Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bob Fu's Speech for Accepting 2007 John Leland Religious Liberty Award

China Aid Association

photo: Rev Bob Fu and Dr. Richard Land at the ceremony ; Rev Bob Fu, Rev. Richard Cizik and Congressman Trent Franks
Bob Fu's Speech for Accepting 2007 John Leland Religious Liberty Award from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of Southern Baptist Convention

US Library of Congress, Washington DC

Bob Fu

Dr. Land, Dr Duke, the
Honorable Congressman Franks,
I would like to thank the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
and the Southern
Baptist Convention as well as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus
for your dedication to promoting international religious freedom and for the
great honor of receiving this award today.

I was born and grew up in China. My mom met
my dad when she was begging food in his village because of extreme poverty in
1950s. I remember, as a young boy living in Shandong
province in northeast China,
as my mother was slowly dying of her lung disease caused by starvation, I
begged a local doctor, even offering myself as his bond servant for life if he would
just help provide medicine for my mother to get well. As he shut the door on me
and I walked away with a broken heart, I remember falling on the ground behind
a barn in my home yard and in the only way I knew how, praying to a higher
power to help me and to help my mother. I
prayed that one day my poor mom and I could get some equal status with my other
fellow villagers, no matter how poor or rich.
With that in mind, as a university student, I
was actively involved in the student's democratic movement in 1989. After the
bloody crackdown, I was wondering why the so-called 'People's Army" would
kill their own people-their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. I was not
able to reconcile that question. From
disappointment to disillusioned wrath, I was planning to commit a suicide
campaign to kill those who betrayed me.

However, one night in the classroom, I was given a small booklet
which was smuggled in from Hong Kong by my
American English teacher. It was a testimony of a pastor. I was
fascinated and finished reading it with one breath. I was especially attracted by such beautiful
words as "if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The OLD HAS gone
and the NEW HAS come." I didn't receive my first Bible until a year later,
after I became a believer; however I somehow knew that these beautiful words
were from the Bible. I was totally convicted that I was as depraved as those I
wanted to kill. How could I expect myself to be treated equal by others if I
wanted to kill them? "Yes," I decided, "I want to become a new creation." I couldn't help but surrender myself to my
Creator. Later I knelt down on the floor with my American teacher at his dorm
and accept Christ into my life. I
realized the very freedom of conscience that the Creator endowed in my heart is
far more precious and fundamental than any other rights. The very next day, I
found everything was renewed and I even started having compassion and respect
toward my betrayers and my enemies. I suddenly realized that, although as a
small boy I did not know who God was, He knew and loved me, just like He knows
and loves the 1.3 billion people I left behind in China some 12 years ago when President
Clinton intervened for me, my new infant son and my wonderful wife Heidi.
I am humbled to stand here today in
this historic setting as a Chinese-American who deeply loves the United States
and cherishes the religious freedom this great country affords, but I am and
always will be, Chinese in my heart. I
miss China
very much and pray for her future. I sincerely
want China's future to be
one of prosperity and stability and I believe that this can only be realized as
true religious freedom is fully embraced in China and protected by the rule of
law. This objective is the motivation
behind all my efforts and the purpose of China Aid Association. Throughout
Chinese history, "the Mandate of Heaven", which is a concept of a higher
power influencing leaders of nations, has influenced and been embraced by the
Chinese people at all levels of society. I and millions of Christians in China today believe that the "mandate of
heaven" is for China
to become a lasting, peaceful world power and worthy leader in the international
community, but this will only be achieved if religious freedom is established. In the international community and among many
Chinese citizens, there is a difference of opinion concerning the status of
religious freedom in China.

Certainly, there is more religious
freedom today than there was during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960's. There are the TSPM churches, that have an
estimated 16 million members and 15,000 churches that are officially registered
with the Chinese government. The Chinese
government would argue that the existence of these churches and the fact that
millions of Bibles are printed and allowed to be sold at these TSPM churches is
proof that there is religious freedom in China. I acknowledge that there has been some progress
in China
in the area of religious freedom, and I know members of the TSPM church who
believe that all Chinese Christians should be willing to register and only
worship in the manner that is officially approved by the Chinese government.
But there are over 60 to 80 million Christians who view the TSPM church with
suspicion and feel that they should be allowed to worship in their homes and in
ways of their own choosing, like I did when I was a little boy, and not be
required to register and only assemble for worship in government approved
sites.

