On April 21, more than 10 police officers of Chengdu City Wenjiang District entered a residence, seizing four adult members of Early Rain Covenant Church and 12 adolescents who were participating in a tutoring program operated by the church at the location. Three Christians living at the residence were also detained. It is the latest event in the now two and a half year-long crackdown by authorities on the church, whose pastor, Wang Yi, was arrested along with more than 100 church members on December 9, 2018.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, the raid happened at 10AM Wednesday, April 21. Police then transported the 19 adults and adolescents to the Yongning Sub-district Police Station in Chengdu City Wenjiang District, where they were questioned into the evening. “Parents of the adolescents phoned the police station multiple times, asking why police took their children and when they would release them,” says Representative Foley. “But the police officer reportedly responded rudely, without giving a clear answer, ignoring basic protection for underaged children.”
Police did not permit the 12 adolescents and four adult congregants to leave the police station until around 9 pm. Officers continued to detain the three Christians who live at the residence without revealing the reason for their detention to family members.
“Many Christians around the world wrongly think that Early Rain Church must have ceased operating by now due to this relentless onslaught by the Chinese government. But as this latest raid shows, it is the government that is getting desperate, not the church,” says Representative Foley. “First, the authorities arrested church leaders on December 9, 2018, with Pastor Wang Yi now sentenced to serve nine years in prison and Elder Qin Defu sentenced to four years. Then authorities closed the church building and confiscated church possessions. Throughout this time, police have held several dozen people under administrative or criminal detention and long-term custody. But in this latest raid, the authorities show that they are now desperate enough to detain adolescents.”
Representative Foley says that the church operates the private tutoring program because the government insists that Early Rain Church children must attend public schools. “The church members refuse to subject their children to an atheistic Communist Party education. Many of the church families have chosen to tutor their children together to provide a Christian education. In turn, police have repeatedly harassed them. Sometimes, police transported children to the police station when their parents were not home, attempting to get information about the church.” But Representative Foley says that these tactics have backfired on the authorities. “Instead of succumbing to police pressure, these children who have grown up learning the Bible do not fear the police. Instead, they share the gospel with them. The children have even debated evolution and creation with the police officers.”
File photo of a children's church meeting at Early Rain Covenant Church
Representative Foley says that police continue to monitor many of the Early Rain church members, as well as routinely shutting off their water and electricity. “At times, they have stuffed door locks with toothpicks to prevent church members from entering their own homes. Authorities reportedly pressure the church members’ employers to fire them and the church members’ landlords to evict them.” But Representative Foley says that the persecution the church is experiencing does not discourage the church members but only increases their resolve and boldness. “They’re standing up to the Communist Party of China, and they’re winning, simply by remaining faithful to the Lord, no matter the cost,” says Representative Foley. “Certainly, Early Rain Church looks a lot different than before the raids began. But in the Lord’s eyes, it only looks more beautiful.”
Individuals interested in donating to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
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