Campaign keeps focus on faith amidst Olympic glitz

FROM WND

Ministries ask Christians to honor Chinese church with armbands

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The chief of the Federation House Church in Beijing apparently isn’t someone the Chinese government wants reporters from the free world interviewing during the coming Olympics: He and his wife have been expelled from the city and now apparently are living on the streets, according to Christian ministries who are asking Christians around the world to honor the persecuted church in China during the games.

The program launched by Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association asks Christians to wear armbands as a reminder to pray for Chinese Christians in house churches.

“We’re trying to let Christians know as the Olympics are here, let’s use this as a time to pray for China. As we turn on the television and see the sunset over the Great Wall, let’s pray for the church in China. As we see the teaming street scenes in Beijing, let’s pray for the church in China,” Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for VOM, told WND.

The persecution of dissidents including Christians has been growing as the Chinese government designs and sets the parameters for the information it wants the world to have about the nation.

“Even in the last few weeks, we’ve seen a cleanup campaign in Beijing. Today they told half the drivers to leave their cars at home to clean up the air. They’re also trying to clean up the Christians to make sure that nothing embarrassing happens during the Games,” Nettleton said.

“This is a national coming out party [for China]. They are absolutely determined that nothing is going to happen that is not on the [government] schedule,” he said.

He said it’s interesting that the Chinese Olympic committee has announced it will hand out Bibles to athletes who want them – even while house church members in China are unable to get complete copies of the Bible.

“That’s a luxury Chinese Christians don’t have,” Nettleton said. “All of this is a coordinate effort to put up this façade.”

The armbands are just “a reminder of our persecuted family in China,” Nettleton said. “We ask that people commit to praying for the church. We want people to say, ‘As I watch the Olympics, as I see China on the television screen, I’m going to remember to pray for my persecuted brothers and sisters.'”

Amidst persecution, Anna says, ‘God … has taken such good care of me.’

“Anna” has become part of the campaign to raise awareness of persecution of Christians in China.

“Some well meaning Christian leaders would like you to believe that Christians are no longer persecuted in China,” the promotion says. “Chinese Christians like Anna would disagree. At the young age of 11, Anna has been persecuted for her faith. She has been run out of a Christian orphanage by the Communist authorities and refused admission to public school. She currently lives in hiding and attends an illegal underground Christian school. Anna, like many persecuted Christians in China, remains strong in her faith. She recently told The Voice of the Martyrs, ‘I think God must really love me. He has taken such good care of me.'”

China Aid reported just this month about the persecution of Pastor Bike Zhang, chairman of the Federation House Church. He and his wife were forced out of their Beijing home by police. The report continued:

“The couple was able to find shelter in the home of a friend … until officials again found the home and forced the Zhangs to leave. Zhang and his wife were forced to move into a hotel … [until] officials threatened the owner of the hotel to evict the couple or face incarceration. The couple then decided to find residence in Changping, but were stopped by police officials while on their way and taken to the town government office. … The couple was released from the government office and stopped at a local hotel on their way out of town. While local police officials again drove the couple out of the hotel and forced them to leave. After a short while of living in Tongzhou, the couple were again accosted by local police and forced to move. Zhang begged [police] officials to allow his sick wife to stay in the location and rest overnight. The officials rejected this plea and forced Zhang to send his wife to her sister’s residence in Sanhe, Hebei for recovery, while Zhang found residence in a local hotel. On July 16th, while going out to buy medicine for his wife, local police officials followed Zhang and forced his wife to move out from her sister’s home.”

Campaign officials said similar armbands are being distributed in China, so house church Christians are reminded to pray for their free world brothers and sisters.

While the government in China officially licenses “Christian” churches, many Christians choose to meet in homes or other private locations in order to worship in the way they choose, since licensed churches are heavily regulated by the government.

“A prominent representative of a group of house churches in China asked Christians throughout the free world to pray for China during the Olympics. The Voice of the Martyrs, in partnership with China Aid Associates, has accepted the call and has produced the Olympic Prayer Band,” promoters said.

WND previously has reported on the persecution of one businessman who ran – with government permission – a Christian bookstore near some of the sports venues for the coming games but was arrested for being a “dangerous religious element.”

Shi Weihan and his family (China Aid Association photo)

Officials say the “trial” for Shi Weihan now has been delayed. He had been arrested last Thanksgiving, then was released after authorities said there was a lack of evidence. But since March he’s been in custody again.

An American friend, businessman Ray Sharpe, had told WND at the time of the earlier arrest that Shi is a businessman who also works as a travel agent.

His attorney, Zhang Xingshui, has been allowed to visit Shi only once, noting that he was losing weight and showed signs of a possible “allergic reaction,” Compass Direct reported.

WND also reported when Chinese officials assembled a secret “blacklist” of groups that would be prevented from having a platform from which to be heard during the games, as well as when other Chinese officials angrily denounced a report that they wanted to ban the Bible’s presence in Olympic facilities.

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