Some of you may remember taking part in a letter-writing campaign for Alimjan Yimiti, the Uyghur church leader imprisoned in China since 2008.
While he continues to serve his sentence, we have had an update. A local source has shared that Alimjan is allowed to call his family once a month and it is ‘his happiest moment to talk with his family members’. His oldest son has recently completed the college entrance exam and it went very well. Alimjan is very excited for his son to start a new chapter in his life.
He is in a peaceful and stable state physically and spiritually. Though he is still in prison, he doesn’t have to go to re-education camp. The condition of life in prison is actually better than in a re-education camp.
The former house church leader was sentenced in 2009 to 15 years in prison for allegedly ‘instigating separatism and revealing state secrets’. Those close to the case maintain that he was imprisoned because of his Christian faith and witness among the Uyghur people.
This is great news! Please continue to hold Pastor Alimjan and his family in your prayers.
‘HIS BELIEF REMAINS RESOLUTE’
This is not the only case of pastors in China being imprisoned falsely. A Chinese pastor was released a few weeks ago after being detained for two and a half years for ‘illegally possessing state secrets’.
Pastor Yang Hua of Huoshi Church (which means Living Stone), in the south-western province of Guizhou, was arrested in December 2015. He was sentenced in January 2017.
While in police custody he was threatened and tortured, according to his lawyers.
After his release the pastor broke out into singing worship songs, while his wife, Wang Hongwu, said: “Even though my husband experienced misfortune, his belief remains resolute.”
• Please pray for Pastor Yang Hua and his family as he readjusts to normal life outside of prison
HOUSE CHURCHES ‘RELUCTANT TO REGISTER’
A newly implemented directive from the Chinese government forces Protestant ‘house churches’ and Catholic ‘underground’ communities to seek ‘guidance’ from recognised religious organisations.
A notification from the State Administration for Religious Affairs, issued in June, requires organisers of religious activities at temporary sites to also apply for a permit that is valid for three years.
According to Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the Divinity School at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, these recognised religious organisations include the China Christian Council and the national committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which are known in China as the lianghui, or ‘two organisations’.
The directive has caused fear among the ‘underground’ communities that they will come under greater control.
“It is well known that many ‘house churches’ are reluctant to register and are willing to be an illegal organisation because they do not want to be under the two organisations,” Professor Fuk-tsang wrote on his Facebook page.
The notification follows revised religious regulations in February, which spelled out criteria that religious organisations have to meet in order to be registered or to establish a place for religious activities.
100 CHURCHES CLOSED IN ONE MONTH
The revised regulations have in reality been in force since the early 1980s, according to Aaron Ma, an Asia-based researcher for Open Doors International, but he said they were now being taken more seriously.
“There is now a heightened sense that a breach of regulations will be met by some form of warning, increased surveillance, or punishment. Certainly, most churches feel it is time to take extra precautions, to downsize or maybe even relocate some of their ministries,” he said.
The enforcement of the religious regulations varies across the country and appears to depend on local authorities’ interpretation of it. Church leaders in several places, such as the eastern province of Zhejiang, where between 2013 and 2015 over 1,200 crosses were pulled down from churches, said that although ‘it sounds becoming more serious, yet at this moment we don’t feel much different’.
One hundred churches were closed in Nanyang, in central Henan province, in the month of March alone. Ma said local contacts told him that Christians who used their own church building for meetings were targeted, and their buildings closed. Consequently, he said, Christians had gone back to meeting in homes.
- For Pastors Alimjan and Yang Hua, and for all Christians imprisoned in China, that God would renew their strength
- For house churches that feel under pressure to register, that God would give them His wisdom to act accordingly
- That God would soften the hearts of the government and local authorities towards Christians and the church