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article imageOp-Ed: China Christians fear persecution after church demolished Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     May 5, 2014 in World
Wenzhou - After initial optimism at new Chinese President Xi Jinping's seeming tolerance of religion and a growing number of Christians in China, Chinese Christians are concerned over the removal of crosses and destruction of a church in the south.
In reaction to widespread corruption in China's communist party, new President Xi Jinping declared that traditional religions should be encouraged. He suggested that they could help people develop better ethics in a prosperous society where wealth has tempted too many people to accept bribes and amass riches. However, Xi's stance on Christianity is not clear, as Christianity is relatively new to China which has a long history of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
According to a Reuters article, Christians and Muslims make up about half of China's 100 million religious followers, yet they are more strictly controlled than the more traditional religions.
In the wake of recent terrorist attacks by Islamist separatists from Xinjiang Province, President Xi declared on Chinese national television on May 1 (during a tour of Xinjiang) that "We must take a stand against religious extremism, violence, and terrorism."
I certainly agree with him on that point.
However, Chinese Christians have been concerned that local communist party leaders in the eastern Zhejiang Province have been removing crosses from churches and plan to demolish 10 churches. Just before Easter, thousands of Christians gathered to protect Wenzhou's prominent Sanjiang church. Wenzhou is one of the most Christianized places in China, and the local communist party declared that their huge church was too "conspicuous." They may also be concerned that Christianity is growing too quickly and needs to be slowed down.
Despite efforts of Christians to protect it, Sanjiang church was demolished on April 28.
I remember when I left Turkey last September because of police persecution. I landed in Wenzhou. I was surprised to see so many churches with big red crosses along the road to Li Shui where I was to teach English. There are over 80,000 mosques in Turkey that blare the Muslim call to prayer five times a day from loudspeakers — but very few churches. Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan refused the request of Christians to build a church in the capital city of Ankara where the only churches are on foreign embassy grounds. He has been turning ancient churches into mosques and labeling Turkey a Sunni Muslim country despite the existence of Christians, Alevis, atheists, and various religious minorities.
After I transferred to teach English in China's northeast, I attended a small Christian church. On April 27, I interviewed its Chinese pastor, who had announced to his congregation that the Sanjiang church was being torn down even as he spoke.
"Pray for the Christians in China," Pastor Woo (not his real name) said. "The communist party sometimes begins with a small act like tearing down one church, and it becomes a trend that could spread throughout China. Christianity is growing quickly in China, and in the South they are rich and build big churches. Here we are poor and meet in humble buildings. Perhaps the Wenzhou Christians could learn a lesson from the tearing down of Sanjiang church. Maybe they should build more modest facilities for believers to meet together in. But more important than any building are the people who seek freedom to worship. Some of the Christians who tried to protect the Sanjiang church were injured or arrested. We are all worried that this will be the start of a new wave of persecution against Christians in China. Please tell the world to pray for us."
I accepted photos the pastor emailed me. I admit that the demolished church looked a little too big for my tastes. I think Jesus, who traveled about Israel in sandals and had no place to lay his head, is more comfortable in the human heart than in a grand building. However, a large Christian congregation needs to meet somewhere. It will be interesting to see how President Xi Jinping reacts to events in Wenzhou, and if more churches will be torn down.
A church by a lake in Li Shui  China
A church by a lake in Li Shui, China
Pastor Woo s humble church in northeast China
Pastor Woo's humble church in northeast China
Sanjiang church in Wenzhou  China begins to be destroyed
Sanjiang church in Wenzhou, China begins to be destroyed
Pastor Woo
Sanjiang church continued to be demolished as Christians watched helplessly
Sanjiang church continued to be demolished as Christians watched helplessly
Pastor Woo
The cross and steeple of Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou  China crash down
The cross and steeple of Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou, China crash down
Pastor Woo
The Sanjiang church of Wenzhou  China was completely destroyed
The Sanjiang church of Wenzhou, China was completely destroyed
Pastor Woo
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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