Grave concerns have been raised after a number of Christians from the much-persecuted “Early Rain Covenant Church” appear to have gone missing.
For several months, Chinese police have been engaging in mass arrests, beatings, and interrogations of the church’s leadership team and congregation. The church’s pastor, Wang Yi, faces a decades-long prison sentence for “subversion against state power.”
Two of those who have gone missing are named Pan Fei, a supermarket worker, and Gou Zhongcan. Persecution watchdog China Aid noted in an update that police officers had come to inspect Gou’s residence, “but local security personnel prevented them from doing so.” Then, when security came back to check on Gou the next day, “he wasn’t home, but his clothes were still there,” the organization revealed.
“In addition, his cell phone and two of his computers were confiscated, and his landlord was taken away as well.”
‘His head was shaved and he was handcuffed’
In the latest update posted to the “Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church” Facebook page, it was noted that Ghou “was seen on March 18th at the Hangzhou East Train Station being escorted by multiple plainclothes police officers. His head was shaved and he was handcuffed. We do not know where he was being taken.”
The post continued:
“Brother Gou used to be a reporter. When he was 23 years old, he was imprisoned for ten years for writing an article about human rights. While in prison, he was greatly tormented. He called out to God in the midst of his despair. After he was released, he came to our church and became a member. Here he found true freedom in Christ and in the gospel. May God protect him in the midst of this tribulation. May the Lord surround him with steadfast love and give him heavenly peace!”
‘Mao-era attempts to control hearts and minds’
With the latest disappearances, many are asking questions of the Chinese authorities and seeking to highlight the government’s clear abuse of human rights. President Xi Jinping, the leader of the ruling Communist Party, has been particularly brutal on the Christian population. “Ten years ago, we used to be able to say the party was not really interested in what people believed internally,” said Eva Pils, a professor of law at King’s College London, according to the Guardian. “Xi Jinping’s response is much more invasive and it is in some ways returning to Mao-era attempts to control hearts and minds.”
Early Rain continues to be heavily targeted due to Pastor Yi’s refusal to be quiet in the face of serious persecution at the hands of the government. Far from being regulated by the state, Early Rain continues to be led by the Bible, and by the Lord Jesus. “Early Rain church is one of the few who dares to face what is wrong in society,” one member told the Guardian. “Most churches don’t dare talk about this, but we obey strictly obey the Bible, and we don’t avoid anything.”
China is one of the most stringently monitored nations on Earth and is ranked as the 27th most persecuted country in the world on the Open Doors 2019 World Watch List.
Months after Chinese authorities raided Early Rain Covenant Church, 11 members are still in criminal detention, including Pastor Wang Yi, and two have gone missing. This is part of #China’s unparalleled crackdown on #ReligiousFreedom.
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) March 21, 2019
“Crackdowns against Christians happen countrywide and in both state-approved and non-registered churches,” Open Doors noted on its fact sheet. “The youth are increasingly being removed from church life; worship is monitored via CCTV and spies; and teachers and medical workers are told they are not allowed to have any religious affiliation.”
This is how Chinese Bible school students reacted when they received Bibles.
— International Christian Concern (@persecutionnews) March 19, 2019
Do continue to pray for all those who are persecuted for simply believing in Jesus.