A Chinese pastor who was arrested along with around 100 of his fellow church members has finally been released from custody.
Li Yingqiang from Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in Sichuan spent over eight months in prison after being detained in a police crackdown back in December. He was arrested on charges of “stirring up trouble and “running an illegal business.”
On Sunday, Li’s wife posted a message to social media, declaring the wonderful news that her husband had been set free. “Thank you my friends, family, brothers and sisters!” Zhang Xinyue wrote, according to Premier UK. “Thank you for walking with my family through different means in the past eight months. May God greatly bless you. I love you all!”
Prior to his arrest, Li declared that absolutely nothing will stop his congregation from worshipping Jesus. “Even if we are down to our last five, worship and gatherings will still go on because our faith is real,” he told reporters just before being led away, according to Asia News. “Persecution is a price worth paying for the Lord. We would rather live through it than to hide our faith and we hope more Chinese churches will speak up and stand with us.”
The church’s lead pastor, Wang Yi, remains incarcerated. Yi openly has openly criticized President Xi Jinping, even preaching a sermon openly calling him to repent of his sins.
Early Rain Covenant Church is not on the required registry of state-sanctioned churches and is thus deemed illegal by authorities. Millions of Christians risk their lives to meet in these so-called “underground” places of worship on a weekly basis.
More recently, Early Rain issued a statement which claimed that authorities are trying to suppressPastor Yi’s legal team in a bid to keep him locked up.
“We have recently learned, through various channels, that Chengdu authorities intend to disregard the attorneys appointed by Pastor Wang Yi and his family members and to appoint and authorise other attorneys (including Christian attorneys) to defend him against his will,” the church wrote, according to the British outlet.
The post continued: “We strongly oppose the government’s actively or passively appointing attorneys for Pastor Wang Yi (regardless of whether they are Christians), especially seeing that Pastor Wang Yi and his mother have already appointed attorneys to represent him. Even if his self-appointed attorneys are not able to represent him in this case, we would rather Pastor Wang Yi present his defence himself. We do not approve of any actions taken in his defence by state-appointed attorneys.”