There are many perspectives
among the unregistered churches as to how to deal with the Chinese government's
registration requirements. Some house churches are contemplating aligning themselves
with the official TSPM church and working within its structures. Some house
churches are praying to God for guidance and waiting to see if the Chinese
government will be open-minded and more flexible with registration requirements
citing that, logistically, millions of unregistered Christians cannot be
accommodated by the official TSPM structure and facilities. Other house
churches are strongly opposed to such a consideration and view the official
TSPM church as a deceptive arm of a Communist government created to control and
undermine the purity of their faith. This
is a complex issue whose outcome will determine the future of China's stability and future.
Many of you here today are already aware
that China Aid documents and reports extensively on the issue of religious
freedom in China and the shortcomings
of the current status quo in China.

Although China Aid may be viewed to be
hostile to the Chinese government, our purpose is quite the opposite. Our reports are not intended to be hostile and
malicious, but rather to be accurate, well-documented and to help to provide a
catalyst for the change that is needed if China is to successfully navigate the
transitions and challenges that its increased economic growth and access to a
freer world
outside its walls is accelerating. China's recent economic growth,
while welcomed in many ways, is also creating a volatile wealth gap and
increasing social needs and unrest. This is where millions of Christians who
are part of the house church movement can be a stable force for a harmonious
society, and why resolving the religious freedom issue is critical. For this reason, China Aid seeks to be a peaceful
advocate for the house churches in China and a non-violent outlet for
frustrations, as we expose violations of basic human rights, such as the
freedom to assemble and worship that the current status quo perpetuates for
millions of house church Christians. Not only does China Aid seek peaceful
methods to deal with growing frustrations and in some cases, corrupt arbitrary
actions of regional local officials, but China Aid also seeks to challenge the
house church Christians to serve others, not just demand more rights for
themselves. Christians, or "followers
of Christ", are to be servants of their fellowmen.

My hope is that the Chinese Government will recognize that
Christianity and other true peaceful religious groups, do not need to be
"controlled" and are not a threat to the government, but rather, are
one of the needed building blocks for stability and can provide much needed
help for promoting non-violence during this time of transition in China's
history. In fact, I want to point out
that the current restrictions imposed by the Chinese government create an
environment conducive to the incubation of dangerous criminal cults like
Eastern Lightening. If the house churches were free to assemble and
publish the truth of Christianity, orthodoxy, and also free to instruct their
congregations, especially their children, the truly dangerous cults would be
more easily identified and less likely to victimize the ignorant as the
Chinese government fears. More importantly, a freer Christian community can
provide much needed social services contributing to the harmonious society that
China
seeks. Without mentioning specific locations and names, we know and have been
supporting house churches who are serving several hundred orphans and the
elderly in different provinces, including the area of Tibet. With the help of selfless foreign Christians,
we know that hundreds of schools have been established to provide quality, free
education for the children of the so-called floating population (migrant), who otherwise,
would have been forever illiterate under current China's education system. Unfortunately, these unselfish good deeds have
to be done secretly, because of their association with the house churches. How
much more could they do if they had more freedom to provide such worthy social
services? This would be a win-win
scenario for the Chinese government but of course, trust must be established
before such a visionary plan could begin dialogue.

A quick study of Chinese history helps
one understand that there are certain valid reasons why the Chinese government does
not currently see and trust Christianity as a positive influence for a
harmonious society.

