Thinking Out Loud

January 14, 2018

China: Freedom of Religion in Theory, Not in Practice

From The Independent (UK):

Chinese authorities blow up Christian megachurch with dynamite

Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province.

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China’s poorest regions.

The church had faced “repeated persecution” by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand… But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common…

“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official was quoted as saying. Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes…

Read the full story at The Independent

In this image taken from video shot Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, by China Aid and provided to the Associated Press, people watch the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen in northern China’s Shanxi province. Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary troops known as the People’s Armed Police used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, a Christian mega-church that clashed with the government.

This was the second of two recent demolitions. The Express (UK) reports,

China demolishes second church as fears of crackdown against Christianity grow

…A Catholic church in the neighbouring province of Shaanxi was also reportedly demolished last month, 20 years after it originally opened.

China guarantees freedom of religion but authorities heavily regulate many aspects of religious practice…

…According to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian human rights organisations, congregation members were beaten by 400 officials during an incident in September 2009 which resulted in church leaders receiving lengthy prison sentences on charges such as assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic and illegally occupying agricultural land.

Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, said: “I think this might be a new pattern against any independent house churches with an existing building or intention to build one.

“It also could be a prelude to enforcing the new regulation on religious affairs that will take effect in February.”

Chinese authorities have taken a harder line against practicing Christianity since 2013.

Officials launched a sweeping crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200 crosses have been removed, according to activists…

…A pastor at a nearby church, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals said there were “more police than I could count” preventing a crowd on onlookers and worshipers from approaching the site.

He said: “My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own.

“This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”


Upper Image: Independent (appears elsewhere credited to Andy Wong/Associated Press)
Lower Image: Religion News Service (China Aid via Associated Press)

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July 11, 2014

Church Property Destruction Rampant Worldwide

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:48 am

Pew Research carried a story yesterday showing the number of church building demolitions carried out worldwide in 2012, highlighting three countries, China, Russia and Tajikistan. The article begins…

Pew Research - Persecuted Church

The Chinese government’s demolition of a large church in the city of Wenzhou in April and recent reports of other, similar demolitions drew attention to fears of persecution among Christians in that country. A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that such incidents are not isolated to China or Christians.

[…To read the article in full, click here…]

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