Pastor An Yankui did not expect to win the appeal in Lüliang City, Shanxi Province last month of his November 2021 conviction on charges of illegally crossing the China border to attend a Christian conference in Malaysia. Instead, the pastor says he simply wanted to testify to God’s Kingdom in court by supplying “new evidence” to the judge: the Bible.
“Pastor An hoped to use the maps of Paul’s missionary journeys in his Bible to prove to the appeals court judges that since the beginning, Christian leaders have traveled internationally as an essential part of their ministry responsibilities,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley.
In January 2020, Pastor An and six members of his church traveled to Malaysia to attend a Christian conference organized by Chinese Indonesian pastor Stephen Tong and featuring pastors Tim Keller and D.A. Carson. In November 2021, Pastor An and church member Zhang Chenghao were detained on the charge of having illegally crossed the border to attend the conference, despite having departed and returned to China through customs with their passports. Both were fined and sentenced to a year in prison, finally being released in November 2022. Pastor An appealed the conviction, citing “new evidence” in the case which was then heard March 1 of this year.
“When Pastor An submitted the Bible as ‘new evidence’ in his appeal, the judge felt it was an unusual request and asked the pastor to clarify if he really intended to submit the Bible as evidence in his defense,” says Representative Foley. “Pastor An affirmed that this was his intent, and told the judge, ‘I can give the Holy Bible to you as a gift if you like.’ Ultimately, the judges denied Pastor An’s appeal and upheld the original guilty verdict, but Pastor An achieved his purpose of using his appeal to make a faithful witness for the gospel to those in authority.”
Similar to the Bible shown here, Ps. An wanted to use the maps of Paul’s missionary journeys in his Bible to make his appeal.
According to Representative Foley, Pastor An’s appeal demonstrates that Christians have a higher responsibility in court than securing their own freedom and safety.
“The Book of Acts shows the Apostle Paul repeatedly appearing in court, and each time he goes, he is defending the gospel, not himself,” says Representative Foley. “In fact, in Acts 26:32, Agrippa says to Festus that Paul could have been freed if he had not appealed to Caesar to judge his case. Just as with Paul, the same thing is true of Pastor An: In court, they both were focused on something more important than their personal freedom or reputation: They were focused on being faithful witnesses to those in authority.”
Representative Foley says that even though Pastor An has completed his sentence, it is certain that authorities will continue to closely monitor him and his church members. “Pastor An and his church have been a target of the authorities since 2018, when they did a prayer vigil for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre,” says Representative Foley. “Amidst police raids and arrests at his church, he joined 438 other Chinese pastors in signing the 2018 ‘Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith’, a statement of faithfulness to the gospel directed to the Chinese authorities. It seems that authorities consider him dangerous because he puts faithfulness to the gospel above his own personal safety.”
Zhang Chenghao (left) and Pastor An Yankui (right)
Individuals interested in learning about or supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/china or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
Please note “China” on the transfer.