China Launches "Secret" Crackdown On House Churches, 'Open Doors' Says

Friday, January 18, 2008

By BosNewsLife News Center

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- A leading group supporting Christians "persecuted for their faith" has launched a global prayer campaign for China where, it says, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been waging "a secret" crackdown on unregistered house churches.

In comments monitored by BosNewsLife Thursday, January 17, Open Doors said it established that in 2007 "most Christians could not practice their faith openly" as the CCP "waged a secret campaign against unregistered house churches from mid-June until the end of November."

In addition, the government backed police investigated "the content of sermons, personal history of house church evangelists and the sources of their funds." On November 18 authorities detained 40 church leaders from China Gospel Fellowship in Xiancheng County in Henan Province," the well-informed group said.

"Some are fined. Some pastors are also locked up for a few days or sent to labor camps."

Among those detained is Pastor Zhang Rongliang who "sits in a prison cell despite a judge's previous statement that "insufficient evidence and ambiguous facts" surrounded his case, and that Zhang would be judged fairly," Open Doors recalled. Zhang was sentenced in July 2006 to seven and a half years in prison on charges of "attaining a passport through cheating" and "illegal border crossing."


Zhang, leader of the China for Christ house church movement, was arrested December 1, 2004. "He had been detained five times before and had already spent a total of 12 years in prison. [Yet] Zhang, who has major health problems, still has preached the gospel in prison and brought many to the Lord," Open Doors said.

Christians are facing practical troubles too, said Open Doors China officials. "For Christians living in the countryside it is difficult to obtain study Bibles and Christian books or attend a Bible school." Open Doors said the "Chinese government is carefully crafting an image of religious tolerance leading up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, which start August 8. But the facts tell a different story."

As a result of what it called "continued persecution in China", Open Doors said it has launched a countdown prayer campaign to the Summer Olympics called "One Minute/One Year/One Country." Christians are asked to pray for at least one minute each day; "if possible at 8 p.m. Beijing time," the group said.

Open Doors USA, the American division of the international group with Website, said the campaign aims to "unite believers in the West to pray for their persecuted Chinese brothers and sisters in faith. Already over 1,300 prayer warriors have signed up for the campaign, which began last fall."


Believers participating the campaign are informed about prayer subjects in a monthly prayer email calendar and a daily email brief. "The Beijing Olympics start August 8 so we need to blanket Chinese believers right now with our prayers," said Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller.

He said besides increased pressure on house church leaders, raids and arrests, his group is concerned about "the expulsion of foreign missionaries." He said the crackdown is "expected to increase as the start of the Olympics draws closer." Open Doors and other groups have argued that Chinese officials want to ensure that Christians will not use the event as an opportunity to spread Christianity in the Communist-run nation.

Chinese officials have denied wrongdoing, saying Chinese Christians are free to worship within the government-backed denominations. Devoted Chinese Christians are not the only believers facing reports of persecution. An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation, according to Open Doors estimates.

Open Doors said it will continue to strengthen "believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers."

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