Fenggang Yang, Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Center of Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University has estimated China will be the largest Christian nation in the world by 2030 topping over 250 million believers according to his growth projections. Yet today, openness to Christian thought and practice in China is fast deteroriating.
In the last few years, even amongst the government sanctioned church there has been government shut downs, crosses removed from churches by government control and even churches being torn down. Though the nation publicly stands behind freedom of religion, in practice is far from it. Even on government sanctioned churches a heavy hand of control is used to control what is said, how it is said and how things are done.
|Cityscpace – Hong Kong, China|
An American source I spoke with who asked to remain anonymous has 9 years experience teaching at local universities and lived in three major cities said it comes down to the current power regime in government resisting anything that contradicts the country’s traditional communist values and history. “President Xi Jinping and the regime is threatened by anyone or anything that would seek to upset the country’s traditional values and beliefs and that includes the church. It’s not limited to the church only though. This is a push to return to traditional Chinese values from the days of Mao Zedong and the origins of the communist party.”
Bob Fu, a Chinese American Christian pastor and leader of ChinaAid.org said, “The communist party has overrode religious policy and are hiding the religious persecution under the guise of other accusations like disturbing social order, spying, espionage charges.” The growth of the Christian church continues despite the rising level of control exercised by the government. The irony is that the very growth and influence the government is seeking to control is the very thing that’s perpetuating the growth.
ChinaAid.org is an organization commited to advocating for religious liberties in China. Founded in 2002 upon the announcement of a death sentence for Chinese Underground House Church leaders, Fu has been working to expose human rights abuses and promoting truth, justice and freedom.
What has brought many of these matters to light is the recent bulldozing of a church and the burying alive of a pastor and his wife for resisting the government’s decision. Many are comparing it to a Tiananmen Square where the government killed hundreds of demonstrators resisting the strong government.
Dr. Jason Peters of Voice of the Martyrs said the issues in China are overall very complex, every province is different but much of the persecution is being done secretly, “Persecution is very real in the area but they are clever about it.”
The persecution isn’t direct, it’s more of what some describe as big government control sources say. It comes down to a protection of Chinese tradional communist values. Christianity opens up a new level of freedom, ideals and culture change that the government is frankly not comfortable with. But with 100 million Christians and growing, something will have to give in the country that has incredible growth potential for the Gospel. According to JoshuaProject.net a website that tracks unreached people groups, “337 of the 550 people groups in China do not have even Bible portions available in their primary language equalling 195,000,000 whose primary language does not have Bible portions.” So while the growth continues, the need for translators and workers continues as well.
Fu encouraged those with a heart to reach the Chinese and help the work of the Gospel, “There are hungry souls wanting to hear the Gospel. Go to the colleges and universities and teach English. There is a big need here and Christian teachers have a great track record.” China prohibits religious workers or missionaries from entering the country but will allow foreign teachers and “tent makers” into the country.
“They sit there for 5 minutes reading you the Riot Act and tell you what you can and can’t do. If I attend a home church and someone finds out, I am out of there,” said a source who asked to remain anonymous.
“Americans should always remember to pray for those who are persecuted, learn about them, walk with them,” said Fu of ChinaAid.org. “Press upon American leaders to speak up for religious freedom. It’s very disheartenng to see elected leaders, Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Congress sit aside and be silent on this issue of religious freedom and choose to be silent and embolden the persecutors, when they have chance to talk and influence leaders both privately and publicly to speak up and stand up for our brothers and sisters.”