Pastor Pan's "Mayflower Church" final asylum appeal has been denied by the Gwangju High Court. The court denied the appeal without additional comment, referring to the previous judgment. The decision could mean the group is required to leave Korea in as little as two weeks, according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr Hyun Sook Foley, whose organization has provided ongoing persecution-related training to the members of the church since their arrival.
The 60 members of Shenzen Holy Reformed Church, including its Pastor Pan Yongguang, have been dubbed the “Mayflower Church” by global religious freedom advocates. The group fled China in 2019 for Jeju Island, where they have been supporting themselves by doing menial labor during their asylum process.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, the group’s plans remain unclear. “Some difficult decisions lay ahead for Pastor Pan and the congregation members,” says Representative Foley. She says the church members continue to trust God despite the denial of their asylum request. “They are a well-trained congregation, not only by us through our persecution training but also by Pan Yongguang, their pastor. The pastor and church members continue to pray that God may yet open a door for asylum in another country like the U.S., but they are fully prepared to be faithful witnesses to Christ no matter what the cost if the Lord sends them back to China.”
These Mayflower Church children practice the principles of worship so that their families can participate in daily family worship in their homes.
Pastor Pan is pictured with one of the youngest Mayflower Church members.
Representative Foley says that Pastor Pan founded the church in 2012 under the oversight of Philadelphia Bible Reformed Church in the United States. Because of his connection to the foreign religious group, Pastor Pan began to be interrogated by authorities at least twice a week beginning in 2014. “When Pastor Pan refused to affiliate the church with the Chinese Communist Party-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM), authorities pressured the landlord of the building where the church-run elementary school was located to evict them. Church members didn’t want to send their children to state-run schools to be indoctrinated into atheism and communism, so they voted to flee China as a whole church in 2019.”
Representative Foley says that the group, which consists of twenty-eight adults and thirty-two children, posed as tourists and arrived on Jeju Island with almost nothing. “In order to avoid being detained during their departure, they had not communicated their plan to anyone, including us,” says Representative Foley. “We learned about them and met them for the first time after they arrived. Along with China Aid and other international organizations which help persecuted Christians, we’ve done what we can to help them. Churches in Jeju have also done a lot. Everyone who meets this group loves them, because they are completely non-political and they are all hard-working. They really just want to worship God freely and educate their children to love and serve the Lord.”
Pastor Foley of VOM Korea talks with Pastor Pan about the Christian persecution in China.
Representative Foley says that in June, the South Korean government denied their original asylum request. They filed an appeal shortly afterward, but according to Representative Foley they were denied a second time on October 5th. Facing a deportation to China on October 19th, they filed yet another appeal, in order not be sent back to China. “That appeal was rejected today,” says Representative Foley, noting that South Korea only accepted an estimated 0.4% of refugees in 2020.
Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea concurs with other China persecution watchdog groups China Aid and Christian Solidarity Worldwide that if the “Mayflower Church” returns to China, they will be subject to extreme punishments including imprisonments, forced disappearances, and torture. “Recently, the CCP has questioned three of the church’s members who remained in China when the group fled, demanding information about the group and also demanding that the members break off all contact with them.”
Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea will continue to stand with the church and share their story, no matter where they are sent. “We’ve come to deeply love and respect Pastor Pan and each of the church members since we first met them and learned of their story when they arrived here in 2019. We’ve trained not only the adults but even the young children again and again what the Bible teaches about persecution in the life of the believer. We know that even if God sends them back to China, it is only because he has an even bigger plan and purpose for them, and they will be faithful. Four hundred years after the original Mayflower Pilgrims, Christians still remember and are inspired by their story. We will do our best to continue to tell the story of these ‘modern Mayflower Christians’ to inspire and challenge people here in our country and around the world.”
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/donate .
Please note “China” on all donations