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Stand With China’s Persecuted Christians

American believers are aware of the persecution Christians and Jews face in the Near East and in other Muslim counties around the world, such as Pakistan and Indonesia.

Less well known is the continued persecution of Christians in China.

Golden Lampstand ChurchIndependent reports out of China confirm that Chinese Communist authorities have demolished the Golden Lampstand Church, a well-known Christian megachurch the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province.

The Golden Lampstand Church serves a congregation of more than 50,000 in one of China’s poorest regions and was built at a cost of nearly $2.6 million through contributions from local worshipers.

Chris Baynes of the UK’s Independent, reports that witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People's Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the church. ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building.

Pictures distributed by ChinaAid showed the church's steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble.

“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu.

The church had faced "repeated persecution" by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009.

Congregation members were beaten by 400 officials during an incident in September 2009, which resulted in church leaders being prosecuted on nonsense charges such as assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic and illegally occupying agricultural land, according to reporting by Newsweek’s Christina Zhao.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for the spurious charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media quoted by the Independent’s Chris Baynes.

If you are wondering why the Golden Lampstand Church is being persecuted it is because it is an “independent” church.

Millions of Chinese Christians, Buddhists and Muslims worship in state-sanctioned assemblies where the religious leadership is vetted by and beholden to the Chinese Communist Party.

However, of the estimated 60 million Christians in China, many choose to worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand and the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party's rigid political and social control reports Baynes.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China's constitution, says Baynes, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported the official reason for the demolition was the building did not hold the necessary permits.

"A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse," Baynes reports a government department official claimed.

This is the second time in the past month that a church has been demolished in the area, reports Christina Zhao. Last December, the only Catholic Church in Zhifang, a village near Shaanxi, was destroyed for no apparent reason, 20 years after it opened, according to Asia News.

At the time, Catholics in the area took to social media to post pictures of the demolition alongside papers proving the church’s permanent permits to occupy the land.

“China’s military police has been under the direct control of the central government since the head of the public security bureau, which previously commanded it, was arrested last year. This indicates that the order to destroy the church came from China’s top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities,” said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu in a statement released to the media.

He added: “ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this [the Golden Lampstand] church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

We agree with and support Pastor Bob Fu’s statement, but we think it doesn’t go far enough. It is time for our government, and all those Americans who believe in freedom of religion, to stand with China’s persecuted Christians. We urge pastors and congregants to add China’s persecuted Christians to their prayers and to begin to consider what political action might be taken to assist them.

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Thank you for sharing this. It is a good reminder to pray for our persecuted brethren in China and throughout the world.