April 26, 2012
China's government is engaged in a three-phase campaign to eradicate Protestant house churches, according to a statement released April 20 by the China Aid Association (CAA), reports Compass Direct News. The government's strategy was clearly outlined in a document released last September during a training class for "Patriots in the Christian Community" run by the State Administration for Religious Affairs. From January through June of this year, the document called for local authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of house churches nationwide and create dossiers on each of them. In phase two, for the following two to three years, authorities would strongly encourage unregistered churches to affiliate with the government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), and in phase three, to be completed within 10 years, churches refusing to comply would be shut down. Officials would also ban the words "house church" and all reports on house churches from websites and other media and replace the term with "house gatherings" -- a term that would refer to groups meeting in sites affiliated with the TSPM. In a recent survey, more than 95 percent of house church leaders said they had already felt the impact of these investigations, and 85 percent said local religious affairs departments had already created a dossier for their group. "Since the beginning of 2012, we have noticed an increase in the frequency of persecution," the CAA said.