Archives For Injustice

Chinese police raid Early Rain Reformed Church in Chengdu China on Saturday, May 13, 2018

Saturday, May 12, was the 10th anniversary of China’s deadly earthquake that took the lives of more than 70,000 people when whole towns and villages were crushed in China’s Sichuan province. So this was a time of renewed mourning for hundreds of thousands who lost family and friends. But it was also marked by escalating levels of persecution by the Chinese government against the church–including the arrest and detainment of my friend and partner in the gospel, pastor Wang Yi.

Steve and Pastor Wang Yi in 2017

He was planning to have a memorial service at his church, Early Rain Covenant Church on Saturday morning in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province. But on Friday night, police detained Wang Yi and the head of their Christian college for about 24 hours, until Saturday night. The charge against him by the police was “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” –often used now to silence any dissent against the Chinese government.

The Communist Party was concerned that any public gatherings on Saturday might rekindle widespread angry questions about why so many new buildings, including new schools, collapsed in the earthquake killing thousands of adults and children. Instead, the Chinese government was using the date to praise China’s rapid reconstruction of the devastated towns and villages.

Pastor Wang Yi arrested Saturday, May 13

On Saturday morning more than 50 police returned to arrest and take away more than 200 people, including college students and children, who arrived for the memorial service. The people were taken in buses to several police stations around the city. The police also raided their church and school to remove Christian books (estimated 50,000 books) from their library and documents from their offices. After loading everything in boxes they took them away in large trucks.

I was reminded of the bible verse: “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one (Heb. 10:34).”

Persecution is not new to Wang Yi, who is also a highly respected intellectual and human rights lawyer—with articles about him in New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, World Magazine, etc. He has been an outspoken advocate for human rights, including freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. So, he has had many run-ins with Chinese government officials.

The increased government restrictions on churches under president Xi, beginning in February 2018, were expected by Wang Yi and others to increase persecution. After he was released from custody on Saturday morning, Wang Yi acknowledged these new levels of heightened persecution, saying “The religious case of the Early Rain Covenant (church) has begun.”

Pastor and human rights attorney Wang Yi preaching

Some understandably ask, “Why would Wang Yi continue to take this kind of public stand for justice and human rights when he knows the inevitable consequences of persecution?” And, “Knowing this kind of response from the government was likely, why did he continue to plan this assembly by his church members yesterday?”

Imagine asking Martin Luther King Jr. the same questions. King believed God was calling him to take a stand in his generation for justice and human rights. He knew the price of suffering that he and many others would experience. He also knew that if he and others were not willing to take such a stand, the public was unlikely to know and his nation was unlikely to change. The New York Times article on the persecution of Wang Yi and his church yesterday raised worldwide awareness. I’m reminded of the famous adage, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.”

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.”

Members of Early Rain Covenant Church in China assemble for worship and prayer.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt 5:10-12).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together.” 1 Corinthians 12:26

The apostle Paul reminds us how we should see such suffering of other Christians, when he writes: “If one member suffers, all suffer together (1 Cor 12:26a).” So, please pass on this prayer request to others. Thank you for your continued prayers for our dear brothers and sisters being persecuted in China.

For the King!

steve

PS: Here’s the link again to the New York Times story on this yesterday:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/12/world/asia/china-pastor-detained-sichuan-earthquake.html  And you can read more about Pastor Wang Yi and other key leaders in the underground (unregistered) church movement in China in Ian Johnson’s book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao.

IMAGE: AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

When my pastor, Mike Tilley, stood before our local church in Orlando this morning, after the conflict with white supremacists in Charlottesville yesterday, he said these brief, wise and timely words to us and then led us in this simple but profound prayer. I hope you will find this helpful, as I did.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. (Proverbs 31:8)

This ancient proverb has timeless relevance to those of us who believe and apply the gospel.

  1. Speaking up for the unborn,
  2. Speaking up for those around the world in child slavery, and
  3. Speaking up for the lost, who are headed to a Christless eternity apart from the gospel.

Children might understand this if they think of a playground bully, picking on the kids who are new, who are not cool, who are weak, or who look different. Yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists were carrying flaming torches, and some were carrying Nazi flags. These emblems represent the evil of racial superiority. They say to those who are not like them, “We will dominate you.”

So, as Christians, we open our mouths to say to African Americans and all minorities, we are with you, and not with them. We say to white supremacists, you do not represent the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus says the Lord, let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Prayer:

God of steadfast love, would you show your steadfast love to those who live in fear today. In love, we mourn with those who suffered loss in Charlottesville. We praise you for the saving love shown to us in Christ. God of justice, would you exercise your justice in the restraint and punishment of evil. We pray for those whose hearts are captive to the spiritual bondage of racial superiority. Would you set them free through the power of the gospel. God of righteousness, we know that our only hope of righteousness is in Christ. As your church, grant us grace to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness in our hearts, in our city, and in the world. You are the Lord, who delights in these things. We believe that these things can be, through the gospel. And we believe that they will be, when, through the gospel, you renew all things.

 

“We believe that the Gospel calls us to look beyond ourselves and to love our neighbors. We do this through our individual and corporate witness to the saving message of the Gospel. We do this by entering into the broken places of our city and our world, striving to be “salt and light” and to offer hope and help to those in need.”  Mike Tilley, Senior Pastor, Lake Baldwin Church, Orlando, Florida