|Pastor Zhang Shaojie|
China Aid Association
Christians, citizens, pastors, scholars and human rights activists worldwide are invited to add their signature to the letter. Instructions can be found after the letter’s close.
An open letter to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee about the Nanle church case
To the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs of China and the responsible members of the China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee: Peace be with you.
In view of the fact that you are currently [representatives of] the organizations directly in charge of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of China and in order to safeguard the constitutionally protected rights of Christians, to put an end to the shocking persecution [of Christians] and so as to be able to investigate the legal responsibility of the perpetrators, it is necessary for us to provide you with an explanation of the incident in Nanle County, Puyang City, in Henan Province, in which a pastor and the members of a Three-Self church were arrested and their lawyers beaten and mobbed.
At about 9:30 on the morning of November 16, 2013, as Pastor Zhang Shaojie, president Nanle County’s Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee and China Christian Council and a member of the 9th Political Consultative Conference of Nanle County, Henan province, was at the Christian Church of Nanle County talking with people from some government departments, more than 10 police officers suddenly abducted him. To date his whereabouts are unknown. Meanwhile, more than 20 believers from Pastor Zhang’s church were also taken into custody the same day and many other Christians were beaten, causing serious disruption to the church’s normal worship activities, which have almost come to a standstill.
Following this incident, many pastors from Three-Self churches in the vicinity of Nanle County who went to visit the detainees were instead brutally beaten. Also, due to as many as 20 days of interference from local authorities, Pastor Zhang’s lawyer Xia Jun and other lawyers have not been able to meet with their clients as required by law. Beginning on Dec. 12, when the detentions occurred, the Nanle County Public Security Bureau and other government organizations have organized a large number of unidentified people to assault, verbally abuse and beat the lawyers. Some lawyers were hit with bricks until their heads bled, others had their suits completely ripped up, and still others were robbed of their cell phones. When the lawyers called the police to report this, the police were slow in sending officers [to the scene]. When the 15 lawyers went to lodge a complaint with the Nanle County Procuratorate, they were mobbed and assaulted by unidentified people. The world is shocked by the Nanle authorities’ lawlessness and wonton violation of rights; the anger of both God and man has been aroused!
Successive Chinese leaders have all said: there are no small matters in religious affairs. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates in Chapter 2, Article 36 that citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religion. The state protects normal religious activities; the Regulations on Religious Affairs, in Chapter 1, Article 3 stipulates that: the state protects normal religious activities in accordance with the law, and safeguards religious organizations, sites for religious activities and the legitimate rights of religious believers. Sabotaging without justification the normal religious activities of the Three-Self Church in Nanle, willfully trampling on the legitimate rights of the church’s pastor and believers, and turning a deaf ear to the appeals from Three-Self churches in the vicinity and from Christians worldwide all seem to indicate a return to the “destroy religion” [policy] of the Cultural Revolution era.
As is known to all, there is a long history of persecution of the so-called illegal house churches. However, the Nanle church case has shown Christians worldwide how difficult it is even for legal and government-sanctioned Three-Self pastors and believers to protect their right to freedom of religion. The Nanle church case has caused not only house church Christians but also believers from the Three-Self churches to lose confidence in and hope for religious freedom in China. The persecution of Pastor Zhang Shaojie cannot but cause tens of thousands of Three-Self pastors to tremble in fear and fear for themselves. People worldwide cannot help but ask: If even a Three-Self church is treated this way, how much worse is it for house churches?
Although we, as Chinese pastors and Christians both in China and abroad, cannot endorse the state-church relationship model in which Three-Self churches are attached to the government, nonetheless, there are many truly born-again Christians and pastors in the Three-Self churches, especially in grassroots Three-Self churches such as Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s, who dare to “act justly and love mercy.” These pastors who practice social justice in their localities deserve our respect, and as fellow members of the body of Christ, we are greatly concerned about the unjust treatment of the Nanle Three-Self church’s pastor and believers.
Since one of the main responsibilities of the State Administration for Religious Affairs of China is to protect citizens’ religious freedom and normal religious activities, to safeguard the legitimate rights of religious people and to promote a harmonious relationship among religions, and since the goals of the CCC/TSPM (China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee) are to serve and build churches in China and to protect the basic human rights of pastors and congregations, then, we ask you to carry out the functions of the state and conscientiously protect the rights of the Nanle Church pastor and believers to freedom of religion, to personal safety and to file suit in accordance with law. We especially ask, as an urgently pressing need, for the immediate cessation of the various violent acts of the Nanle local authorities in trampling the law, for the lawyers to be allowed to meet with the arrested pastor and believers immediately, and for an immediate restoration of normal religious worship at the Nanle Three-Self Church. Most critically, we ask for your intervention to bring about the immediate release of Pastor Zhang Shaojie!
In this festive period of the Christmas holiday, we close with a passage from the Holy Scriptures, in hopes that the prophesy of the coming of Jesus Christ and the mission of Jesus Christ incarnate might move you. Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.”
Organizers of the open letter:
Pastor Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association, U.S.A.
T.S. Wu, academic specializing in the history of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, U.S.A.
Man De, minister in Chinese churches in the United States, U.S.A.
Christians in mainland China and overseas, pastors, scholars, human rights workers and citizens from all walks of life are welcome to sign this open letter
Signatures can be sent to this specially designated mailbox: [email protected]
Please follow this format: Full name, position in Christ, job and location.
China Aid Contacts