At the Guardian, Mervyn Thomas contextualizes the recent Chinese government crackdowns on Christian worship:
The official attitude towards religion has swung wildly since the Communists took power in 1949. The past 30 years have seen several crackdowns. In the early 1980s house church leaders were under extreme pressure, and the early 1990s saw a period of high-profile arrests, imprisonments and groups shut down. In the last decade, a period of relative calm, improvements have been reported. Groups like Shouwang chose to come above ground, advertising their meetings on their website and welcoming officials’ visits. But the atheistic party government is suspicious of any organised group that may pose a threat to their rule. In a year that has seen ethnic rioting in Xinjiang, continued persecution of practitioners of the banned spiritual discipline Falun Gong and executions of Tibetans, the house churches are another victim of China’s paranoia about organised groups.
But is the house church movement really a threat? The government’s recent response suggests they certainly see it that way. China’s increasing economic and political power is not matched by improvements in human rights. Respect for religious freedom is one area in which China lags behind. While we admire China’s impressive economic growth and increasing international influence, even if it causes some concerns, we must at the same time encourage China to respect religious belief, and human rights in general, if it is to be a responsible world power. The Christians in prison and those who bravely risk harassment by worshipping in parks in the snow know what it means to stand up for what they believe. And it’s time for us to encourage China not to see them as a political threat, but to stand up for them too.
Read the full article here.