By BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent Eric Leijenaar
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Government initiated attacks in China against Christians and their churches are "the worst in years" with a "wave of persecution" reported across the Communist nation, a well-informed group revealed Tuesday, April 1.
There is no reason to believe that China has become more open and tolerant ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing, said Markus Rode, who leads Open Doors Germany, part of the international Open Doors organization which supports Christians "persecuted for their faith."
He said his organization had to smuggle 4.6 million Bibles to China, as authorities limit the distribution of Christian literature. In addition, Rode said, "house churches were closed, Christians detained, mistreated and punished, while their properties were seized by the authorities." He added that Christians are "continuously monitored" by security forces.
Rights groups have linked the crackdown to concerns within the Communist leadership that Christians will use the Olympics as an opportunity to spread Christianity or to raise awareness about documented violations of religious rights. "Chinese Christians pay a high price for this international sports event," reported BosNewsLife's Netherlands-based partner Website www.manna-vandaag.nl, which was to publish the findings Wednesday, April 3.
Rode claimed that Open Doors workers have been "hindered" in their work and that Christian contacts "were threatened" by local authorities. He said his organization had "postponed" activities, but declined to give more details.
Communicating with Chinese Christians has become increasingly difficult, Rode said. "At universities in China e-mail traffic has been monitored by authorities who managed this way to discover lists with names of Christians.
Among them are Christian students who planned to spread the Gospel among fellow students," he explained. Everyone mentioned in those lists allegedly received "a warning" from Chinese officials.
China's government has consistently denied human rights abuses, and says Christians are free to worship within the government-backed denominations. However Open Doors and other organizations have said that many, and perhaps most Christians, prefer to worship outside
Communist-government control in what are called 'house churches' as they are often organized in homes of believers.
WORLD WATCH LIST
China was mentioned this year as the number 10 on Open Doors respected 50-country World Watch List (WWL) of what it views as the world's worst violators of religious rights.
"The government wants to make sure that there is no risk for any instability during 2008....An unprecedented number of foreign Christians, living in China as missionaries, have been expelled from China in 2007," Open Doors said in its WWL report. It cites government sources as privately acknowledging that China launched Typhoon No. 5, an operation aimed at "anti-infiltration" efforts to prevent foreign Christians from engaging in mission activities before the
"A number of house churches were raided in 2007 and Christians were arrested; in some cases, the government used physical violence against Christians. Although the situation in China differs per region, it remains difficult for many Christians to practice their faith," Open Doors added.
Some officials have admitted that despite the measures, officially denied by the government, churches have grown. There may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, according to some official estimates, about 10 percent of the population, although that figure has been difficult to verify independently. (With BosNewsLife Asia Service and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
Copyright 2008 BosNewsLife. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without our prior written consent.