Martyrdom highlights state of religious freedom in China

By the Mission News Network

China (MNN) – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report today. According to it, among the worst violators of religious freedom, in the Top Tier of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Both USCIRF and the U.S. State Department release annual reports on international religious freedom, but each has different purposes.

The State Department’s report documents religious freedom violations in every country in the world. USCIRF’s Annual Report recommends countries to be designated as “countries of particular concern,” which the Executive Branch considers on policy issues.

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The dichotomy in China proved interesting in this year’s USCIRF account. There have been stories about religious freedom in the Three Self Patriotic Movement government-registered churches.

However, according to USCIRF:

“The Chinese government represses those advocating for human rights and religious freedom and the human rights defenders who bravely represent them. The US must underscore with China that global leadership must goes hand-in-hand with the respect for and protection of religious freedom and related human rights.”

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA, concurs.  “We have seen over the last two-year period, a ramping up, starting in Zhejiang Province with church buildings being demolished, and crosses being torn down.”  The Central Government is using the provincial government in Zhejiang as an example, he explains. “’That’s how we want you to do it too. Look, they’re doing a great job. We want everyone else to do it like they’re doing it’.”

The question is: why?  It’s all about control, observes Nettleton. “They want control of religious expression. They want you to be a good Communist first.  After that, you can be a good Buddhist, or Christian or whatever, that’s your business, as long as you’re a good Communist first.” Since Communism makes demands of a citizen that can run counter to God’s Word, there is an obvious conflict on the make.

As of late, the Zhejiang government has been using violation of ‘beautification’ codes and land ownership questions as the impetus behind its campaign of church destruction, at 1,500 so far. The latest: Beitou Church in the central Henan province. Nettleton explains, “The bulldozers were sent in to demolish a church building, and the pastor and his wife stood in front of the bulldozer. If we think back to Tiananmen Square and the man standing in front of the tank, it’s really very similar.  They said ‘No. you’re not going to destroy this church unless you’re willing to destroy us first.’”

Unlike the Tiananmen Square outcome, “The demolition crew pushed them into a hole and pushed dirt over them. The pastor was able to dig himself out; his wife though, was not, and she died in that attack.”

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