First, I want to report on some encouraging news; in early March, more than 1,800 Christian leaders from China participated in a four-day training conference in Hong Kong. The training featured 12 keynote speeches and 28 seminars on topics such as biblical views on law and government, church-state relationship, and business ethics, presented by 14 instructors, including leading theologians Dr. Wayne Grudem and Dr. Stephen Tong. Chinese leaders traveled from as far as the China-Russia border in northeast China, many risking their own safety to attend; 200 of whom were blocked by the Chinese government from attending. One conference participant explained that they were warned not to go to Hong Kong for the conference but had “counted the cost” and decided to travel to receive the training. Yes, to “count the cost” for your faith—these words seem to be too distant in our daily Christian life in the West, where we are able to practice our faith without facing persecution.
In looking at the lives of Stephen, from the book of Acts, to Justin Martyr, from Watchman Nee to Wang Mingdao, from the murdered Coptics in Egypt to the enslaved Nigerian schoolgirls, and from Pastor Huang Yizi to attorney Gao Zhisheng, one can see they have all “counted the cost.”
My spiritual hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in writing the “The Cost of Discipleship,” reminds us about the difference between what he called “cheap” and “costly” grace. He explains “cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves,” while costly grace “is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”
Another example of the cost of one’s faith can be found in the case of Huang Qiurui, a house church leader from Panshi Church, who has been arbitrarily imprisoned for over nine months. Huang has been arrested three times in his life and, on one occasion, was tortured and had three of his ribs broken. In a recent letter to his wife and church from prison, he wrote the following: “For decades, this type of persecution has been happening frequently … I know God uses suffering to test me, shape me, and mold me into a vessel for good. In the midst of my suffering, I am learning many lessons, which I will share when I am released.”
I hope we all will meditate on this message of true discipleship and the cost of faith during this Easter season.
Thank you for your continuous prayers and faithful support.
|Pastor Huang Yizi|
Huang, a pastor at the Fengwo Church in Pingyang County, was taken into police custody 10 days after he and other Christians visited the Shuitou Township Government to protest the intended removal of the cross of the Salvation Church in Shuitou. On July 21, 2014, more than 600 government officials surrounded Salvation Church with the intention of removing the church’s cross; however, Christians formed a human wall around the church to protect the cross. When officials tried to break the human barricade, a conflict broke out, resulting in more than 50 injured church members, with 14 requiring medical attention. Huang was initially charged with “gathering a crowd to assault a state agency.”
“China Aid condemns this latest case of religious persecution against an innocent pastor,” China Aid founder and President Bob Fu said. “Through arbitrary arrest, baseless prosecution and illegal procedures throughout the trial, this case shows once again the worsening situation of religious freedom and rule of law in China. We call upon China’s higher authorities to overturn this unjust decision and free Pastor Huang immediately.”
“Huang Yizi was sentenced to one year in prison,” the pastor’s lawyer, Zhang Kai, said. “We will appeal this sentence; the entire trial violated procedures. Outside the court, there were almost 1,000 people, but the trial was conducted in a small court that could only seat 40 people. The court issued six visitor passes to the client, which violates the basic legal principle that the trial should be open to the public. During the trial, police conducted investigations outside the court, which also violates the law. The judge refused to accept the evidence the defense presented; other times, he wouldn’t even allow us to present specific evidence. We provided video footage from the incident on July 21, 2014, but the judge refused to allow us to play the video.”
In 2014, adherents from all religions in China, especially Christianity, experienced a serious, comprehensive escalation of government persecution. When comparing the total number of religious persecution cases, the number of religious practitioners persecuted, the number of citizens taken into custody, the number of citizens sentenced, the number of human rights abuse cases, and the number of people in human rights abuse cases with the same figures for 2013, the total of all six categories rose 152.74 percent. Compared with the statistics in China Aid’s past annual reports, this trend of worsening persecution has persisted for the past eight years, with an average annual increase of 166.47 percent.
China Aid collected information on 572 cases of religious persecution across the country, which was up 300 percent from 2013. The 17,884 people who were persecuted for their religion, more than 1,592 of whom were church leaders, represented a 140.89 percent increase over the previous year. The 2,994 people who were detained constituted an increase of 103.67 percent over the previous year. The CPC sentenced 1, 274 people, a 10,516.67 percent jump over 2013. There were 71 cases of human rights abuse, including verbal, mental, and physical abuse and torture, an increase of 343.75 percent over the previous year. In those human rights abuse cases, 242 people were abused, which demonstrates a 384 percent increase compared to 2013.
Please note that the reported statistics and information on instances of persecution in China reflects data received by China Aid in 2014. Though not comprehensive, these cases cover a wide-range of provinces and municipalities, are diverse in nature, and represent a variety of Christian backgrounds. Thus, this report reflects the status quo of religious freedom for Christians, rule of law, and human rights in China and the severity of persecution faced by Chinese citizens.
A training conference was held in Hong Kong on March 6-9, entitled the Three-Fold Vision Conference, at which more than 1,800 Christian leaders from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan attended.
The conference included 28 individual training workshops on topics such as Church-State Relationship in a Practical and Global Context, Theological issues of the Chinese House Church, Biblical View of Law and Government, and Christian Leadership, among other topics.
Keynote speakers at the conference included Pastor Stephen Tong; theologian Wayne Grudem; Dr. Randel Everett, co-founder and president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative; China Aid board member Chad Bullard; and China Aid advisor Doug Robison.
“Chinese pastors from various regions attended the training conference,” Pastor Zhan Gang, the vice president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, said.
Training conferences such as this encourage leaders in China to know and practice their right to religious freedom and deepen their understanding of Christian worldview.