China Aid Association
Rev. Bob Fu’s Speech for Accepting 2007 John Leland Religious Liberty Award
China seeks. Without mentioning specific locations and names, we know and have been supporting house churches who are serving several hundred orphans and the elderly in different provinces, including the area of Tibet. With the help of selfless foreign Christians, we know that hundreds of schools have been established to provide quality, free education for the children of the so-called floating population (migrant), who otherwise, would have been forever illiterate under current China’s education system. Unfortunately, these unselfish good deeds have to be done secretly, because of their association with the house churches. How much more could they do if they had more freedom to provide such worthy social services? This would be a win-win scenario for the Chinese government but of course, trust must be established before such a visionary plan could begin dialogue.
A quick study of Chinese history helps one understand that there are certain valid reasons why the Chinese government does not currently see and trust Christianity as a positive influence for a harmonious society.
Throughout history, sadly, the Christian faith has been distorted and exploited in ways that do not honor the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. China is no exception to this tragedy. As a Chinese, I will mention the Taiping Rebellion which is a good example of why the Chinese government does not trust the motives of Christians. In the mid-1850s, the Taiping rebellion was started by Hung Hsiu-Ch’uan who was trained by a Southern Baptist missionary named Isaachar Roberts. Rev. Roberts’ intentions were honorable; he himself was a wealthy American Christian who went to China to work with lepers, and eventually died of leprosy. However, the actions of Isachaar’s student, Hung Hsiu-Ch’uan, did not follow the basic tenets of the Christian faith and Roberts eventually concluded that Hung was mentally ill and denounced Hung as “crazy and unfit to rule.” This does not erase the 30 million lives lost in the Taiping Rebellion and the tragic consequences that Hung’s misuse of the Bible to challenge the Chinese government, and his heretical teachings, which included Hung’s belief that he was the brother of Jesus, caused. This time period in Chinese history is important for Western Christians to be aware of and acknowledge because it explains some of the background for why the Chinese government does not trust Christians who are not willing to be tightly controlled, like the house church movement for which I am an advocate though it can not be used as justification for any type of of religious persecution. This is why I believe that it is essential that the House churches must go the extra mile to demonstrate that their objectives are not to be violent revolutionaries and enemies of the current government, but rather that their interpretation of the “mandate of heaven” in the Christian faith is quite the opposite: to show respect and pray for those in the government, while being servants of their fellowman and to be a positive stabilizing force in society. I must be truthful and state that from my observations, even as I document shortcomings of the Chinese government in
regards to religious freedoms, the house churches, in my opinion, also have shortcomings they need to address and improve on. A well known question, to remind Christians how to live as followers of Christ here in the United States among evangelicals is, “What would Jesus do?” and if I ask myself, what would Jesus do today if He lived in China? I feel I need to meditate more on how Jesus would instruct his followers in the Chinese house churches? Would Jesus demand more rights and join in angry confrontation, be disrespectful to the authorities, consider violent acts to achieve more freedoms of expression, assembly and worship? These were not the methods that Jesus used to address the problems in His own culture and society when He was walking on earth. Jesus modeled and commanded His followers to love everyone, even one’s enemies. He forgave those who unjustly beat Him and eventually crucified Him. He used His life to do good to others by healing the sick, feeding the hungry and showing respect for all, even those in government positions who misunderstood and tortured Him.
Christians in China should strive to live as Christ lived, even while they are seeking to promote the rule of law and truer religious freedoms than exist today. Christians must be truthful; this is why China Aid strives to carefully document all our reports and focuses on cases where the Chinese Government is not following their own constitutional guarantees. This is why China Aid seeks to peacefully and respectfully expose those local authorities that exploit their positions. This is also why China Aid is encouraged over recent developments. After President Hu publically called for religious believers, including Christians, to join the harmonious society building last December, we were encouraged that nine house church leaders from Beijing and Hubei were released from their detention center and labor camps ahead of schedule. I pray and hope this will represent a true beginning of reconciliation instead of a one-time diplomatic gesture. But a critical difference between the house church and the official TSPM church still exists and must be reconciled and this critical difference is how each of these groups view the Chinese
Government’s registration requirements. For China, this is the most critical, historic issue of this decade that the Chinese government must resolve peacefully, and this will be key as to how China proceeds on religious freedoms and whether China is, or is not, embraced within the international community. My hope, and I believe the hope of the majority of millions of unregistered Chinese Christians, is that the Chinese government will recognize that the majority of unregistered house church members and their leaders are stable, patriotic citizens whose faith is not a threat to national security, but instead they are the single greatest asset the Chinese government has for building and sustaining a harmonious society that can meet the growing social needs and the problems that the wealth gap is creating. The Chinese Christians I know and advise, wish to help with the great needs of the elderly, disabled and with orphans, as well as other vulnerable groups. They want to help promote morals and values and denounce violence.
I do hope that President Bush’s visit to the Beijing Olympics this summer, will further confirm his conviction, as he shared repeatedly to both President Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, that religious freedom is not a threat, but a great help to the Chinese society. So as you, the Congressional Caucus on Human Rights, and various religious leaders, activists and business leaders here today, seek to make a positive difference in China, I want to encourage you to keep religious freedom as a top priority, but also understand this is a complex issue in the Chinese mindset and Chinese history.
As Americans, the more you and I honestly acknowledge that we are also “stakeholders” in contributing to the distrust that China has towards Christianity, the more respect we will be earn as we seek to encourage the expansion of religious freedoms in China. Balance your concerns with sensitivity, but don’t back away, because it is in China’s and the world’s best interest for religious freedom and rule of law to succeed in China.
As a Chinese, I thank you for hearing my heart today as I hope to play a constructive role in helping Americans understand that this is a complicated issue that would be best handled internally in China, if China will responsibly face this task. But as a follower of Christ, I also feel a deeper responsibility to stand with my brothers and sisters in China who are still limited in their freedom to assemble and worship in places other than the official church sites. From my own personal experience of being arbitrarily detained in a Chinese jail, and from the hundreds of documented cases of harassment, arbitrary detentions, seizing of property, torture and even the death of some of my Christian friends and former co-workers in China, I cannot stay silent for those who share our same faith, but not all of our basic freedoms. As I partner with you and continue this work, I also strive to challenge my brothers and sisters in Christ, here in the United States and also in China, that we must not forget the model that Christ provided for us and that all we do, even our activism, must be done with love and grace and I ask you to pray for peace, prosperity and expanded freedoms in my motherland, the People’s Republic of China. May God continue to bless China and America!
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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