ICC Note: Courageous Christians in Zhejiang Province, China, are making bold moves in protest of a provincial government campaign which aims to remove the cross as a symbol of the Christian faith from the Chinese skyline. Please keep these brothers and sisters in your prayers, as they take a stand for their religious freedom.
By Robert Marquand
06/08/2015 China (Christian Science Monitor)
A group of Protestant churches in China’s Zhejiang Province are staging an unusual tryst with local authorities who have knocked down the cross from atop their churches: They are fighting back and restoring the traditional symbol of Christianity.
In some cases, the often elderly evangelical resisters in 16 churches around the cities of Lishui and Fuyang have persistently replaced the cross three times in a single day. So far, the restored crosses – some of makeshift raw lumber – remain.
Such civil disobedience is part of a mostly polite but intensifying standoff between the faithful and party authorities in the wake of a state campaign to target Protestants in the place where their numbers are growing and their churches are visible.
A number of churchgoers who have conducted late night and early morning campaigns to reaffix the cross say they are acting out of conviction and aren’t afraid. One man, Zhao Lizhong, who tried in early May to defend the Pinguan church in Lishui, has not been heard from since police escorted him from the site.
Christian pastors in China are concerned that the state activity in Zhejiang is a prelude to a larger crackdown.
The recent pushback began in May after the provincial government announced that crosses must come off all churches in the province. That brought a rare open letter from the region’s largest evangelical church stating that the policy is “likely to cause chaos … and religious conflicts.”
Authorities in Zhejiang have not given an explanation for the new policy. But analysts say Beijing is concerned about the growth of evangelical Christianity in Communist China, which is officially atheist. Estimates run from 50 million to more than 100 million Protestants and about 6 million Catholics in a country where party members number 70 million. The Zhejiang coastal city of Wenzhou, known as “China’s Jerusalem” for its religious ferment, has 1.2 million evangelicals in a population of 9 million.