China Aid August 2014 Newsletter

Friday, August 1, 2014

While we are celebrating a major legal victory for religious liberty in the nation’s highest court with Hobby Lobby’s case, on the other side of the Pacific, the battle against churches has taken a drastic turn. From February to July 30, at least 229 churches or crosses in Zhejiang were either destroyed or removed by force. Multiple believers and church leaders were detained or arrested. At 3 a.m. on July 21, over 4,000 armed military police and other government officials launched a bloody sweep against a few hundred believers who were holding a prayer vigil in front of the church gate. More than 60 people were beaten, and 14 were seriously wounded by electric batons. This is the worst religious persecution since the time of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) when all churches, including the government-sanctioned ones, were shut down.

One of the debates over the latest crackdown against Chinese churches is whether it is worthy or even spiritual to defend a material church building or a cross made of wood and concrete. Those who are opposed to defending the cross from being destroyed argue that both the church building and the crosses are material “things,” that the true Church is the believers, and that the spiritual cross is located in believers’ hearts. Don’t we, as Christians, know the truth—that God has not limited his presence to a building and that to daily bear Jesus’ cross does not mean to put a physical cross on our backs?

On the other side of the debate, those who firmly believe we should try our best to defend the cross from being removed claim that the cross is the most important symbol and representation of the church of Christ. Since the purpose of the Chinese regime is to contain the rapid growth of Christianity by removing or destroying crosses from the top of the church buildings, how can true followers of Christ sit idly allowing our faith to be desecrated so forthrightly? One pastor from Salvation Church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou, even wrote his last will to his congregation and his family members, declaring his willingness to be martyred for defending the church’s cross. Here is what the 41-year-old Pastor Zhan Yingsheng, whose name means eternity, wrote about his decision:

“As an individual, I implore the Lord to give me the will of a martyr. I will need it especially during the demolition of our church’s cross. I don’t mean I would like to become a martyr for a 6-ton cross. Instead, as a Christian facing unrighteousness, my conscience urges me to do my duty. I wish to better understand the meaning of ‘Christ calling on me to die for Him.’ If the martyrdom or tribulation of some Christians can make the storm of this demolition campaign quiet down and the spirit of rule of law come true in the various fields of our country, may the Lord support me solidly!”

Friends, although I can fully understand both sides, I have to point out that I would have more respect for those who argue against the defense of the cross if the Church was not under the extreme tribulation that is going on now in China. But as Pastor Yingsheng suggests, those cross-defenders are not merely defending a piece of wood or concrete. In essence, they are defending the true faith of Christ. By being willing to suffer for the defense of religious freedom, they are demonstrating the true meaning of bearing the Cross. If believers are afraid of defending the most well recognized symbol of our faith, how can we claim we are holding the spiritual cross in our heart? How can you sing “The Old Rugged Cross” as your everlasting glory while appeasing the persecutors by allowing them to demolish the symbol of our faith?

For this reason, I urge you to continue to pray for and support those who are in the front line—it’s working. With 28 brave rights defense lawyers’ help, the government of Cao County, Shandong province recently, and reluctantly, released 10 out of 12 detained Christians. Also, I went to southeast Asia in early July, and by the grace of the Lord, and with your prayer and support, the family of Pastor Zhang Shaojie, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on July 4, was brought to freedom in Midland, Texas.

Believers injured in Wenzhou cross demo

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang) A bloody altercation occurred early July 21 when more than 600 government officials broke into a church in China’s coastal Zhejiang province and beat believers who attempted to block their entrance.

Zhang Zhimin was injured in the July 21
clash between police and believers.
Officials were at the Salvation Church to demolish the cross topping the church for the second time in less than two weeks. In all, about 10 church members were injured.

“The incident occurred after 3 a.m., and several hundred of them came,” one Christian said. “As soon as they got out of their vehicles, they…began to smash the door. One of our [church members], who is 78, raised his hands and said ‘Don’t beat me.’ They wielded their electric batons and hit him on the head. There was a lot of blood.”

“We stood by the side of the wall and several hundred of them dashed over and were ready to storm into the church,” Mr. Xu, a church member, said. “When we wouldn’t let them enter, they began to beat us and injured many of us. An older [man] and an elder were injured, and several [men] in the rear were beaten down and lay on the floor.

“The five of us were lying in the hospital [after the incident]. Among the five, three of us have bone fractures in the head and in the eye, and I had a few stitches,” Xu said.

“A young man of about 30, Zhang Zhimin, has been vomiting blood,” another worshipper said. “In the morning, he complained about dizziness… His nasal bone is broken and his brow ridge is also broken.”
“[Zhang Zhimin] was right at the door. The police officers surrounded him and chopped and beat him in a random way,” Zhang’s father said. “They [had] black batons.”

Officials first attempted to demolish Salvation Church’s cross on Saturday, July 19, but were met with resistance from believers. On that occasion, one man attempted to take photos for evidence and was struck down by police.

“They came to demolish the cross,” one man said. “However, they didn’t have the proper paperwork for it. We told them they were violating the law. They said we violated the regulations. We asked them why they came to demolish our cross by force at three o’clock in the morning and why they didn’t come during the day.”

“The bloody crackdown against a peaceful church and its believers is absolutely a barbaric crime,” China Aid founder and president Bob Fu said. “All those who committed this crime should be held accountable. This blunt violation of Chinese citizens’ religious freedom should be unequivocally condemned by…the civilized world.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985