PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS ESCALATING IN CHINA

A U.S.-based persecution watchdog says it has documented more than 100 incidents of Christian persecution in China between July 2020 and June 2021 as the country’s communist regime seeks to forcefully convert independent religious groups into mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party.

A significant trend throughout the past year was an increase in church raids, says a report published by International Christian Concern. It notes that “not only were churches shut down or demolished, but pastors and church attendees were often arrested.”

One example of this crackdown happened earlier this month when more than 30 officials from the CCP, including SWAT officers, police officers, religious affairs bureau officials and local school district administrators raided Maizi Christian Music High School in Harbin city in China’s Heilongjiang province, the U.S.-based rights group China Aid reported at the time.

In August, officers from Chenghua District Mengzhuiwang office in Sichuan province forcibly entered the home of a church member, He Shan, where the small group of Early Rain Covenant Church members were meeting for worship, CBN News said at the time.

ICC has also tracked 23 incidents of authorities demolishing religious structures and symbols during its reporting period. “The CCP has torn down, destroyed, and removed numerous churches in China, especially those that refused to submit to its control,” the report says.

The persecution watchdog adds in the report that it recorded 14 cases of “Sinicization,” which is a state campaign to forcefully assimilate religious groups into CCP-defined Chinese culture.

As an example, ICC highlights the plight of a church bookstore that was forced to display Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book instead of the Bible. The Administration for Religious Affairs also ordered Christians to study President Xi’s book and memorize his speeches.

Chinese authorities are also removing Bible apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect earlier this year.

The ICC report says that almost every province in China has seen an increase in Christian persecution, and this rise has been especially apparent in Sichuan, Hebei and Fujian provinces where the independent churches have been very visible and active.

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This persecution of Christians is escalating all over the world and is evidence we are in the “end times” that Jesus spoke about that precedes His return. Jesus gives us many signs in the following passage from Luke. The same is given by Matthew. Jesus tells us that He is providing opportunities to witness for Him and that the Holy Spirit will even give us the words to speak. This is training and preparation for us to rule and reign with Jesus on this earth during the Millennium.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.Luke 21:10-19

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS INCREASING IN CHINA

An evangelical megachurch was destroyed by Chinese Communist authorities late last year in the country’s northern Shanxi province, sparking fears among Christians that the persecution they suffer will soon get worse.

China Aid said that Chinese military police detonated explosives inside Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, destroying the $2.6 million house of worship, which was owned by the Christians who worshipped there.

A demolition crew broke apart the remaining pieces of the church after the explosion with diggers and jackhammers.

Lampstand’s head Pastor, Yang Rongli, had previously spent seven years in prison on charges of assembling a large crowd to disturb traffic order, and has been under police surveillance since his release in October 2016.

Describing the demolition, the pastor was quoted as saying that at first, police surrounded the church.

“Patrol wagons guarded the church. Workers smashed the church’s glass. At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch.”

“The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church. Now, we really have no idea what is going to happen.”

The order to demolish the church reportedly came from China’s top officials, who control the military police.

“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid President and founder Bob Fu.

“ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

The Guardian reports that a Catholic church in the neighboring province of Shaanxi was also demolished in a similar fashion last month, which is stoking fears among Christians that the widespread crackdown on churches continues in full force.

As many as 1,200 crosses have been removed from churches in Zhejiang province since 2015, with officials arguing that many of the demolitions have been down to building code violations.

A local pastor, who asked not to be named, said that he saw “more police than I could count” at the site, preventing worshippers from approaching.

“My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own,” he said. “This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”

The Associated Press noted that the evangelical megachurch had a congregation of 50,000, and had been targeted by police on a number of occasions. Officials reportedly hired thugs to smash the church and take its Bible during the crackdown in 2009, when Rongli was arrested.

Christians have protested against church demolitions, with a video captured in Shanxi in August showing a clash between Catholics and government representatives who were using bulldozers to destroy church property.

As mentioned in my last post, approximately 215 million Christians now experience high, very high, or extreme levels of persecution; that means 1 in 12 Christians live where Christianity is “illegal, forbidden, or punished,” according to Open Doors researchers.