No place to pray

China’s crackdown on Christians | Globe Editorial  The Boston Globe May 14, 2011
FOR CHRISTIANS in China, the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke — “They shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the . . . prisons’’ — can take on an immediacy few of their fellow believers in the West are ever likely to know. That grim truth has been vividly borne out in recent weeks, as Beijing police have rounded up hundreds of members of the Shouwang Protestant church. Church members lost their house of worship in early April, when their lease was cancelled under government pressure. Since then, they have tried to pray outdoors each Sunday, only to find themselves repeatedly hounded by the police.

The mass arrests are part of China’s recent crackdown on all forms of dissent and public protest — the regime’s reaction to the wave of democratic uprisings in the Middle East.
By law, Christians in China are allowed to attend only churches officially approved and controlled by the government. Defying that infringement on their freedom of conscience, tens of millions of Chinese Christians worship in underground “house’’ churches, such as Shouwang, risking arrest and imprisonment every time they gather to pray or study the Bible.
In its most recent report on human rights worldwide, the State Department catalogued the appalling array of abuses Beijing inflicts on those whose political or religious convictions differ from those officially endorsed by the state. Torture, “black jails,’’ closed trials, coerced confessions, cultural repression, forced labor, extrajudicial killings — what the Chinese government does to its dissidents, critics, and nonconformists is shameful, and only demonstrates how far China still has to go before it can be considered a genuinely advanced nation.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

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