Throughout history, sadly,
the Christian faith has been distorted and exploited in ways that do not honor
the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. China is no
exception to this tragedy. As a Chinese,
I will mention the Taiping Rebellion which is a good example of why the Chinese
government does not trust the motives of Christians. In the mid-1850s, the Taiping rebellion was
started by Hung Hsiu-Ch'uan who was trained by a Southern Baptist missionary
named Isaachar Roberts. Rev. Roberts'
intentions were honorable; he himself was a wealthy American Christian who went
to China
to work with lepers, and eventually died
of leprosy. However, the actions of Isachaar's student, Hung Hsiu-Ch'uan, did
not follow the basic tenets of the Christian faith and Roberts eventually
concluded that Hung was mentally ill and denounced Hung as "crazy and
unfit to rule." This does not erase the
30 million lives lost in the Taiping Rebellion and the tragic consequences that
Hung's misuse of the Bible to challenge the Chinese government, and his
heretical teachings, which included Hung's belief that he was the brother of
Jesus, caused. This time period in
Chinese history is important for Western Christians to be aware of and acknowledge
because it explains some of the background for why the Chinese government does
not trust Christians who are not willing to be tightly controlled, like the
house church movement for which I am an advocate though it can not be used as
justification for any type of of religious persecution. This is why I believe
that it is essential that the House churches must go the extra mile to
demonstrate that their objectives are not to be violent revolutionaries and
enemies of the current government, but rather that their interpretation of the
"mandate of heaven" in the Christian faith is quite the opposite: to
show respect and pray for those in the government, while being servants of
their fellowman and to be a positive stabilizing force in society. I must be truthful and state that from my
observations, even as I document shortcomings of the Chinese government in
regards to religious freedoms, the house churches, in my opinion, also have shortcomings
they need to address and improve on. A
well known question, to remind Christians how to live as followers of Christ here
in the United States among evangelicals is, "What would Jesus do?"
and if I ask myself, what would Jesus do today if He lived in China? I feel I need to meditate more on how Jesus
would instruct his followers in the Chinese house churches? Would Jesus demand more rights and join in angry
confrontation, be disrespectful to the authorities, consider violent acts to
achieve more freedoms of expression, assembly and worship? These were not the
methods that Jesus used to address the problems in His own culture and society
when He was walking on earth. Jesus
modeled and commanded His followers to love everyone, even one's enemies. He forgave those who unjustly beat Him and eventually
crucified Him. He used His life to do
good to others by healing the sick, feeding the hungry and showing respect for
all, even those in government positions who misunderstood and tortured Him.
Christians in China should
strive to live as Christ lived, even while they are seeking to promote the rule
of law and truer religious freedoms than exist today. Christians must be
truthful; this is why China Aid strives to carefully document all our reports
and focuses on cases where the Chinese Government is not following their own
constitutional guarantees. This is why China Aid seeks to peacefully and
respectfully expose those local authorities that exploit their positions. This is also why China Aid is encouraged over
recent developments. After President Hu
publically called for religious believers, including Christians, to join the harmonious
society building last December, we were encouraged that nine house church
leaders from Beijing and Hubei were released from their detention
center and labor camps ahead of schedule. I pray and hope this will represent a
true beginning of reconciliation instead of a one-time diplomatic gesture.
But a critical difference
between the house church and the official TSPM church still exists and must be reconciled
and this critical difference is how each of these groups view the Chinese
Government's registration requirements. For
China, this is the most
critical, historic issue of this decade that the Chinese government must
resolve peacefully, and this will be key as to how China proceeds on religious freedoms
and whether China is, or is not, embraced within the international community. My
hope, and I believe the hope of the majority of millions of unregistered
Chinese Christians, is that the Chinese government will recognize that the
majority of unregistered house church members and their leaders are stable,
patriotic citizens whose faith is not a threat to
national security, but instead they are the single greatest asset the Chinese
government has for building and sustaining a harmonious society that can meet
the growing social needs and the problems that the wealth gap is creating. The Chinese Christians I know and advise, wish
to help with the great needs of the elderly, disabled and with orphans, as well
as other vulnerable groups. They want to help promote morals and values and
denounce violence.

I do hope that President
Bush's visit to the Beijing Olympics this summer, will further confirm his
conviction, as he shared repeatedly to both President Jiang Zemin and Hu
Jintao, that religious freedom is not a threat, but a great help to the Chinese
society. So as you, the Congressional
Caucus on Human Rights, and various religious leaders, activists and business leaders
here today, seek to make a positive difference in China, I want to encourage you to
keep religious freedom as a top priority, but also understand this is a complex
issue in the Chinese mindset and Chinese history.

As Americans, the more you
and I honestly acknowledge that we are also "stakeholders" in contributing
to the distrust that China has towards Christianity, the more respect we will
be earn as we seek to encourage the expansion of religious freedoms in China. Balance your concerns with sensitivity, but
don't back away, because it is in China's
and the world's best interest for religious freedom and rule of law to succeed
in China.

As a Chinese, I thank you for hearing my
heart today as I hope to play a constructive role in helping Americans understand
that this is a complicated issue that would be best handled internally in China,
if China will responsibly face this task. But as a follower of Christ, I also feel a deeper
responsibility to stand with my brothers and sisters in China who are still
limited in their freedom to assemble and worship in places other than the
official church sites. From my own personal experience of being arbitrarily
detained in a Chinese jail, and from the hundreds of documented cases of
harassment, arbitrary detentions, seizing of property, torture and even the
death of some of my Christian friends and former co-workers in China, I cannot
stay silent for those who share our same faith, but not all of our basic
freedoms. As I partner with you and continue this work, I also strive to
challenge my brothers and sisters in Christ, here in the United States and also
in China, that we must not forget the model that Christ provided for us and
that all we do, even our activism, must be done with love and grace and I ask
you to pray for peace, prosperity and expanded freedoms in my motherland, the
People's Republic of China.
May God continue to bless China
and America!
February 7, 2008

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