World Magazine Written by Editorial Staff May 13, 12:22 PM
Leaders of underground Chinese Protestant churches condemned the government’s persecution of a fellow congregation, calling for a law that will actually protect religious freedom in the Communist country.
While China’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Christians are required to worship in churches run by state-controlled groups. But tens of millions of Christians are believed to worship in unregistered “house” churches that receive varying degrees of harassment.
In Beijing, underground Protestant church leaders issued a petition to the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, calling for an end to persecution of Shouwang Church and its 1,000 members who have been blocked from their worship place in Beijing in recent weeks (see “Counting the cost,” by Jamie Dean, May 7, 2011).
After being evicted from their rented meeting place, Shouwang Church has attempted to hold outdoor services, but members have been detained by plainclothes police as they arrived at the planned worship location. This past Sunday, some members were detained near their homes as they headed to the worship service, according to a statement by Shouwang Church. Others have been fired or evicted for attending the service.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu claim church members had been “gathering illegally many times and in order to keep social order, public security departments have adopted relevant measures.”
The petition, drafted by senior underground church leaders Xie Moshan and Li Tianen and signed by 17 church leaders from six cities, is a strong indication of nationwide support for Shouwang’s plight. [ChinaAid note: The petition lists Xie Moshan and Li Tianen simply as “house church leaders who will pray and watch for this Petition”; they were not described as its authors or drafters.]
“With the incessant growth of the number of urban Christians and the continued expansion of the church, the conflict between state and church of this sort is likely to continue to break out,” said the petition, dated Tuesday. It demanded that a law be passed to protect religious freedom.
In a statement by Shouwang Church, the church thanked its members for their determination to attend the services “despite the risk of being arrested, fired, [and] forced to move out of their rented places.” They also thanked other churches in Beijing and other cities for supporting Shouwang by taking on pastoral work, praying and fasting for the church, and offering financial aid for believers who lost their job or their homes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.http://online.worldmag.com/2011/05/13/chinese-christians-petition-government/
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