Week 13: China arrests 19 more Christians
BEIJING (BP)--Despite restrictions due to the Chinese Communist Party's 90th anniversary, members of Shouwang Church in Beijing continued to meet outdoors July 3, leading to at least 19 arrests.
Church members defied the Chinese government for the 13th consecutive week with the outdoor service. The illegal church, which was evicted from its leased meeting space in April, reported in a translated statement on ChinaAid.org that police were waiting outside the church's designated worship site, an open-air plaza in northwest Beijing, and "only a few dozen people" were able to meet because, "many believers were under stricter detainment at home. Some individuals were taken to be detained in hotels nearby."
All but two of the 19 people arrested were released by midnight, and one was released the next day.
Some church members have lost their homes or jobs and others have been subjected to verbal abuse because of their faith. Shouwang's strength and endurance through persecution has inspired churches all over the world, and members of Shouwang say the government's restrictions have not stunted the spread of the Gospel.
"As we suffer together with the Lord and take the cross together with him, our life is deeply rooted and is growing, so does our church take root and grow in this city and this country," the church said in its latest statement. "God's work is achieved through the cross, and all the disciples who are bearing the cross with the Lord are blessed."
Not wanting any unrest during the Communist Party's anniversary on July 1, police action against the church members began even earlier than the previous weeks according to ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom in China.
Shouwang, which is one of the largest house churches in Beijing with nearly 1,000 members, is not a legal church. Only churches who are registered with the government and are members of the Three-Self Patriotic Church are considered legal. However, with registration come regulations that forbid evangelism, Sunday School, and baptizing minors, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid.
Although members are in their third month with no indoor facility and continue to face persecution and time in prison for expressing their beliefs, the Chinese Christians continue to see God's divine hand working through their trials.
"We have seen God's work of protection and guidance for Shouwang Church," the church said. "The long-lasting battle has not demolished God's church. On the contrary, it helps us to see that the fire of life lighted by God in this church continues to burn, and that no force in this world can extinguish it."
More than 160 people were arrested at the first outdoor meeting of Shouwang Church. The following shows the approximate arrests from the subsequent weeks: Week 2 (50 arrests), Week 3 (40), Week 4 (30), Week 5 (13), Week 6 (20), Week 7 (25), Week 8 (20), Week 9 (20), Week 10 (14), Week 11 (14) and Week 12 (15).
Whitney Jones is a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an intern with Baptist Press.