China (MNN) — Leading unregistered house church leaders are taking a bold step as it relates to religious freedom in China. According to reports, 17 top unregistered churches have petitioned the Chinese Parliament urging the legislature to protect religious freedom in the officially atheist country.
Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says, "What the petition says is, 'Chinese Government, please follow the law.' They're not asking for new freedoms and rights. They're asking that the rights that are promised them in the Chinese constitution actually be carried out and become reality."
While religious freedom is outlined in China's constitution, Nettleton says that's not reality. "The reality on the ground is that if you don't come under the authority of the Chinese government–particularly the state administration for religious affairs, you are subject to persecution. You're subject to being arrested. You're subject to having your church closed down."
According to Nettleton, this petition is a bit unprecedented because of the large number of signatories. He says it's a risky move. "Anybody who stands up publicly in China to call for more religious freedom is taking a risk that the Chinese government could crack down on them. The Chinese government is obviously not going to look very favorably upon this petition or the people who signed it."
Nettleton says the outcome won't affect the future of the church. "Regardless of what happens with this petition, regardless of whether they get more freedom or less freedom, they will continue to serve the Lord and the Chinese church will continue to grow."
Voice of the Martyrs has a long history of helping the unregistered church in China. They provide leadership training, discipleship training materials and Bibles, and support for families of Christians who have been imprisoned for their faith.
You can financially support that work, as well as write letters. "We have a site called PrisonerAlert.com that allows people to write letters to Chinese Christians who are in prison. The site actually translates the letters into Chinese. So, when you print them out from your printer, they come out in Chinese. You can put them in an envelope and send them."