Christians in China

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 12, 2004

Check out this interview by Christianity Today of Presbyter Ji Jianhong, head of the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement–one of the two main Protestant organizations recognized by the government.  The article is interesting, for Ji Jianhong paints a picture of an interferring Western church who misunderstands the extent to which Chinese Christians are actually persecuted.  Here’s an excerpt:

But that picture Ji speaks of still includes
Christians who are languishing in jail, some of whom are treated
brutally, even killed. Aren’t Christians still being persecuted?
According to underground Christians, the answer is a definite "Yes!"

Yet Presbyter Ji told me, "There is no persecution of Christians in China."

Who is right? In some ways, both. For example, in a
recent trial in Hangzhou city, Zhejiang province, three Christians were
arrested, tried, and sentenced. What provoked the arrest and trial was
the fact that all three defendants had informed Western sources about
the trial and prison abuse of Christians in China. Many China watchers
point to this as a clear case of Christian persecution. But according
to the court documents, they were convicted not for being Christians or
worshiping Christ, but for "illegally leaking … state intelligence

Naturally a man in Ji’s position could have no other
official view of persecution. "Yes some Christians get arrested," he
explained, "but not for their faith. They get arrested because they
have broken some law. It is not against the law to be a Christian or to
practice your faith."

And yet Christians, along with many other
religionists, get arrested regularly and are often treated brutally in
prison. Is this harassment of Christians as such? Not necessarily. The
fact is, the government goes after anyone who for any reason reports on
Chinese prison torture. Would it be better to simply call it severe
human-rights abuse? Maybe, but some Communist officials still harbor
deep animosity toward this Western "imperialist" religion and make up
excuses to go after believers, especially if they have contacts with
the West. Of course, to those languishing in prison unjustly, it’s mere
semantics whether it’s "Christian persecution" or general "human-rights

Mark Van Steenwyk is the general editor of Jesus Manifesto. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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    Having a sister and brother-in-law who have been doing missionary work in China for almost a decade, I have to say that the more "official" version of persecution in China seems closer to the truth. The Chinese government is like the Borg, they don't care about your presence or who you are unless you present yourself as a threat. Christians ARE allowed to practice their religion, as long as they are not perceived as stirring up trouble politically.


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