Communist China is upping its assault on believers and congregations across the nation, particularly those churches that are not properly registered with the government. On December 9 Chinese agents raided the Sunday service at the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital city of China’s Sichuan province, taking more than 100 worshippers into custody. Additionally, reported the South China Morning Post, Wang Yi, pastor of the illegal church, was arrested for supposedly “inciting subversion of state power.”
Bob Fu of China Aid, a U.S.-based organization that monitors abuses by China’s communist government, said that the latest attack on an unregistered church “represents a major escalation of religious persecution in China.”
China Aid noted that “inciting subversion of state power” is a catch-all charge the communist government often hands down to Chinese Christians, “since the Communist Party views religion as a threat to their ideological control and, as such, their rule.” The organization noted, however, that “China’s Christians practice their religion peacefully and never intend to threaten government power.”
The South China Morning Post reported that, if convicted, Pastor Wang could face up to 15 years in prison.
Samuel Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, said in a recent briefing that China is the center of “one of the worst human rights situations in the world.”
“It’s a very bad situation for a religious community,” Brownback declared, referring to the attack on the Early Rain Church. He noted that Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists have all been targeted by Red China’s communist oppression. “My particular concern now for China is they’ve increased these actions of persecution against faith communities.... China isn’t backing away from the religious persecution; it seems to be expanding. This is obviously very troubling to the [Trump] administration.”
China Aid reported that prior to the latest arrests, congregants of the Early Rain Church had been victims of systematic abuse meted out by Chinese government goons. “The church’s pastor, Wang Yi, said that some Christians who host small groups in their homes have been harassed by the police or community officials,” reported China Aid in October. “Two of the church’s branches were raided by the local ethnic religious affairs bureau on two consecutive Sundays, and one of the church’s online channels has been deleted and banned, with all files erased.”
ChristianNews.net reported that in the wake of the government assault, one of leaders of the Early Rain Church penned a letter to members of the congregation exhorting them to stay strong against the persecution. “The Lord is bestowing on us poor people today treasures of glory from Heaven!” wrote Li Yingqiang, a church elder. “The Lord himself is bestowing on us weak people comfort from Heaven! The Lord Jesus is shining on us blind people his great light. Those of us brothers and sisters standing on the front lines of the gospel war will earn great spiritual riches!”
Li, who wrote the short epistle while in hiding from the Chinese agents, exhorted his fellow-believers to “thank the Lord for being with us in this trial. Thank the Lord for cultivating us according to his true Word! Thank the Lord for training us through these days of hardship! Thank the Lord for sculpting us through today’s persecution! May the Lord give us great joy and true hope and make us strong through reliance on Him.”
In his handwritten note, Li, who has also been taken into custody, called upon those church members who have not been arrested to defy the government and continue meeting for Christian worship. “We are willing to have 200, 300, and even 500 of us locked up so that the whole world knows we are willing to be persecuted for our faith,” wrote Li.
Additionally, before his abduction Pastor Wang Yi prepared a statement in anticipation of his eventual arrest and imprisonment by the communist government. “As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King,” wrote Wang. “Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China — to testify to the world about our Christ.”
He added: “I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.” (Read Pastor Wang Yi’s entire statement here.)