Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chinese Christians See Mounting Persecution in Country’s Effort to Disband House Churches


2/21/2013 China (Fox News) - Christians and human rights advocates are alarmed over an aggressive crackdown on house churches in China, where the faithful are forced to call their gatherings "patriotic" assemblies or sent to prison where they can face torture, according to a new report.

Cases of the government persecuting Christians rose 42 percent last year, amid a three-phase plan by Beijing to eradicate the home-based churches, according to China Aid, a Texas-based human rights group. Experts say the Communist Party in China has long felt threatened by any movement that galvanizes a large sector of the population, fearing it could wield political clout. But the nation has become more systematically hostile to worshippers, according to Bob Fu, China Aid founder and president.

"There have been new tactics of persecution as well, especially with the government using secret directives and memos with long-term, step-by-step strategies to eradicate house churches,” Fu told “This is very serious stuff.”

Last year, the government mounted a new three-phase approach designed to wipe out unregistered house churches by forcing them to join the official "Three-Self Patriotic Movement" and stop defining themselves as churches. The phase included having China's State Administration for Religious Affairs secretly investigate house churches and create files on them, the report found. The current wave of crackdowns, which began midway through 2012, is part of the second phase, according to Fu. Fu said the government is using a wide array of subtle and ham-handed tactics to persecute Christians, targeting house church leaders and churches in urban areas.

“Instead of using law enforcement officials directly to attack churches, last year we found they used a softer approach,” he said. “They used utility companies, service committees and neighborhood committees to terminate contracts with rental facilities and cut off electricity and water [to the churches].”

Those semi-official agencies, including industrial and commercial affairs departments, used various excuses to “harass, interfere and ban” church services.

At least 132 cases of persecution affecting 4,919 Christians, including 442 church leaders, were reported last year, up from 93 cases and 4,322 Christians in 2011, respectively. The number of people detained (1,441) and sentenced (9) also increased from the year earlier, the report found.

“Many people, especially in China, don’t even know there are really hundreds and thousands of their fellow Christian brothers being persecuted,” he said. “If a country like China shows it does not respect its own citizens and their most basic freedoms, we should be on alert and take more action from our side in the United States to advance that (Source).”

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