By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BEIJING (Worthy News) - A Christian couple in southwest China was forced to cancel their wedding after Chinese authorities learned it would include a celebration
attended by members and leaders of their church who were later detained, Christians confirmed to Worthy News.
"Zhang Qiang and Xiao Yue were eagerly anticipating their wedding day, which was planned for May 21st," said the advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) which closely followed the case. "But as the day approached, governmental pressure against the Christian couple began to mount" because "they are members of the" [evangelical] Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu," the capital of China's Sichuan province, the group added.
According to several Christian sources, the church has been banned and continues to face significant oppression from China's Communist leadership. VOMC told Worthy News that "to prevent the wedding from taking place, church members were detained and questioned regarding their plans to attend the celebration. Additionally, the hotel that had been scheduled to host the couple's wedding was forced to cancel their reservation."
Additionally, church leaders were "detained in their homes to keep them from attending. Furthermore, the couple themselves had been detained and interrogated for four hours by authorities the day before the wedding," VOMC said. Even after their release, Zhang reportedly said that he remained under "continual surveillance," forcing the couple to cancel the event.
A representative of the advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Korea, Hyun Sook Foley, noted that the couple could have held the wedding as "a private event" but invited fellow Christians to their wedding. The Bible book "Ephesians tells us that marriage is not a private celebration but a mystery that shows the world the unbreakable bond between Christ and the church," she explained. "The Early Rain congregation members continue to be one body – with Christ, with this couple, with its Pastor Wang Yi in prison, and with Christians worldwide."
VOMC said it asked for prayers for "the encouragement, comfort, and strength needed" by this couple "as they now recover" from their canceled wedding plans, "resulting in disappointment and heartache." VOMC says it hopes they will be granted the opportunity "to joyously share their wedding celebration among fellow church members sometime in the near future." It said it had urged believers to pray for "wisdom and guidance" for the engaged couple and other members of the Early Rain Covenant Church as they deal with the authorities hoping they can "resume" worship services.
Under President Xi Jinping, pressure has increased on devoted Christians in Communist-run China in recent years, according to church groups.