Christians in China may be discouraged in the face of a government crackdown on their faith, but they’re not backing down.
“We will not forfeit our faith because of suppression by the authorities,” Gu Baoluo, a Christian whose church was shut down in early December, told The New York Times.
Gu’s congregation, Early Rain Covenant Church, was closed by Chinese officials as part of an effort to limit the impact of the country’s unregistered churches, which house an estimated 30 million Christians.
Chinese police took Bibles, closed the church’s school and seminary, and charged the pastor, Wang Yi, with “inciting subversion,” the newspaper reported. He could spend five years in prison.
Gu is a rice grower who had looked forward to the church’s Christmas festivities, which included a pageant and the singing of carols. This year, instead, he went to a Christian friend’s home on Christmas Eve and worshipped quietly. They sang songs and prayed for their fellow believers who are in jail, The Times reported. Gu also exchanged messages with friends on an app that allows encrypted communication.
One goal of the crackdown is to increase allegiance to the ruling Communist Party. President Xi Jinping and other Communists believe Christianity “promotes Western values and ideals like human rights” that “conflict with the aims of China’s authoritarian government” and Xi’s “embrace of traditional Chinese culture and Confucian teachings that emphasize obedience and order,” The Times reported.
Gu is drawing strength from Scripture. One of his favorite verses is Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”
Early Rain members were asked to sign letters stating they renounced Christianity. Instead, they have chosen to worship in private.
“We have moved underground,” said Li Shuangde, a church member.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Li Yang/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.