As the world gathered for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, audiences prepared to embrace the globally forged spirit of competition – a tradition we cherish every four years. However, not since 1980 had the Olympics been such a contentious topic.
This became the second Olympic games overshadowed by the prolonged anxiety around the COVID-19 pandemic and the first occurring against a backdrop of genocide and persecution in plain sight. While we may have hoped this would be an occurrence left in the past, the world is only now coming to terms with the blind eye it has held toward the ongoing crisis of persecution underway in China.
Given the severity of the human rights abuses currently taking place in China, it was to our collective shock that China kept its mantle as the 2022 Winter Olympics host. Whether it is the harassment of Christians, the hijack of Hong Kong’s basic rights, or the enslavement and outright attempt at genocide against the Uyghur population, International Christian Concern (ICC) concluded that Beijing’s continued role as Olympic hosts was a shameful reality. To outdo this existing absurdity, China became the first host country in recent memory to formally warn its incoming athletes of the consequences that speaking out against Chinese laws would have, laws that enable the harassment and persecution of religious minorities.
While our prayers are with the athletes who stood tall for their respective countries through the mastery of their sport, we must stop and reflect on those within the country who are suffering for their stand for their faith. For decades, the world has seen the brutality of China’s actions against religious minorities, but under its current leadership, China has expanded this persecution.
For many of us, the Beijing Olympics demonstrated a direct neglect and disregard for the victims of the host government and sends a message to China about where our true values lie. It shows that we value the spectacle of the games and the potential profits over the well-being of that suffering persecution. However, with little means to challenge the International Olympic Committee and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), ICC was determined to inform our audience of the situation in China.
Over the course of the Beijing Olympics, from February 3rd – 20th, 2022, ICC highlighted several Christian victims of the PRC’s attempt to suppress religious minorities in the country, challenging the regime’s attempt to hide behind the Olympic spectacle. Within this text, you will find stories of Christians living under Chinese rule with a relentless pursuit of their faith. These champions may not have run the eight-hundred meter, but they continue to run the race set out for them. Wearing irons over gold, they continue to display their faith like trophies of their own, knowing it comes at a cost. These individuals demonstrate the perseverance and commitment to be recognized as champions of our faith – they are our persecuted family.