Published: 13:45 GMT Standard Time - Monday 21 November 2011
Elderly church members beaten while defending historic church in China
Elderly members of a 125-year-old church in China were beaten to the ground when they tried to stop the destruction of the building.
Church members sit amidst the rubble after demolition work began
Image source: www.chinaaid.org.
Real estate developers have won government approval to demolish the church in the city of Tai’an, Shandong province, despite its being an official, government-approved, Three-Self Patriotic Movement church, and having protected status as a national historical landmark.
Church members have been fervently trying to save the building. When demolition crews started to move in on the church a year ago, they were successfully blocked on two occasions by members who occupied the site, achieving a temporary suspension of the work.
But recently, a wall of one of the buildings within the compound was forcibly torn down; elderly church members who tried to stop the destruction were beaten to the ground.
The church compound was built by British missionaries in 1886. In the 1980s some of the buildings were either destroyed or taken over for use by government offices; the four remaining buildings in the church compound were designated as protected, national historical landmarks in 1994.
On 9 November, the church lodged a formal appeal with the government, seeking lawful handling of church property, a stop to the demolition and return of occupied church property. It reads:
We sincerely hope that the central government’s policy on religion can be carried out in reality, so as to win the trust of the people and bring a resolution to the Tai’an Church’s long-standing property dispute. All the members of the Tai’an Church have full confidence in the God whom we believe and in his words. Jesus said, ‘Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.’
A banner across the building reads, “Return church property! Return our church building! Religious discrimination! Destroying Century-Old Historical Landmark!”
ChinaAid Association, a US-based Christian human rights group, said that the incident demonstrates that it is not just unregistered “house churches” that face government persecution in China. The group said, “Even the legitimate rights of government-approved churches that are part of the Three-Self can be arbitrarily trampled.”