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China

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Chinese house-church leader Zhang Yinan was arrested in a raid on his congregation
Image Source: China Aid

Christianity is officially allowed to exist in China only under the close control of the government. Christians may worship legally only as part of the national, state-controlled churches, and their activities are restricted and sometimes arbitrarily curtailed. Even members of these churches suffer discrimination; because religious belief is incompatible with membership of the Communist Party, they are barred from almost all high-level jobs.

China’s unregistered “house churches” exist in constant danger of official repression. The Communist government, suspicious of groups that are outside its control, regards them as “unstable social elements”. In an attempt to stem the growth of these independent churches, the government has prohibited their worship and closed down their buildings. Their members are subject to severe restrictions, harassment and sometimes imprisonment and violent attack; the leaders are often arrested and thrown into jail, where they may be beaten or tortured.

Zhang Yinan (pictured), a pastor of an unregistered church (“house church”) in China, was arrested on 3 June 2013 in a raid on his congregation. More than ten security officers burst into a meeting and took everyone to the police station. An order was issued to close down the church, but Pastor Zhang refused to sign it; the police also tried to pressure him into joining one of the state-controlled churches. 

The authorities also use third parties such as utility companies and landlords to pressure the churches and make their normal activities impossible. Access to Christian literature is restricted.

Christianity has a long history in China. It was first introduced no later than the sixth century, probably by Orthodox Christians. Catholics arrived in the thirteenth century, and Protestant missionaries from 1807. Under their influence the number of Christians increased rapidly, leading to waves of persecution.

All missionaries were expelled in 1949, and the Communist government sought to bring organised Christianity under state control. But during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) Christian activity was forced underground, and the house church movement was born. After restrictions were somewhat relaxed in the late 1970s the churches began to grow rapidly.

Despite worsening persecution today, increasing numbers of Chinese people are still coming to Christ. Reliable figures for Christians in China are not available. The authorities say that around 22 million worship in the state churches, while independent research puts the total number of Christians in the country at about 76 million. The real figure may be much higher.

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    • Heavenly Father, we pray for Kim Jung-Wook, a South Korean Christian who has been sentenced to hard labour for life in North Korea for “spying” and attempting to establish house churches in the country. We thank You that although prosecutors demanded the death penalty, this was commuted, but we pray that Jung-Wook will be sustained by You in his imprisonment and cruel treatment and will soon be released. We pray too for the dozens of North Koreans who were detained after Jung-Wook’s arrest in October on suspicion of helping him, and for the families of any who have already been executed. We pray for political change and religious freedom in North Korea, that it may be made legal to be a Christian and to take part in Christian activity. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 5 hours ago

    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that 55 Christians, almost all church leaders and converts from Islam, received Bible training at a three-day seminar in Kyrgyzstan that was supported by Barnabas Fund. The participants have virtually no access to Biblical training, and so the studies were a great boost to their faith and ministry. Meeting fellow church leaders, who are all dealing with similar issues, such as isolation and persecution from Muslim relatives and local Muslim communities, was also very encouraging to them and gave them the opportunity to build up a Christian support network. Pray that the Lord will continue to speak to them through the Bible passages they studied at the seminar, and that He will bless their ministries. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Christians and other minorities in Burma (Myanmar) are extremely concerned about a proposed religious conversion bill that will require people to seek permission from the authorities before changing religion. It is part of a package of four bills designed to “protect race and religion” in the Buddhist-majority country. The government says it is intended to prevent forced conversions. The draft says that forcing someone to convert would be punishable by a year in prison, while insulting another religion would be punishable by between one and two years in prison. Similar laws in force in several Indian states are used to threaten legitimate evangelism by Christians and as a pretext by Hindu militants to attack Christians, whom they falsely accuse of forcibly converting people. Pray this bill will not become law in Burma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

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