Chinese Christians report that in recent months China has banned online Bible sales. The links for Bible purchases have mysteriously vanished from regime-controlled internet book sale sites.
According to Christianity Today, "Two days before the Bibles were banned from online purchase, the Chinese government released a document outlining how it intends to promote 'Chinese Christianity' over the next five years. According to the document, one of the government’s key objectives is to reinterpret and retranslate the Bible in order to enhance 'Chinese-style Christianity and theology.'"
The Chinese government’s harsh treatment of Christians and others comes as no surprise to China-watchers and concerned Christian organizations.
There is, in fact, intensifying danger to most religious groups, including Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, the Falun Gong sect and innumerable others not officially recognized by the Chinese government.
One hopeful sign: This week’s release of Chinese dissident Liu Xia, which is being joyfully applauded internationally. She is the widow of Nobel laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo, who died of cancer just a year ago while still imprisoned.
As her husband suffered, Liu Xia was sentenced to 8 years of house arrest. Thanks to global activism on her behalf, she has finally been released from her ordeal.
Liu Xia’s safe arrival in Germany briefly offered a flicker of hope that China might be backing off its hardline policies against dissidents and religious believers.
However, according to those involved with China’s Christian underground community —one of the most cruelly mistreated religious groups in China — there is presently no indication that the state’s ongoing crackdown against its dissenting citizens has been alleviated.
In fact, the crackdown on Christians may be intensifying.
It is estimated that there are between 70 to 100 million Christians in China, and around half of them belong to unregistered churches, which places them at greater risk of government abuse.
In recent days, after returning to the U.S., an American missionary told a Chicago area newspaper that Christians and their churches in China are currently undergoing "a fiery trial" that is fiercer than anything experienced since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.
Earlier this year, I reported for Newsmax that the Chinese government had dynamited a large church, which was a place of worship to some 50,000 Christians. "The officially atheistic Chinese Communist Party had tolerated the church for years," I wrote. “But Golden Lampstand Church apparently got caught on the wrong side of Xi’s campaign to eliminate any rival influences. A 20-year-old Catholic church in Shaanxi province was demolished as well."
The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) offers no encouraging news in its 2018 China report. USCIRF recommends that China be re-designated as a CPC — a Country of Particular Concern with regard to religious liberty, which it has been since 1999.
The Vatican finds itself on the wrong side of the Chinese government as well. Seemingly irreconcilable differences recently have been underscored between the two.
According to the 2018 USCIRF report, "Despite overtures by Pope Francis and other Catholic officials and reports of an agreement, talks between Beijing and the Vatican about appointing bishops remained unresolved. . . . China accused the Vatican of interfering when the latter expressed 'grave concern' about authorities’ May 2017 detention of Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou."
Bishop Shao has been detained four times since September 2016, because of his continuing refusal to join the state-approved Catholic Church.
He is recognized as a bishop by the Vatican but not by Beijing.
I asked Nina Shea, director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, for her thoughts about the Chinese government’s many measures used to castigate religious believers.
She explains that China’s Communist Party-controlled state is reasserting its long-term goal of eradicating all religion and, in the meantime, ruthlessly controlling it.
She says China is currently implementing its policy, " . . . wearing both the velvet glove and the jack boot."
"The soft repression," Shea explains, "includes years of isolation under house arrest, denying seniors their pensions if they attend church, preventing saving medical treatment or prescribing harmful medicine, and shutting down churches if they are not registered or if they admit children to worship services.
"But out of the public eye," Shea continues, "Beijing does not hesitate to employ violent raids and surveillance. Even more medieval tactics are practiced in their detention camps, including crude police-state measures like brain washing, brutal torture and execution."
The happy resolution in Liu Xiao’s case illustrates the importance of international attention and activism. The free world needs to persistently focus on the intense repression confronting the Chinese Church and to boldly speak out on their behalf.
A well-attended Change Not Chains rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on July 12 protested China’s outrageous mistreatment of Christians. The event was hosted by former GOP Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia and his 21st Century Wilberforce organization.
For decades Rep. Wolf has fought the good fight on behalf of religious freedom in China – and beyond.
Considering the brutal oppression Liu Xia and other believers in China have experienced, perhaps it is past time for American Christians to begin following in his footsteps.
Lela Gilbert is an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, an award-winning writer, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute who lived in Jerusalem for over a decade. Her book "Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner" received wide critical acclaim. She is also co-author of "Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians," and "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion." Follow her on Twitter @lelagilbert. For more from her Faith a Freedom blog, Click Here.
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