One of China’s largest Protestant churches has been ordered to cease operations after government authorities ruled that their ministry operations constitute a violation of their strict anti-religion laws.
The Zion church, located in the Chinese capital of Beijing, has been operating with relative freedom for a number of years, opening its doors to thousands of regular worshippers every weekend. But the trouble really began in April, when rejected a government request to install CCTV cameras within the church’s building in North Beijing.
Then, in July, a group of intimidating “thugs” was hired by China’s communist government to intimidate local Christians. Persecution charity International Christian Concern reported that the gang turned up Zion’s Yizhuang campus on July 5 and proceeded to block members from accessing the third floor, where a worship service was being held.
On Sunday, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau ruled that by ordering publicly evangelical events without any sort of registration with local authorities, the church was breaking rules of mass gatherings that were known to be “legally banned.” The bureau added that the church was disseminating “illegal promotional material.”
According to a report by the Associated Press, the church was shut on Sunday by around 60 government workers who arrived in the afternoon along with buses, police cars and fire trucks.
Zion’s members have been issued with notices by the district religious affairs which details that believers “must respect the rules and regulations and attend events in legally registered places of religious activity.”
“I fear that there is no way for us to resolve this issue with the authorities,” explained Zion’s Pastor Jin Mingri told Reuters, adding that his congregation would not be backing down from meeting to worship Christ, despite the escalating persecution.
“On this land, the only one we can trust in is God,” Jin declared, adding to the AP that “Churches will continue to develop. Blocking the sites will only intensify conflicts.”
Bob Fu of China Aid, a U.S.-based non-profit that seeks to advocate on behalf of persecuted believers in China, told the Washington Post that the international community “should be alarmed” by such a fierce crackdown by government authorities. People should be “outraged for this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief,” Fu added.
The organization’s founder also reportedly provided footage to WaPo of Bibles being burnt following a raid on a church in the Henan city of Nanyang on September 5.
THE WORLDS FASTEST GROWING CHRISTIAN POPULATION
According to Rodney Pennington of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF), China is projected to become the largest Christian nation in the world by 2030, and is currently home to some 38 million Protestants. Pennington, who studies church growth, explained this prediction last summer in an interview with The Christian Post.
“We are overjoyed with what the Lord has already done in China,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean the task is finished.”
“While 200 million Chinese believers by the year 2030 may seem ambitious, it certainly gives us a strong goal to pray toward,” he added.
Pennington noted, however, that in order for China to eventually become a key pillar of the global church, many changes would have to take place. Indeed, as you have seen with this latest raid, Chinese Christians still suffer persecution on a daily basis. President Xi Jinping’s government continues to remove crosses, bulldoze churches, and imprison and torture faithful Christians and church leaders.
Do continue to pray for the persecuted Church around the globe, and ask that God would continue to pour out his blessing on the faithful followers of Christ in China.