Demolished Christian Church in China Sparks Fears of Campaign Against Christians
By Faith Magbanua, January 19, 2018 23:01 PM
Earlier this week, a church in Northern China was demolished and it is now the second church demolished in less than a month.
As the demolition continues, it immediately sparked fears of a wider campaign against Christians as authorities prepare to enforce new laws on religion.
According the witnesses and the head pastor, the police prevented access off the area around the Golden Lampstand Church church in Linfen, Shanxi province and on Sunday before the construction workers detonated explosives inside. After the initial explosion, crews broke apart the remaining pieces with diggers and jackhammers.
However, it is known that China guarantees freedom of religion on paper, but in real life, authorities heavily regulate many aspects of religious life. Churches must be officially sanctioned and pastors must adhere to a host of rules imposed by the government.
The restrictive policies have given rise to "house" churches, independent places of worship that exist outside official channels. Authorities periodically arrest pastors or demolish buildings used by unsanctioned congregations.
The authorities have also taken a harder line since 2013 against towering crosses and large cathedrals. Officials hurled a sweeping crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200 crosses have been removed, according to activists.
Furthermore, in an annual report on freedom of religion, the US State Department found that "the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices".
After the explosion, a pastor at a nearby church arrived at the Golden Lampstand church and watched the construction crews break apart the remains of the building. The pastor asked his name not be published for fear of retaliation by the authorities.
There were "more police than I could count" preventing a crowd of onlookers and worshipers from approaching the site, the pastor said.
"My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own," he said. "This church was built in 2008, there's no reason for them to destroy it now."
The Golden Lampstand church was built a decade ago and cost a total of 17m yuan (£1.9m) at the time, according to the head pastor Yang Rongli. Yang previously spent seven years in jail on charges of "assembling a crowd to disturb traffic order" and has been under police surveillance since her release in October 2016, according to China Aid, a Christian NGO based in the United States.
"I think this might be a new pattern against any independent house churches with an existing building or intention to build one," said Bob Fu, founder of China Aid. "It also could be a prelude to enforcing the new regulation on religious affairs that will take effect in February."
The government revised laws regulating religious groups last year for the first time since 2005, increasing control over a places of worship from limiting the construction of statutes outside churches to imposing fines of up to 300,000 yuan (£34,000) for holding "unauthorized religious activities".
Another church was demolished in a small village in Shaanxi in late December, according to AsiaNews, a China-focused Catholic news website. The building was built in 1999 and local authorities did not give a reason for the demolition.
On the other hand, the officials at the Linfen Bureau of Religious Affairs, still did not respond or give any comments with regards to what happened to the Church, even though a request for their side has been issued, the bureau still remained tight lipped.
Christians Being Persecuted in China
In May 2017, two Chinese missionaries were abducted by radical Islamic militants in Quetta, Pakistan, and were later killed. With a growing Christian church in China and the pledge to send 20,000 missionaries by 2030, more and more Chinese missionaries will be sent to some of the most difficult and unlikely places in the world.
In August 2017, several buildings belonging to a Catholic church in the Shanxi province were destroyed, despite efforts by church members to protect them. Homes of believers were raided and belongings confiscated in Guangdong, Xinjiang and Anhui. Churches have been raided as well, and landlords renting premises to churches have been pressured to terminate such contracts.
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