China (MNN) — “Feudal Superstitions”: they’re the reason the Chinese Communist Party has launched new and more stringent rules to punish members who believe in them.
What’s covered under “Feudal Superstitions”? Buddhism and Taoism, but the fact that the campaign is focused on religions is disconcerting to Christians in China. As of late, a few things have cropped up that will likely be trends to note in 2016 for the Persecuted Church.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says in the last 18 to 24 months, over 1,500 churches have either seen an entire building destroyed, or had the cross torn off the building. Most of these churches are located in Zhejiang Province–the so-called “Bible belt” in eastern China.
In many of these cases, the government cited various building code violations as the pretext to carry out its destruction. What’s more, “We now hear from our Chinese brothers and sisters that the Central Government in Beijing has looked at that and said, ‘That was successful. We want to expand that into more provinces.’”
Given that context, VOM partners expect to see more churches in more places in China in trouble this year, says Nettleton. But, that’s not the only new development. “It has affected not only the house churches, or the unregistered churches, it has affected the Three-Self Patriotic Churches–the churches that the government has sanctioned and approved. They’re now coming back and attacking those same churches.”
For years, the Chinese government has, in essence, said, “If the house churches would just register, then everything would be fine for them and they wouldn’t have persecution.” But, that’s not as true now, as registered house churches have fallen afoul of the government.
Church building demolitions and cross-removal campaigns have caused some church leaders to re-think their status, adds Nettleton. “Some of the pastors are withdrawing from the Three Self System because they say, ‘If we’re not protected by this, why should we even be a part of it?’”
Although the Party recognizes Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism, it does so only if they fall within government structures. As of late, what falls under acceptable parameters seems to be redefined. “This [campaign] has been primarily in one particular province, but now the government has kind of issued a study to the other provinces and said, ‘Look what they’re doing. We all need to get involved in this,’” explains Nettleton.
“So, I think we’re going to see this wave of persecution against churches expand across China.”
Pray that, through His mysterious ways, God will use the ongoing opposition against the church in Zhejiang to advance His kingdom purposes there. Specifically, ask Him to embolden the faith of believers throughout the nation, equipping each of them to be powerful agents of His grace. May they continue meeting together for worship despite the present obstacles, and may the body of Christ continue to grow.