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China

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Chinese house-church leader Zhang Yinan was arrested in a raid on his congregation
Image Source: China Aid

Christianity is officially allowed to exist in China only under the close control of the government. Christians may worship legally only as part of the national, state-controlled churches, and their activities are restricted and sometimes arbitrarily curtailed. Even members of these churches suffer discrimination; because religious belief is incompatible with membership of the Communist Party, they are barred from almost all high-level jobs.

China’s unregistered “house churches” exist in constant danger of official repression. The Communist government, suspicious of groups that are outside its control, regards them as “unstable social elements”. In an attempt to stem the growth of these independent churches, the government has prohibited their worship and closed down their buildings. Their members are subject to severe restrictions, harassment and sometimes imprisonment and violent attack; the leaders are often arrested and thrown into jail, where they may be beaten or tortured.

Zhang Yinan (pictured), a pastor of an unregistered church (“house church”) in China, was arrested on 3 June 2013 in a raid on his congregation. More than ten security officers burst into a meeting and took everyone to the police station. An order was issued to close down the church, but Pastor Zhang refused to sign it; the police also tried to pressure him into joining one of the state-controlled churches. 

The authorities also use third parties such as utility companies and landlords to pressure the churches and make their normal activities impossible. Access to Christian literature is restricted.

Christianity has a long history in China. It was first introduced no later than the sixth century, probably by Orthodox Christians. Catholics arrived in the thirteenth century, and Protestant missionaries from 1807. Under their influence the number of Christians increased rapidly, leading to waves of persecution.

All missionaries were expelled in 1949, and the Communist government sought to bring organised Christianity under state control. But during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) Christian activity was forced underground, and the house church movement was born. After restrictions were somewhat relaxed in the late 1970s the churches began to grow rapidly.

Despite worsening persecution today, increasing numbers of Chinese people are still coming to Christ. Reliable figures for Christians in China are not available. The authorities say that around 22 million worship in the state churches, while independent research puts the total number of Christians in the country at about 76 million. The real figure may be much higher.

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Daily prayer

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  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 22 hours ago

  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

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