|Bible Reformed Church pastor Huang
Xiaoning (center) with his family.
(Linfen, Shanxi—Nov. 15, 2018) Officials raided a church in China’s northern Shanxi province on Sunday, stating that the Christians broke the law by gathering to worship.
On Nov. 11, officials from the United Front Work Department, the local religious affairs bureau, and the police station stormed a church, initially stopping the attendees from going upstairs into the sanctuary. Once the service was in process, they interrupted it and argued with the congregants.
The Christians protested, arguing that Chinese citizens have freedom of religion, but a woman from the religious affairs bureau cited a government document, saying, “Citizens have religious freedom, but Article 4 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs says that the country protects normal religious events according to the law. ‘Freedom of religion’ is not ‘freedom of religious events.’ Religious events, particularly collective religions events associated with the interests of the country and the public, must be managed by the government according to the law. Please don’t assume that you do not violate laws. You should know that the Regulations on Religious Affairs is this country’s law as well.”
Some of the officials announced that the church was shut down, posted a closure notice on the door, and asked the Christians to leave. The church leaders, An Yaolin and Yan Jianqin, received a document from the Huozhou Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, claiming that their church held organized religious activities at an unapproved venue. The document added that, based on the regulations, the church should be closed and the staff severely warned. In order to operate legally in China, churches must become government-run churches, at which point they become approved venues. However, because such churches are subjected to censorship and monitoring, many church leaders opt not to become state churches, risking their freedom in order to maintain the integrity of what they believe.
Persecution of Christians is common in China. On the same Sunday, authorities charged Pastor Huang Xiaoning of Guangzhou’s Bible Reformed Church with “obstruction of official business.” One Christian said that on the same day, “Four or five cops stood at the first level of the church at 8:00 a.m., keeping the church from having the service.”
An hour later, Huang’s wife had a notice from the police station, saying that her husband would be detained for five days.
Pastor Huang was taken into custody the day before, when he and another Christian responded to a phone call asking that he come to the police station. At around 7:30 p.m., Huang’s wife received another call from the station, asking her to bring clothes for him.
That same day, the church’s property was also sealed by officials, and the church issued a prayer request.
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by Christians in China, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.