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04/20/2012 China (ChinaAid) – For many years, China’s house churches, which uphold religious freedom and hold fast to the true faith, have been viewed by the Chinese government as a hostile group of dissenters and have become the target of persecution and crackdowns. Furthermore, these vile acts of the government, which blatantly violate the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, have increased in frequency and severity year after year.

In December 2010, the Communist Party Central Committee’s Public Security Commission issued a secret document to target China’s “house churches” in implementing its special suppression campaign “Operation Deterrence.” Government officials of all levels were told to “guide” Christians attending those unregistered churches to worship in [government-approved] Three-Self churches, and to “break up” large churches like Shouwang Church into small groups.

Soon thereafter, beginning on Easter 2011, Beijing Shouwang Church was forced to hold its Sunday worship service outdoors, and various government agencies have joined together in continuous attacks on the church, which has had its former large-scale Sunday worship services “broken up” into small groups meeting separately.

We have noticed since the beginning of 2012 an increase in the frequency of persecution and suppression of house churches by the Chinese Communist government. In addition to the continuing persecution of Beijing Shouwang Church which has lasted for more than a year, the number of other similar cases has risen 20% over last year and has spread into other areas, including Christian education publication and bookstores.

In a recent random survey conducted by this reporter in several provinces, cities and regions, over 95% of house church ministers surveyed said they had strongly felt the impact of the relevant government departments launching intense investigations into and creating files on the house churches, which has extended to grassroots-level villages and towns. Over 85% house church ministers said that their local religious affairs departments had already created files on them. A house church pastor from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said he had received reliable information that the provincial government had issued secret documents regarding the eradication of house churches. He said, “The situation this year is especially tense.”

This reporter has observed that the implementation of Phase One of the eradication of “house churches” as described in the secret document issued jointly by SARA and the ministries of Public Security Civil Affairs not only has already begun but has entered an intense phase. According to the main points of this secret document, this new round of the Chinese government’s campaign to eradicate “house churches” will be rolled out in three stages of six months, three years and ten years. Compared with Operation Deterrence launched in December 2010, it is gentler, longer, and more sustained, as well as being full of “united front” strategy. [“United front” is a loaded political term that hearkens back to the Communist Party’s revolutionary beginnings when it used persuasion to achieve cooperation with non-Communist groups.]

Humane law enforcement, long-term implementation, and “united front”-style registration. How will this new Chinese government campaign to eradicate “house churches” impact house churches that are seeking a path to religious freedom and holding fast to the true faith? We’ll wait and see.

Meanwhile, we also pray for China’s house churches, asking that God protect them as they journey on the path to religious freedom. May God bless the house churches that proclaim the truth of the Gospel and may God strengthen Beijing Shouwang Church in the midst of severe persecution.

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