Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Persecution of Christians in China (update)

When China hosted the 2008 Olympic games, they adopted the posture ‘we have nothing to hide' and attempted to portray themselves as tolerant. However, behind this friendly exterior is a society that remains incredibly antagonistic towards Christianity.

China remains one of the top twelve religious liberty offenders in the world. Christians are frequently singled out and denied jobs and education. Many Christians are brutally tortured for their faith.

A Brief History of China's Hostility to the Gospel

The history of China’s hostility to the gospel is complex and bound up with the ghost of Western imperialism.

The first missionaries arrived in China in the 19th Century. Since this coincided with the forces of Western colonialism also arriving in the country, Christianity became inextricably associated with oppressive foreigners.

The link between Christianity and colonialism was strengthened when China lost the Second Opium War to Britain in 1858. China's defeat in this war forced their government to tolerate the opium trade, to accept unequal trade conditions and to yield Hong Kong to Britain. China was also forced to allow foreign missionaries to share their faith.

The relentless connection between Christianity and Western Imperialism culminated in violent persecution of all foreign religions in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. The anti-Christian zeal was only increase in 1949 when Mao Zedong’s communist party took over control of the new Peoples' Republic of China after over two decades of fighting. Since then China has been officially atheist, continuing their hostile posture towards Christianity. During the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, thousands of Christians were shipped to labour camps, while hundreds of others were executed.

Since that time, although persecution has steadily continued, the number of Christians in China continues to rise dramatically. Estimates put the current number of Christians at eighty-two hundred million.

State of the Church In China

In China Christians are allowed to go to church provided they attend the state-approved denomination known as the ‘The Three-Self Church.’ Although leaders of local Three-Self Churches need not worry about getting arrested, membership to this church comes with a price. Three-Church Christians are not allowed to offer overt Biblical teaching to children under 18. They are also not allowed to criticize government policies.

Because of these restrictions, the majority of Chinese Christians belong to illegal house churches. This too comes with a price, since government policy allows police to arrest house church leaders and to break up their meetings.

Because China is such a large nation, the level of persecution varies grateful from region to region. In some places, house churches are tacitly allowed and even permitted to own buildings. In other regions, pastors must live in constant fear of being arrested and sentenced to forced labour. In some places they are even tortured. The picture (left) is of an electric prod used for torture.

The Zhang Family

On July 6, 2008, Bike Zhang (pictured left), pastor of a house church near Beijing, was asked to leave his home, along with his wife Xie. After finding shelter in the home of friends, they were again driven out, forcing them to move into a hotel. Soon they were driven out of the hotel and questioned for an extensive period without food, water or rest. Eventually Xie collapsed and was taken to hospital. The Zhangs continued to be forced out of the homes of family and friends and were forced to live on the streets. On 6 August, Bike and Xie were arrested again, along with a co-worker.

As a result of pressure and an international campaign organized by Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association, the Zhangs were temporarily released from custody on Friday, August 29. However, on 16 October, Zhang Jian, the elder son of Pastor Bike, was severely beaten with iron bars for 25 minutes by public officials. In a press release on 16 October, A China Aid Association spokesperson said:

‘As Zhang Jian lay bleeding profusely, his mother called an ambulance, but the receptionist told her that a higher government authority gave a directive not to dispatch any ambulance to rescue her son because he is related to Pastor Bike Zhang.’

‘Zhang Jian’s mother then called her younger son, Zhang Chuang, who rushed to the house where he was also beaten by the same authorities. After some time, a personal friend of the Zhang family was able to take Zhang Jian to the Beijing Min Hang (Aviation) Hospital emergency room where Zhang Jian remains now.

‘His doctor said Zhang Jian’s right eye may lose sight forever because of the severe damage resulting from the repeated beating. Pastor Bike Zhang, who was traveling in Yunnan province at the time, is currently unable to be contacted. It is assumed that he has been detained by authorities.’

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Mason Green said...

Actually, the first missionaries to arrive in China got there LONG before the 19th century. There is solid archaeological evidence showing that the Church of the East (which was based in Persia, and sometimes known as the "Nestorian" Church although its link to that doctrine was rather tenuous) had a major presence in China already in the 8th century. The Tang emperor Xuanzong publicly acknowledged its existence.

Other evidence shows that Persian Christian missionaries reached China even earlier, as early as 411 (thus even before the Council of Ephesus and the Nestorian Schism).

Anecdotal evidence also suggests the possibility of first- or second-century visits to China by the immediate successors of the apostles although this is largely unproven.

It is VERY important to get that point across, because it would go a long way in showing the Chinese (both the people and the government) that Christianity is NOT synonymous with the West, Europe, America, or imperialism, but that Christianity existed in China long before "the West" even existed! One of the reasons why the Chinese are notoriously hard to evangelize is because they don't realize that, and instead view it as a handmaiden of recent Western colonialism. Which is NOT true!

Mason Green said...

The first missionaries to arrive in China arrived there LONG before the 19th century. There is record of the Church of the East (based in Persia) having a strong presence in China as early as the year 411, and the emperor publicly acknowledged and tolerated its presence in the 8th century.

Christianity was Eastern before it was western!

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