SICHAUN PROVINCE, China (BP) — As China continues to hunt down and arrest members of a house church in Sichuan Province, many of the 100 or more Christians arrested reportedly pledged in advance to persevere even until death.
Gina Goh, Southeast Asia regional manager for International Christian Concern, said many leaders of Autumn Rain Covenant Church — also translated by some as Early Rain Covenant Church — counted the cost and pledged faithfulness in advance of arrests at homes, workplaces and on the streets that have continued since Dec. 9.
“I think a lesson we can learn from them is they continue to say that, ‘No matter what may come, we will continue to serve the Lord. We will continue to stand strong in our faith,'” Goh told Baptist Press today (Dec. 11). “As was demonstrated in this church, … their pastor, a lot of elders, actually wrote letters to their congregation saying that, ‘We will not bend, even if it means jail, even if it means death. We will continue to preserve our faith.'”
Those arrested are being beaten, tortured and denied food and restroom accommodations, Goh said, according to accounts and photos from four released to house arrest or police surveillance. Among abuse, Christians were dragged, stepped on and tied to chairs and had handfuls of hair pulled from their scalp. In many cases, no charges have been filed or announced.
The continuing arrests are the latest in government persecution of Christians that has escalated under President Xi Jinping’s ramped up efforts to “Sinicize” religion, bypassing religious freedom that is guaranteed in the country’s constitution.
Church elder Li Yingqiang, who evaded arrest until 2 a.m. today by hiding, wrote a letter before his arrest to other members in seclusion, World Magazine reported today.
“Beloved brothers and sisters, I am writing this letter in hiding,” World Magazine quoted the communication. “May you all be filled with joy in the Gospel of Christ. May you welcome, filled with hope, the even heavier cross and more difficult lives that lie ahead of you. Christ is Lord. Grace is King. Bear the cross. Keep the faith.”
The government tactic of arresting church members and leaders while they conduct their daily lives is not new to China, Goh said. But the latest incident, he said, represents an escalation in scope.
“This is not completely new, but for something that is this largescale, it is new for sure,” Goh told BP. Intimidating church members and leaders, she said, is designed to make the churches dismantle and force allegiance to the Three-Self Church controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Three-Self congregations must display government flags, sing patriotic songs and praise government leaders.
Xi’s religious restrictions enacted in 2017 and tightened in February are preempting China’s constitution.
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Source: Baptist Press