China (MNN) — Since China instated their new religious restrictions on February 1, 2018, persecution of Christians and other religious followers, including Buddhists and Taoists, has increased.
Rise in Restrictions and Persecution for all Religions
A Washington Times article reported Pastor Bob Fu, the founder and president of ChinaAid, said the number of Christians arrested for practicing their faith “has reached the highest level since the end of the Cultural Revolution.”
Pastor Fu also reported that thousands of churches had been banned since the new regulations were enacted.
Further, the Chinese central government has cracked down on Buddhists and Taoists by ordering local governments to regulate constructions of religious statues.
The religious regulations instated on February 1 require places of worship to be registered and receive authorization by the government as well as the authorization of staff members and religious leaders.
This is showing the power the Chinese government holds in the religious field as well as the importance they put on nationalism.
Registered Churches vs. Underground Churches
However, the government is more supportive of registered churches than underground churches.
“As long as you’re in a designated Church or facility that the government knows where you’re at, the government knows what you’re doing, that the agency that oversees the religious affairs within China, as long as you don’t get out of the parameters of where you worship and where you’re at,” Bibles for China’s Wendell Rovenstine says.
Rovenstine says he doesn’t think the government is against people going to registered churches or inviting others, but they do want to be wary and watch people to make sure they know where they are and what they’re doing and learning.
“They are not open to individuals just going outside of the designated areas where services and where Christians gather and meet so they can constantly watch and pay attention to what you’re doing, but it may be so they are sure of the fact that there’s not opportunities of people come in and use China as a base for something that they want to originate and make a difference because of the large number of people that exist there.”
Rovenstine says recently there’s been a limited number of Bibles that Bibles for China has been allowed to purchase for churches and fewer Bibles available.
The U.S. State Department has criticized China for abusing religious freedoms.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded by saying, “the U.S. is fraught with political biases against China and slanders China’s policy.”
China continues to say it has religious freedoms.
Bibles for China’s Work
Rovenstine says China’s religious freedoms are defined by their terms within the registered Church, which is where Bibles for China has formed relationships and does their work.
Despite the restrictions and spikes in the persecution of a number of religions, Rovenstine still has hope for Christians.
“I still get the strong feeling that there’s [an] opportunity for Christians in China, that there’s an openness for Christians to serve in China,” Rovenstine says.
“There’s a great need for Christians to be in China and I don’t think that the government officials or regulations or policies is going to limit their ability to speak their heart within the parameters of ‘I’m in the Church’… I think that will always be available to the Chinese people, but not to foreigners that come and do that.”
Bibles for China remains wrought with a sense of urgency to share the Gospel with people in China.
Rovenstine will be going on a trip soon to connect with partners and he says out of all the trips he’s taken to China, he feels prepared for this one the most.
“I’ve been praying and seeking the Lord for this trip for some time because there have been some changes in China. I don’t think anyone has a real handle on what that looks like or what that will be.”
Like Bibles for China, Rovenstine says their contacts are processing the changes in China and they’re anxious to know where to go from here.
Pray for the religious freedom in China. Pray leaders worldwide will be given wisdom on how to respond and how to act. Pray for the accessibility and availability of Bibles in China.