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House Church Pastor In China Detained

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 | Tag Cloud

by Marshall Ramsey, II - Worthy News Correspondent

china map christiansSUQIAN CITY, CHINA (Worthy News)--  Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, has been sentenced to two years of "re-education through labor," an extra-judicial punishment handed out by police that requires no trial or conviction of a crime, Worthy News has learned.

The sentence is often used for those who have committed minor criminal offenses or for dissidents and adherents of non-government sanctioned religious groups, such as house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners.

Pastor Shi was detained May 31, 2011 by police in Suqian city, in coastal Jiangsu province, and held for 12 days. On June 21, he was criminally detained by Suqian Public Security Bureau. Those familiar with this practice say it is the first step in a legal process that almost inevitably leads to a prison sentence.

THE CHARGES

Pastor Shi is formally charged with "illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings." This charge stems from the fact that Pastor Shi's large house church of several thousand members meets in various different sites around the city.

What makes for even greater significance of Shi's sentencing on this charge has to do with the events surrounding the Shouwang Church in Beijing, and its controversial decision in April to meet outdoors after being evicted once again from property it lawfully had leased from the Chinese government.

Critics of Shouwang's decision pointed out that when other house churches have grown too large to meet in one place without making local officials nervous, most have avoided clashes with the authorities by breaking into smaller groups which meet in different locations. The fact that Pastor Shi was charged and sentenced despite using this precaution demonstrates that this strategy does not guarantee that authoritites will be appeased.

Suqian city police's Domestic Security Protection Department has ordered Pastor Shi's church to stop meeting and confiscated the congregation's car, musical instruments, and choir robes, as well as church donations totalling 140,000 yuan, which amounts to $21,712.50 US.

CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION A FAMILY AFFAIR

Pastor Shi is not the only person in his family to have suffered persecution at the hands of police for the cause of Jesus Christ. Pastor Shi's daughters and their husbands have also beeen threatened. Shi Yongyang, Pastor Shi's son, has been to the police station and signed the sentencing paperwork under police pressure, but they have refused to give him a copy of the signed documents.

Pastor Shi and his wife, Zhu Guangyun, are both 55 years old. His mother, Liu Guanglan, age 86, requires round-the-clock care, which is provided by Pastor Shi's wife. Previously mentioned Shi Yongyang, Pastor Shi's son, and his wife are both in full-time ministry. Four generations of Shi Enhao's family have served the church.

ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu expressed shock at the news and strongly condemned the authorities in Jiangsu's Suqian city for sentencing Pastor Shi. He also called on the church and the international community to express their concern for him and to come to Pastor Shi's aid.

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