that they operate outside the purview of the government.
Church properties — like offices, the seminary, Bible College, and kindergarten — were ransacked by the authorities. “On Sunday, some members tried to gather at other places for worship, but got taken away as well. The Church building has been manned with police and plain-clothes officers, not allowing anyone to enter to do worship service,” an anonymous member of the Church said to BBC.
Police even visited the congregants’ homes and threatened families into signing documents promising that they would leave the Church and remove their children from the Church school. Those who were taken into custody were mistreated very badly, suffering from wounds. The government has apparently charged Pastor Wang and his wife with acting against the state.
“The shutdown of a Protestant church in Chengdu epitomizes the Xi Jinping government’s relentless assault on religious freedom in China… It makes a mockery of the government’s claim that it respects religious beliefs,” Yanqiu Wang, China researcher of the Human Rights Watch, said in a statement (HRW).
Over the past few years, the CCP has been on overdrive trying to “sinicize” Christianity, removing certain beliefs and practices of the faith considered “foreign” and inserting new values that the Party deems “Chinese.” Churches that resist the sinicization efforts are threatened and persecuted. Meanwhile, a crackdown on the Early Rain Church has caught the attention of a few U.S. politicians who have asked China to treat the rights of religious minorities justly.
“Distressing reports about another raid on Early Rain Covenant Church in #China. We’re deeply concerned abt the govt’s crackdown on house churches. We call on China to release leaders/congregants & allow members of unregistered churches to exercise their #ReligiousFreedom rights,” Sam Brownback, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said in a tweet.
Standing against the Communists
The CCP’s war against underground Christians seems to stem from the fact that the Church is growing faster than the Party. This is said to be striking fear among Party leaders. China has an estimated 100 million Christians. As such, the communist government sees Christianity as a growing threat to its power.
“Christians are the remaining NGOs (non-governmental organization) in the shrinking civil society in China… Under Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, they are really trying to establish a totalitarian rule of Chinese society and the Christians are standing in the way of totalitarianism, so that’s why they’ve become a target,” Fenggang Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, said to CBN News.
The crackdown on underground Christians started several years ago as a small government campaign. Fast forward to 2018, the CCP has seemingly declared an all-out war against the Christian community, destroying churches, burning Bibles, arresting pastors, and bringing down crosses.