Prayers for Christians in China at the start of the Chinese New Year
The year 2018 saw an unprecedented increase of religious persecution in China. The huge numbers of churches raided, pastors arrested and increased surveillance on the Christian community led China to climb up the ranks of the World Watch List from being on the 43rd position in 2018 – to be positioned at 27 now.
According to Open Doors research, approximately 50 million Christians in China are experiencing persecution. The drastic rise is a result of the new religious affairs regulations introduced by China and enforced since the beginning of March 2018.
The Chinese government is cracking down on Christians and other religious minorities, aiming for the ‘sinicization’ of religion – making it fit smoothly with the Communist line and increasing loyalty to President Xi Jinping’s ideology. There are plans to ‘contextualise’ the Bible to fit with Chinese culture. Some churches have been told to fly the Chinese flag higher than the cross and to sing the national anthem before services.
Outspoken and influential churches are bearing the brunt of the revised regulations, particularly in Henan and Zhejiang provinces (the birthplace of major house church networks), as an example to the rest of the country.
Reports from inside China tell us that landlords are being pressured by local authorities to terminate rental contracts with churches. Some are being fined crippling amounts for petty offences such as inadequate fire safety equipment. There are strict guidelines for crosses displayed on churches. Many local authorities have in the past turned a blind eye to these regulations but are now enforcing them harshly.
Authorities have increased harassment of pastors making once normal activity more difficult. Many are worried about the effect it will have on their congregation. In order to stop a new generation of Christians, children’s church, youth groups and camps are forbidden. Churches have even been ordered to place signs at their entrance forbidding anyone under 18 from entering.
Many churches are defiant in the face of these new regulations. Others are taking precautions; when a church was closed down in western China the members took their meetings to the street, they now meet in local parks and hand out Christian literature after the service. Others are still meeting but have split into multiple smaller gatherings. One group of Christians in a major city left to go back to their respective home villages where they are now starting churches.
There is fear in China that the laws may still be tightened, or enforcement may become more severe. Please pray as the church in China faces uncertain times. Many fear it could once again be driven underground.
Please pray also for unity for the church in China. May the Lord grant His wisdom and protection to our brothers and sisters as they go face these difficult circumstances.