Chris Patten says: “I support very strongly Cardinal Bo’s call for special prayer for China and of course for Hong Kong. The Chinese Communist Party has always been and remains an enemy of religious belief. Whether one is talking about Muslims, Buddhists or Christians we should remember in our prayers all those who practice their faith despite tyranny and repression. We should also pray for the day when the clouds part and there is again a Chinese regime in power which recognises the spiritual dimension of life” – The Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, last Governor of Hong Kong
Nina Shea explains how the CCP “is at war with religions” and why A Global Week of Prayer for China has been organised….
Defense lawyers, citizen journalists, and dissidents are arrested, jailed, or disappeared. Religious believers constitute the largest group of those most aggrieved.
In recent months, mass atrocities against the Uyghur Muslims have been recognized as ethno-religious genocide by the United States. Over a million Uighurs have been detained in concentration camps and/or subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced sterilizations and abortions, slave labor, and other atrocities. Decades-long repression against Tibet’s large Buddhist population is intensifying. Credible reports continue to surface of forced organ harvesting, particularly victimizing members of the Falun Gong spiritual group. These are some of the “peoples” referred to in the Cardinal’s call for prayer.
Across China, both government-registered or “Patriotic” churches and underground churches are severely repressed and may be existentially threatened. Since 2018, the Chinese Communist Party regime has ratcheted up measures to stop the spread of the faith and distort Christian teachings. Undoubtedly to protect its Western trade, China reins in the Church mostly through onerous regulations and not the graphic coercion seen against the other religious minorities. It is employing four major strategies to do this.
First, it systematically bans youth from going to church, attending Bible studies, and being exposed to religion in any way. This will be devastating for the future of China’s Church. Its vaunted growth over the last 50 years, now estimated at 60–100 million Christians, will predictably reverse as a result.
Second, it is energetically dismantling the vast Christian underground, which accounts for most Protestants and half of the Catholics. Operating openly for decades though unregistered, these churches are now being crushed. Among the thousands shut down are five Catholic parishes in Fujian, and the internationally renowned Protestant Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, and the Guangzhou church founded in the 1970s by the late Pastor Samuel Lamb.
Their leadership is being arrested and put on trial or, more frequently, simply made to disappear into secret detention centers. Some are subject to brainwashing sessions and torture or forced to quit their ministries.
Under the new rules, the state’s social-credit-score system applies to all Christian leaders. Former Mindong Bishop Guo lost running water, heat, and electricity as punishment for refusing to register. Zion Church Pastor Ezra Jin Mingri, who shut his Beijing church rather than allow state surveillance in it, has been barred from flights out of China for three years. So has his daughter, who planned to attend an American law school.
Third, on May 1, new rules were applied to ensure Christian “Sinicization,” President Xi Jinping’s term for aligning the Patriotic churches with CCP. The CCP has total oversight over their religious leadership, doctrine, appearance, and sermons — as starkly symbolized inside some churches with Xi and Mao’s images replacing those of Jesus and Mary.
As I previously reported in these pages, the new rules on selecting China’s bishops make no mention of any papal role in the process, despite the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement. Over these past two years, Beijing has permitted only three new episcopal appointments for some 40 vacant diocesan seats, accounting for 30 percent of the Patriotic dioceses.
Finally, the CCP is restricting Bibles. The Bible is now difficult to buy in book stores and has been recently dropped from the App store and censored from the Chinese Internet. Ironically, while the Holy Book becomes scarce in China, China’s Amity Printing Press continues to be relied on by American Bible publishers for the vast majority of the millions of Bibles sold annually at home.
China is at war with all religions. The global Church’s silence about this is coming to an end. The campaign now underway will facilitate a prayer effort for all those persecuted, by those with the freedom to gather in prayer.
To find out more, see www.GlobalPrayerforChina.org