Tuesday, August 10, 2021

RLPB 610. China, Shanxi: Churches Targeted for Persecution

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 610 | Wed 11 Aug 2021
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CHINA, SHANXI: CHURCHES TARGETED FOR PERSECUTION
CCP demands 'united front'; all who resist will be persecuted.
by Elizabeth Kendal


Xuncheng Reformed Church is an unregistered church in the Shanxi Province capital, Taiyuan. Possibly due to its close connections with Chengdu's Early Rain Covenant Church and its imprisoned Pastor Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has Xuncheng RC in its sights, targeted for persecution. On Sunday 15 November 2020 police raided the church and ordered it to be shut. On 30 December police arrested Pastor An Yankui in his home as he led a group Bible study. Pastor An subsequently spent 15 days in administrative detention. On 7 July Pastor An's long-time friend and ministry co-worker Zhao Wikai (35; married with three young children) was arrested and charged with 'unlawfully possessing items that advocate terrorism or extremism' [see: RLPB 606 (14 July 2021)].

On 28 July police arrested five more Christians from Xuncheng RC. According to Pastor An, the arrests came after a church member from Fenyang City named Zhang Ligong was arrested on 13 July and held for 15 days in administrative detention. When Zhang was released, the church co-workers who went to collect him were arrested on the spot while three other co-workers were arrested at their homes. According to Pastor An, all five had flown to Malaysia in January last year to attend the 'KL2020 Gospel and Culture' Christian conference, hosted by the prominent Chinese Indonesian pastor Stephen Tong and featuring speakers such as Pastors Tim Keller and DA Carson. Many anticipate that trumped up charges will be levelled against the five arrested church members as the CCP ramps up the persecution. Please pray.

With some 50,000 members, Shanxi's unregistered Golden Lampstand house church network has long been in the CCP's sights, targeted for persecution. On Saturday 7 August police in Shanxi's southern Linfen county arrested nine church members - including Pastors Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli (Wang's wife) - and detained them in the capital, Taiyuan. Pastors Wang and Yang have previously been jailed for their religious activities; they were sentenced in November 2009 [RLPB 035 (16 Dec 2009)] to three years and seven years respectively after they sought to petition the government over a violent raid which left around 100 church members wounded (some seriously) and the church's meeting place - a Christian-owned factory in Linfen city's Fushan County - looted and demolished [RLPB 031 (18 Nov 2009)]. Despite persistent severe persecution, the church has steadfastly refused to register and thereby submit itself to CCP oversight. On 9 January 2018, three weeks before the CCP's new Religious Affairs Regulations came into effect, police armed with dynamite and bulldozers demolished Golden Lampstand's new central worship facility in Linfen. The facility had been high on the CCP's hit-list for years.

left: Pastor Yang Rongli upon her release from 7-years in prison, October 2016.
 right: demolition of Golden Lampstand Church, Linfen, January 2018.

Along with Pastors Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli, an unknown number of church members were taken to their local police stations for questioning. A church member told Radio Free Asia (9 August): 'They detained Wang Xiaoguang and eight other people. It was probably because they were carrying out a house church baptism ... We won't change our beliefs, nor will we join the [CCP-approved] Three-Self Patriotic Association.' Please pray.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* bless Xuncheng Reformed Church and supply all their needs; may Christ our Good Shepherd guide Pastor An Yankui and all the church's leaders as they lead Christ's flock through challenging and testing times; may the ever-present Holy Spirit physically, emotionally and spiritually sustain Zhao Wikai and the five new prisoners as they endure interrogation, isolation and separation from loved ones amidst great uncertainty.

* bless and encourage all those involved in the long-persecuted Golden Lampstand house church network; may long-suffering Pastors Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli rest assured that nothing 'will be able to separate [them] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (from Romans 8:35-39). May the God of all comfort sustain them in every way.

* comfort, encourage, preserve, guide, fortify and continue to build his Church in China ahead of the day when she will be free to impact the world in ways we can barely imagine (Ephesians 3:14-21).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHINA, SHANXI: CHURCHES TARGETED FOR PERSECUTION

Two churches in Shanxi Province are facing severe persecution. In November 2020 Xuncheng Reformed Church was ordered to close. In January its Pastor An Yankui spent 15 days in detention. On 7 July An's co-worker Zhao Wikai (35) was jailed for 'terrorism' offences. On 28 July police arrested five members who had travelled to Malaysia in January 2020 to attend a Christian conference. With some 50,000 members, the Golden Lampstand house church network has long been in the CCP's sights. In September 2009 the church's meeting place was demolished. In November 2009 its Pastors Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli (Wang's wife) were jailed for three and seven years respectively. In January 2018 the church's new central meeting place was demolished. On 7 August Pastors Wang and Yang were arrested again. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com