Beijing (AsiaNews): Protestant Christians in China “are not a force in disagreement, an error to be managed or rectified, the chosen objective of veiled or direct attacks. Thinking this way is wrong, it’s a fundamental mistake,” said an appeal signed by 34 unofficial congregations.
Domestic Protestant Churches have been hit by yet another round of restrictions on their religious freedom.
The appeal said, “The Christian churches, even the domestic ones, are animated by the desire for dialogue to achieve the best possible relations with the government of this new era, to achieve socialism with Chinese characteristics” of which the president, Xi Jinping, speaks.
The text underlines how recent revisions to religious regulations have broken the rights of the faithful. It said, “The normal life of a believer has been violated and hindered, and this has caused enormous emotional damage. The sense of patriotism that animates Christians has also been affected, opening the possibility to social conflicts. The situation seems to worsen day by day.”
The missive suggests that in order to overcome this impasse “the authorities must respect the religious freedom protected by the Constitution of China. That text contains many rights that in reality the single-party state does not respect. The Churches have a real desire for dialogue.”
A new package of regulations on religious activity termed as “draconian” was approved by the Chinese State Council in 2016, coming into force on October 7 of that year with a declared aim of eliminating the unregistered Christian cult, that of the so-called “domestic (house) Churches.”
The rules effectively prohibit preaching, or Christian events online or in schools. Individuals and groups of faithful cannot organise catechism classes, conferences or any kind of activity abroad.
On paper, these rules should prevent “separatism, terrorism and infiltration of foreign forces in the country”.
In recent days, the municipal government of Beijing ordered the various departments involved to make contact with the Churches of the area and report by July 19.
Local officials have also provided for police intervention—a record of unregistered Protestant structures, forms full of sensitive information on pastors and the faithful. Dozens of domestic churches were closed.
A Protestamt source told AsiaNews, “We only know that the police visited some churches and ordered their closure.”.
Ni Yulan, a member of the Brotherhood of Sacred Love, told ChinaAid, “Government control is increasingly stringent. They are preparing to strike, this is why they are gathering information. It is just the beginning.”