China (MNN) — After months of pressure from the international community, the Chinese government released Pastor Shi Enhao early from his two-year sentence of hard prison labor.
According to Voice of the Martyrs, Canada’s source ChinaAid, there is still no explanation for Pastor Shi Enhao’s sudden release one year and six months early. The sentencing of Pastor Shi took place in July, 2011 when he was charged with “illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings.”
Pastor Shi serves as Vice President of Chinese House Church Alliance, a group located along the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu. After his sentence in July, Chinese police confiscated church property including a church vehicle, choir robes, musical instruments, and 140,000 yuan (US$22,160).
Pastor Shi’s conviction and sentence isn’t the only example of persecution this Christian group has suffered. Four months after Pastor Shi’s arrest, various Chinese authorities including officials from the Three-Self Patriotic Church gathered the leaders of Chinese House Church Alliance.
At the gathering, officials told the church leaders that their organization was illegal. All members of Chinese House Church Alliance were ordered to begin attending the Three-Self Patriotic Church — a church body established and controlled by the Chinese government — or they would be arrested like their pastor.
ChinaAid publicly denounced the Chinese government, calling on them to “stop their persecution of Suqian Church and to uphold the rights of these citizens to religious freedom and to basic civil rights.” ChinaAid also listed Pastor Shi’s case as number 3 in their 2011 Top 10 Cases of Persecution of Churches and Christians.
The release of Pastor Shi was a tremendous relief, but the Chinese House Church Alliance is still being closely monitored by the Chinese government.
Please pray for strength among the believers as they seek freedom to worship the Lord. Praise God for Pastor Shi’s release and pray that those who are still suffering in prison for their faith may be granted justice.