Religious Freedom In China?
In 1982 I had my first opportunity to travel into China. During that visit I had the huge privilege of meeting for two nights with a house church leader in Shanghai. That was in many ways a defining time for Derek Prince Ministries’ work in China. ThIs brother and his wife shared with me the needs of the church at the time in China which defined our responses in the years to come.
One instruction they gave me stands out clearly: “We (the house churches) have no voice to believers overseas. Please be a reporter for us.” At that time some in the West denied that there even were house churches, presumably claiming that all believers belonged to the official church. In subsequent years of course that denial has been clearly shown to be false. There have been multitudes of opportunities for house church believers and leaders to share with their brethren in the West.
Unprecedentedly strict religious regulations in China came into force on February 1, 2018. Two months later, we are seeing the impact of these new laws. A recent photograph outside of a large and impressive church building in China showed a government sign declaring the effect of these new laws: “no Communist Party member, no member of the Armed Forces, no student of any kind, and no minor (person under 18 years of age not in education) is permitted to enter this building." Some leaders have been told that only 10 people may attend a service on Sunday mornings, in other places 20 people. If more people attend, they will be fined the equivalent of US$1500 for each person. The laws adamantly state that the only education that may take place in China is that of the Communist Party, which is atheistic by definition. Thus any form of teaching in the church, whether children’s Sunday school, adult classes, or any other, is totally forbidden and outlawed.
Imagine that situation in your church. That you turned up on Sunday morning and were told to go away. That your children were banned from church, and it was totally forbidden to teach them about the Lord Jesus at all. An objective analysis would suggest that the intent of the current Chinese leadership is to deny the present and the next generation of young people the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and to follow Him. And equally at the same time those who are now Christians will be starved in their faith.
But a recent visit to a Southeast Asian country has caused me to consider whether history has repeated itself. It seemed that almost none of the many Christians in that country were aware of the current situation for their fellow believers in China. The reason is obvious – China’s economic and geopolitical clout has made national leaders afraid to allow any criticisms of China in any way, or indeed to report what might be construed as negative news of China. It is not the role of Derek Prince Ministries to criticise the Chinese government. But it is our responsibility "to be a reporter" on the real situation of our brothers and sisters in China, so that urgent prayer will be raised up on their behalf outside of China. This is the more urgent given Xi JinPing’s new status as a leader who will continue in power indefinitely.
Pray for Chinese church leaders and believers that they might have wisdom as to how to continue church life and their individual walk as Christians in the face of these new religious regulations.
Pray for the government of China, which faces many moral and social issues, that they might understand that the work of the church is not hostile to them, but is helpful in terms of seeing lives changed from darkness to light to become good citizens of the country.
Pray that Christians outside of China would be aware of what is really going on in China and would be given to prayer for her, and would do more than read superficial news reports.