Tuesday, February 9, 2016

RLPB 343. China: a new cultural revolution is upon us

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 343 | Wed 10 Feb 2016

By Elizabeth Kendal

Between 1958 and 1961 at least 18 million (and possibly as many as 45 million) Chinese died as a direct result of Chairman Mao's disastrous socio-economic campaign know as the 'Great Leap Forward'. Subsequently dissent rose within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Mao, with
Stalin, Lenin, Engles and Marx
In 1966 Mao struck back, launching the socio-political movement known as the 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution'.  He purged opposition from the CCP and incited indoctrinated youths to purge society of 'closet capitalists'. Books were burned, art was destroyed, intellectuals were incarcerated and killed, churches were confiscated and bulldozed, foreign missionaries were expelled or executed, and Chinese pastors were murdered and condemned to decades in labour camps and coal mines. At that time the Church in China was estimated to be around one million strong. Despite being severely persecuted the Chinese Church committed herself to mission. God redeemed the suffering, using it to make hearts receptive to the Gospel. For decades Church growth was largely confined to rural regions. But then, the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989 shattered the confidence of China's urban elite, opening the door to the spread of the Gospel in the cities and through every level of society. By the beginning of the 21st Century the Church in China was estimated to number 100 million, with Chinese Christians working and witnessing as lawyers, academics, entrepreneurs, musicians, et al. This growth has occurred in the absence of foreign missionaries, making Christianity in China an indigenous movement. The most un-Chinese thing in China today is the Marxism Mao imported from Europe!

Today it seems the cycle is repeating. Communism has failed, the economy is fragile and dissent is rising -- even inside the CCP. In this context it seems President Xi Jinping (who assumed office in November 2012) is laying the foundation for a new cultural revolution. The CCP is being purged, mostly by means of an 'anti-corruption' campaign, and Maoism is being resurrected. President Xi, increasingly the focus of a personality cult, is tightening his control over the cultural sphere while promoting solidarity around ideology as being China's only hope against foreign infiltration. [See Document No. 9, CCP policy, 2013]

From 2002 - 2007 Xi Jinping served as governor and party secretary of Zhejiang Province, where he would have witnessed the phenomenal growth of Protestant Christianity, particularly in the city of Wenzhou, known as 'China's Jerusalem' because of its many churches, Christian-run businesses and its sizable, influential Christian minority. According to a new report by Willy Lam (The Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, 4 Feb 2016) it is no accident that President Xi's campaign to ‘Sinicize Christianity’, so as to put Christianity into the service of the CCP, was launched in Zhejiang.

Chong-Yi Church
Lam comments, 'Except during the Cultural Revolution, "official" churches' -- as distinct from house churches which refuse to come under the auspices of the CCP-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the China Christian Council (CCC) -- 'have not been directly subjected to the party's ideological or doctrinal intervention.' Lam is wrong on this count for this has recently changed, as noted in RLPBs 341 and 342. Pastor Gu Yuese, arrested on 27 January, was an official with the CCC and pastor of China's largest TSPM church -- Chongyi Church in the Zhejiang capital, Hangzhou.  Now detained in a 'black jail' on charges of corruption, Gu's only offence was to criticise CCP policy in Zhejiang. The government has since appointed a new pastor to oversee Chongyi Church, having divided up and transferred out its pastoral team.

Authorities have also arrested Li Guanzhong: the chairman of the China Christian Council (CCC) in Pujiang County, Zhejiang, and senior pastor of Puyang Christian Church in the city of Jinhua. Arrested on 29 January, Li and his wife, Zhang Shuzhen, now also are detained in China's 'black jail' system where, like Pastor Gu, they are being held incommunicado, without access to legal representation, on charges pertaining to corruption. Like Gu, Li had protested CCP policy in Zhejiang. In July 2014 he resisted CCP pressure to destroy his own church's cross. More recently he resisted the CCP's order that all TSPM churches fly the Chinese flag.

Eighteen crosses have been toppled from churches in Zhejiang since 1 January (some 1800 since February 2014) and eight TSPM pastors are now detained. Furthermore, the authorities have abducted five booksellers out of Hong Kong and a journalist out of Thailand; formal charges have been brought against nearly 20 human rights lawyers; and coerced 'confessions' are once again being broadcast on state television. This year, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Mao's Cultural Revolution and many observers suspect that a new cultural revolution is upon us. Just as the last one failed, so too will this one. In fact it could even facilitate revival and result in the collapse of the CCP, but not before much suffering has been unleashed. The Church in China needs our prayers for wisdom, for endurance and for mission.


* China's imprisoned pastors and Christian human rights lawyers will have full assurance that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39) who has promised to be with them to the end of time (Matthew 28:20) and to give them rest/peace (Matthew 11:28; John 14:27) and strength (Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 12:9).

* the Spirit of God will restrain evil hands and act to protect his faithful ones imprisoned in secret detention, where cruel treatment is highly likely (Psalm 10).

* God will redeem all suffering; may the blood of the martyrs and the tears of intercessors be redeemed that many hearts will be prepared to receive the Gospel of grace, the hope of nations.

'Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.' (Promise: Psalm 126:5,6 ESV)


This year, 2016, is the 50th anniversary of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution and it seems there is now a new cultural revolution. Not only is President Xi purging the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of all opposition, he is reviving Maoist ideology and strengthening CCP control over everything, including the Church. President Xi's campaign to force the Church into the service of the CCP is focused at present on the southern coastal province of Zhejiang. For the first time since Mao's Cultural Revolution of 1966 - 1977 the CCP is targeting official, CCP-approved churches. In recent weeks two of Zhejiang's most senior registered pastors have been imprisoned, essentially for criticising CCP policy and resisting CCP orders. The situation in China is extremely serious. Please pray for China and its Church.

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks toChristians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

RLPB 342. Mexico: needing a word from Pope Francis (plus China update)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 342 | Wed 03 Feb 2016

-- Plus China Update: Pastor Gu Yuese arrested.
By Elizabeth Kendal

Pope Francis will visit Mexico for a six-day tour over 12-17 February. His itinerary will include visits to poor and indigenous communities and his message will 'highlight issues of economic justice, migration, drug-related violence and the rights of indigenous peoples'.
His tour will commence in the south and end in the far north, in Ciudad Juárez, from where he will enter the US, apparently in solidarity with migrants. While in Ciudad Juárez, Pope Francis will visit a prison to meet with prisoners. Though not on the agenda, hopefully he might also get to meet Ciudad Juárez’s angels: poor Protestant youths, from a small evangelical church known as 'Psalm 100', who have risked their lives to present a message of repentance and righteousness to Ciudad Juárez’s drug-trafficking murderers, and in doing so changed their city. [See Religious Liberty Monitoring (Feb 2012)]

Though Mexico is overwhelmingly Catholic (around 80 percent of the population), the Catholic Church is in decline, riddled as it is with the rapidly growing Satanic cult of Santa Muerle (Saint Death) and the syncretism so prevalent in historically animist indigenous communities. In this context, Protestant Christianity has grown from 4.9 percent of the population in 1990 to 7.6 percent in 2010, arousing jealousy and angst in the Catholic Church. Though Mexico has excellent religious freedom laws, the situation on the ground is far from satisfactory and Protestants are in the firing line. Sometimes the persecution is incited by jealous Catholic clergy. At other times it is driven by fear that Protestant refusal to participate in idol worship or animist rituals will attract the wrath of belligerent spirits. More often than not it is a mixture of both.

In the most recent case, Baptist officials have confirmed that ten Baptist families, comprising 18 adults and 10 children, have been expelled from Tuxpan de Bolanos, an indigenous Huichol community in the north of Jalisco State. (Some reports give double these numbers.) In December the village assembly adopted a resolution vowing to expel the Baptists if they did not return to Roman Catholicism, which the assembly described as 'the traditional faith'. Even though state and federal government officials and the Jalisco State Human Rights Commission were alerted, no action was taken to save the believers from forced displacement. On 26 January the Protestants were informed a truck would come to their homes to take them away. They were warned that if they failed to co-operate they would be lynched. According to the National Baptist Convention of Mexico (NBCM), after being taken away by the truck the group was 'abandoned' in the mountains. The NBCM collected the believers and transported them to safety in Puente de Camotlan, in neighbouring Nayarit.

Such persecution occurs frequently in Mexico, especially in indigenous communities. Despite Mexico's excellent religious freedom provisions, persecution persists primarily because the country's laws are not upheld and the persecutors are never punished but are protected by Catholic officials. If Pope Francis really believes in justice and really cares about indigenous peoples and the poor, then he should raise his voice of authority and call for an end to Roman Catholic persecution of Mexico's Protestant Christians, most of whom are poor and indigenous.


* God, our merciful father, will provide for the displaced Baptists of Tuxpan de Bolanos, supplying all their needs and securing justice on their behalf.

'Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. . . . For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.' (Psalm 100:3,5 ESV)

* Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, will lead and guide Mexico's Protestants, especially their local shepherds/pastors, as they risk much to offer life and hope to a troubled land and a desperately needy people.  Lord, in your grace and mercy, continue to bless their courageous, sacrificial and costly witness.

* the Holy Spirit will move Pope Francis to raise his authoritative Catholic voice in defence of religious freedom and in the cause of justice, for the sake of Mexico's mostly poor and indigenous, persecuted Protestants.


Mexico's population is 80 percent Roman Catholic, but that Church is declining while Protestant Christianity is growing. Despite excellent legislation for religious freedom, Mexico's laws are not upheld and Roman Catholics who persecute Protestants are never punished. The problem is most severe in indigenous communities where Catholicism is blended with traditional animist beliefs and practices. On 26 January ten Baptist families who refused to return to Catholicism were forcibly expelled from their indigenous community in Jalisco. Despite the authorities being alerted, no action was taken to protect the Protestants who were loaded into a truck, driven into the mountains and abandoned. The National Baptist Convention of Mexico went and took them to safety. Such persecution is frequent in Mexico, especially in indigenous regions. Please pray for Mexico and its Church.



Pastor 'Joseph' Gu
Last week's RLPB 341 reported that the Three Self Patriotic Movement (China's official Church) and China Christian Council (official organisation) had dismissed Pastor 'Joseph' Gu Yuese as pastor of the 10,000-strong TSPM Chongyi Church in the Zhejiang capital, Hangzhou, after he criticised the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy of removing crosses in Zhejiang. On 27 January police arrested Pastor Gu at his home and placed him in secret detention where he is reportedly being investigated for corruption. According to reports, 'The incident has sparked significant uproar in the Christian community in China.' As China Aid head Bob Fu told the BBC, the charges are nothing more than 'political revenge' for disloyalty to the CCP. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).