China Aid Association
China Christian exile says religious freedom is Olympic year blip
Hong Kong (ENI). The government in Beijing needs to turn into reality what it says about religious freedom, says Chinese pastor, the Rev. Bob Fu, founder of the Texas-based China Aid Association, who was once a member of an underground house church in China.
Fu was at the Library of Congress in Washington DC in early February presented with the 2007 John Leland Religious Liberty Award of the Southern Baptist Convention. He now lives in Texas where the Baptist church has a strong following. Despite living in exile from his home country, Fu sees a great future for Christianity in China.
“It’s s a great encouragement to millions of the persecuted faithful in China knowing that over 16 million Southern Baptists are willing to stand up with them for freedom,” Fu told Ecumenical News International in a telephone interview.
At its Web site, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention said that Fu was honored “for courageously defending the right of all people to exercise freely their religious faith”. The religious liberty award was on 7 February conferred on Fu by Richard Land, president of the Baptist commission.
“Chinese Christians need to stand up and fight for their rights, while the international community should give help, such as advocacy,” for the rights of Chinese Christians, said Fu, who was once imprisoned for two months with his wife for activities related to his faith.
Concerning religious freedom in China in 2008, Fu noted, “It may decrease a little, in terms of cases of persecution, given the Olympic diplomacy and image-making gestures.” These efforts had trigged in him a desire that the statements about religious freedom of the Chinese leadership would be translated into genuine policy instead of being temporary diplomatic manoeuvres.
“I am very hopeful and optimistic for the future of the Christian faith in China. And I think eventually in the next two decades or so, China will become a world Christian hub for the 21st century,” Fu told ENI.
Fu fled China to the United States, via Hong Kong in 1996. He then founded the China Aid Association, which closely monitors China’s human rights violations against house-church Christians, in 2002.
In February, the aid association released its 2007 annual report of persecution on Christian house churches in mainland China. It said “the escalation of persecution of house churches in 2007 and the worsening of human rights conditions is possibly an effort of ‘clearance’ before the Beijing Olympics.” However, “In January  we see the Chinese reducing the level of persecution ostensibly on Christians … this is in preparation for the eyes of the world to see China favourably.”
The report notes, “Concern is that in 2009, after the Beijing Olympics, that the persecution on churches and Christians will escalate and the human rights condition will seriously worsen.”
The report said that it recorded 60 cases of persecution in 2007, up 30.4 percent from that of 2006, and the total number of people persecuted was 788 in 2007, up 18.5 percent from 2006. The report said there were persecutions against house church leaders, against Christian publications and against foreign Christians and missionaries.
In 1989, during his student days in Beijing, Fu joined the Tiananmen democracy movement, and he said he was led to Jesus the same year. By 1992, he was the pastor of a house church and he started a Bible school years later. He and his wife were imprisoned for two months for their religious activities in 1996.www.eni.ch
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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