© Copyright China Aid
Chinese authorities have demolished the Golden Lampstand Protestant Church in Linfen city, China, ahead of new regulations on religious affairs that will come into force on 1 February 2018.
On Tuesday 9 January, worshippers, church leaders and other local residents looked on as local authorities in the Shanxi province detonated explosives placed underneath the church, which was only a decade old. Heavy machinery was brought in to take what was left of the building apart.
According to the state-run newspaper Global Times, the church, which has 50,000 members, was demolished because it did not have the necessary permits.
A pastor from a nearby church said, “My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own. This church was built in 2008; there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”
This is not the first time the Golden Lampstand Church has clashed with the government. In 2009, its pastor, Yang Rongli, and other church leaders were jailed for seven years for ‘illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by getting together’. Pastor Yang has been under police surveillance since her release in 2016.
This is one of three churches that have been torn down or closed in the last month; on 20 December 2017, a Catholic church in the neighbouring Shaanxi province was demolished with no explanation given, and a Protestant church in the Xinjiang region was shut down around the same time.
Many Christian congregations in China resort to ‘house’ churches in order to avoid registering with the government. Although China guarantees freedom of religion on paper, it sees the 97.2 million Christians there as a threat, and authorities crack down on churches that they deem too large. Up to 1,500 churches in the Zhejiang province have either been demolished, or had their crosses removed in recent years.
- For those affected by the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church, that they would not be disheartened or discouraged
- For fresh courage for other church leaders who are afraid their church will be targeted.