The leader of a church in Linfen City in southwest Shanxi province, China, was evicted from his home this month on two days’ notice. As Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley explains, the eviction is part of a campaign of continuing pressure by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against 439 Chinese pastors for signing a joint declaration of their faith in 2018.
“On January 12, after repeated pressure from local police and threats by community members to shut off water and electricity, the landlord of Minister Li Jie of Linfen Covenant Church reluctantly gave him a two-day eviction notice,” says Representative Foley. “As the landlord had not experienced problems with Minister Li in the past, she repeatedly asked authorities to rescind orders for her to evict him.”
Representative Foley says that when officials refused to concede, the landlord reluctantly broke the lease with Minister Li. “Although she struggled with doing so with temperatures at times freezing, the landlord shut off the water, heat, and power to Minister Li’s home. This is an approach the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) often uses to oppress Christians,” says Representative Foley.
Map of Linfen City, Shanxi Province
In 2018, Minister Li signed “A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith”. This so-called “China Declaration”, launched by Pastor Wang Yi from the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, called on Chinese authorities to stop repressing and persecuting house churches and to respect the personal faith and freedom of conscience of all Chinese citizens. Representative Foley notes that since the publication of the statement, CCP officials have targeted the pastors, ministers, and elders who signed. “Police regularly warn and threaten these leaders to ‘maintain the stability of society’. They also frequently harass those attending the petitioners’ churches,” says Representative Foley.
As reported by Voice of the Martyrs Korea, Minister Li responded to his eviction by expressing his love and care for the landlord and asking for prayers for the landlord’s family. “The landlord informed me the day before yesterday that we should move out by January 15. Moving out of our home within two days in the chilliest month of the year is hard. Yesterday, however, even while hearing the news, I felt unexpectedly peaceful and joyful.” Minister Li added that both Christians and non-Christians in Linfen City have come to his family’s aid since the eviction. “One elderly woman came by our place and told us details of each potential rental she found. She even invited us to stay at her family’s place. Several brothers and sisters constantly send text messages to comfort us. Even a non-Christian friend who attends the church has helped us search for rentals at night, video chatting and showing us possible places to move.”
Young people studying at Linfen Covenant Church. Linfen’s Minister Li Jie was one of 439 Christian leaders who signed the China Declaration in 2018 and was recently evicted from his home.
Translations in Korean, English, and Russian of The China Declaration can be found at www.chinadeclaration.com
Representative Foley says that the eviction of Minister Li is only the latest in a series of harassments against Minister Li and Linfen church. “Since implementing the New Religious Affairs Regulations in January 2018, the CCP has added Linfen Covenant Church to the list of churches to persecute because believers there hold fast to their faith and principles. They have not surrendered to man’s dictates but have continued to serve God. They remained faithful even when officials of the government Ethics and Religious Affairs Bureau sent more than 20 strong men to the church to threaten them and raid the church school.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea published translations in Korean, English, and Russian, of the China Declaration at https://chinadeclaration.com. “This is the document that had been originally signed by Minister Li and 438 other Chinese church leaders,” explains Representative Foley. “Last year we invited church leaders around the world to sign their names to the document as a show of support for the Chinese church. We ultimately presented 28 pages of signatures from 4,400 Christian leaders to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul. Although we are no longer gathering signatures, we encourage Christians to go to https://chinadeclaration.com and read the declaration and pray for the original 439 signers, including Minister Lee.”