China (MNN) — There’s a well-known proverb in China that says, “If a nail sticks up, pound it down.” Right now, this could relate to the tension that’s taking over the country.
Over the last months, authorities have removed and dismantled or burned over 1,200 crosses from the roofs of churches, even as they’re saying they want peace.
“The government does not want to see a disharmonious society,” explains Joe Handley of Asian Access. “When they see churches that are putting up these crosses, they feel like that’s a bit of a flagrant kind of expression in the midst of the society at large. The church, on the other hand, sees this as a normal practice of believers [or] people that hold to their faith.”
Persecution and Protest
Christian persecution is nothing new to the country, which is listed at #29 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Pastors have been threatened, chased from their homes, or put under house arrest, and churches have been burned.
While underground churches are used to harassment and oppression, this situation proves to be different. “This time, not only is it the unregistered church, but its also the registered churches that are being affected,” Handley says. The government says the removal of the crosses is simply to enforce building codes and that they want peace; yet every action regarding these churches seems to be saying the opposite.
Protesters have started speaking up for their freedom and rights. Believers are hanging crosses in their windows and wearing them on clothing. Month long sit-ins or demonstrations have also been reported. “Each time they take a cross down, we will put more up,” one Chinese Christian told Guardian Newspaper.
The campaign of removing crosses feels sudden; what triggered it? It’s a question of numbers. Around 85 to 150 million Christians are in China, making it one of the fastest-growing Christian nations in the world. “[The government is] afraid that the body could rise up and kind of put political pressure, and move the country in a new direction. And the government simply doesn’t want that. They want to retain power,” Handley explains.
The Chinese government has often persecuted the church as a tactic of slowing down the growth. “The interesting thing, though, is that I don’t sense anybody [in the church] interested in a political revolution. There’s no sense of that whatsoever.” Handley adds that he’s only seen proof of Christians wanting their appropriate freedoms. “Their desire is simply to stand up for what they see is their rights within Chinese society and even legal rights according to some of the documents that the government holds.”
What is Asian Access doing?
Asian Access is using leadership training to help restore and maintain peace. How? The ministry makes it a goal to be deeply invested in individual’s lives for a several year period. Right now, A2 is training local church and business leaders in 11 countries across Asia to be more harmonious members in society, so they can “build up not only the church, but also the country.” After all, Handley asks, “Who better to bring peace than the Prince of Peace Himself?
“If Jesus’ peace is put at the forefront of the minds of both the government, as well as leaders of the church, then I think they will be headed toward a more prosperous and harmonious society.” Similar leadership training in other Asian countries has already made positive impacts. “Asian Access has, in particular, helped us strengthen the lives of our marriages, our families, our child rearing, and that helps us be better leaders in society,” believers have relayed to Handley.
You can be a part of this life-changing leadership training program by giving or praying.
“I think all of us simply need to pray for the country of China, for the people of China, for the government of China, and for the church leaders. They all need wisdom.”