Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
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04/29/2011 China (CNN) — This calm denim-clad 28-year-old identifies herself only as Water, based on the Chinese characters that make up her first name. She has been deemed an enemy of the state, an unlikely label for a petite and well-educated woman who eschews violence and confrontation.

Here in China, Water is living her life in fear, under the close watch of the Chinese government for practicing Christianity at Beijing’s underground Shouwang Church. She requested her Chinese name not be published for safety reasons.

Shouwang Church has come under fire by Chinese authorities three weeks ago, when the government ordered the church to cease all activity until further notice. The Chinese government has stated that Shouwang operates unlawfully. To be recognized, the church must register to be a state-sanctioned operation, which includes censoring of certain religious materials.

The government mandate fell in the midst of a recent crackdown on dissidents, activists and lawyers across China, as the government fears a revolt that mirrors the unrest across the Arab world.

On Easter Sunday, police officers stood outside Water’s home and that of hundreds of other Shouwang members, forbidding them from attending an outdoor service church members had spent months preparing. The senior pastor, Jin Tianming, remains under house arrest. Those who did make it to the site in northwest Beijing were rounded up in unmarked public buses and detained inside police stations.

Shouwang is one of China’s largest Protestant Christian groups not sanctioned by the Chinese government. From 2005 to 2007, Shouwang actively applied for registration with the government but was unsuccessful.

“In church, we would call this a spiritual war,” Water quietly said in a CNN interview. “Every day, this spiritual war is not what I prepared for but now I find I am in it.”

Water says she merely wants a margin of religious freedom, but her pursuit has been rocky. Over the past three weeks, Water is followed by the police at home and near the church site. She was detained two weeks ago at the police station overnight. Her mother, who is also a Christian, and her father, who is not, have been harassed, she said.

“My father, who is not a believer, even came to visit me at the police station where I was held,” Water recalled.

“Every day I face a new situation with new difficulties. I try to ignore them but their approach every day is different,” she explained. “They make my daily life pretty challenging.”

Water, who started practicing Christianity because she felt the Communist Party “left [her] empty,” says that she prays for her country to find “strength” on a daily basis. At the same time, she is realistic about the risks she has taken.

“Personally I don’t know how long I can last because the pressure is pretty intense, because they try to harass your family, your workplace and your landlord. They want to evict you,” she told CNN. “They want to control you.”

Water has been accepted to a graduate school program in North America that will commence this fall but unlike most Chinese, she worries less about obtaining the necessary foreign visa than her ability to merely exit the country.

“I’ve seen what is happening around me and to be honest, I’m not sure how I’ll end up,” she told CNN, referring to a recent series of detainments by customs police at the Beijing airport, most notably Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei on April 3.

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