China’s growing Christian community currently stands at around 97.2 million – just under seven per cent of the country’s total population.
The church in China continues to see extraordinary growth, however life for Christians is anything but straightforward, and recent years has seen an increase in persecution.
The policy of ‘sinicising’ the church (to make Chinese) is implemented across the country as the Communist Party relies strongly on Chinese cultural identity to stay in power, and limits whatever could threaten its control on society.
New restrictions on the internet, social media and non-governmental organisations – along with a revision of religious regulation in 2018 which was enhanced again last year – are strictly applied and seriously limit freedom. Churches are being monitored and closed, be they independent or affiliated to the state (e.g. Three-Self Patriotic Movement).
On a more local level, converts from Islam or Buddhism whose new faith is discovered by family and the community are likely to face threats and physical harm to lure them back.
“There was no warning. They came in, sat down and interrogated me for a whole day without a break. I later found out they questioned many of my colleagues, too. They pressured them to provide information about my ‘religious activities’.” Grace
Grace – whose name we’ve change to protect her identity – is a gentle sister in her late 40s. She is a Han Chinese Christian. Her story demonstrates that there is no sphere of life that the Chinese state will not seek to exert its control.
She was once the deputy head nurse in a big urban hospital, rising through the ranks over a period of two decades. She is a fervent believer who shared the gospel with many colleagues in her hospital.
Having previously been overlooked for promotion because of her faith, Grace was visited by the senior officials of her hospital. They interrogated her for a whole day and pressured her colleagues to provide information on her ‘religious activities’.
From then on, Grace’s colleagues kept their distance, afraid they might get embroiled in this seemingly serious incident. After the investigation, Grace was demoted and given non-essential duties. Her new income was a fraction of what it had been.
Grace wrestled with the injustice for 12 months, repeatedly asking God why she had suffered in this way. Her professional career was in tatters, and her hard work over many years had come to nothing. She felt lonely and betrayed.
“With God’s grace, the frustration and grief gradually left me,” she says. “I eventually found peace when I accepted what I had always believed: that only God's work has eternal value. Everything else is temporary. It will all pass away.”
Yes, very much so. The intense pressure increasingly placed on Christians by the government means China has jumped six places from last year’s list. In just three years, the country has risen 26 places, reflecting a rapidly deteriorating situation for Christians in the country. It is getting increasingly difficult to avoid having to fall in line with official socialist ideology, even for state-affiliated churches.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in China. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors supports believers in China with persecution survival training, and by providing contextualised Christian literature to believers from Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds.
Heavenly Father, we are astounded at the remarkable growth of the church in China, despite years of opposition and hostility. We praise You for the power of the gospel. Fill believers with wisdom, discernment and courage as they seek to serve You in an increasingly monitored environment. Empower their witness and continue to build Your church. Strengthen and sustain Your children through all challenges. Amen.
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