CHURCHES ATTACKED IN CHINA, ZIMBABWE
The Church of England issued a prayer for Prince William and Kate Middleton last Thursday in advance of the young couple’s April 29th wedding. The prayer petitions God through Jesus Christ for William and Kate’s lifelong faithful union. The people of England may or may not serve God through Jesus Christ, but the national church does claim Him. In the meanwhile, in China and Zimbabwe, police raided the prayer services of congregations who gathered in the name of Jesus. While religious freedom remains on paper in many countries of the world, there is little freedom in reality.
Chinese police raided the outdoor prayer service of an unregistered church in on Sunday, detaining more than 100 churchgoers when they tried to meet on a Beijing bridge. The 8-year-old Shouwang Church has struggled to find locations for its 1000-member strong congregation to meet because the Chinese government has pressured landlords to not rent to the church.
As the church members began to gather at 8:30 am, plain clothed police officers stormed in to make arrests. The church goers were loaded into busses and vans, many singing hymns, and were taken to a local school. There most were questioned and released. One pastor is still under house arrest.
The raid is part of a crackdown against activists and intellectuals that has been taking place since February. While churches have been allowed more freedom in recent years, the recent aggression has targeted churches that do not place themselves under the control of the government.
“The authorities give more slack to religious organizations than they used to a decade ago, but they want to harness them to state control,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Religion is a business now. The government sees that and wants to get in on it. If a church refuses to come into the fold or locks horns with authorities, persecution can be severe.”
Bob Fu, of the China Aid Association, said police not only interrupted the meeting, but blocked church elders from leaving their homes.
“Many members of the church are professionals and students, and some are human rights lawyers, which also makes the church a target,” Fu said.
A truckload of riot police stormed a prayer meeting held in a Harare suburb on Saturday and assaulted worshipers gathered to pray for peace. The police rushed into the Nazarene Church in Glen Norah and used tear gas to force the worshipers, including community leaders, out of the church hall. The police then fired tear gas canisters at homes and other local churches and eventually drove numbers of people out of the suburb. The police even arrested passersby who walked by the church after the congregants had been arrested or chased away.
The purpose of the service was to pray for peace in Zimbabwe with a theme “Saving Zimbabwe . . . the unfinished journey.” The meeting was also meant to commemorate the shooting of Gift Tandare at the March 11, 2007 Save Zimbabwe Prayer Meeting, as well as the arrest and torture of another 100 rights activists.
“We are still trying to locate those arrested,” said Alec Muchadehama, a human rights lawyer at the protest. “What has happened today shows that Zimbabweans still have a long way before they can attain their freedoms. They cannot be guaranteed freedom of assembly. A peaceful prayer for a peaceful nation is dispersed violently, that can only happen where there is no rule of law.”
President Robert Mugabe’s policies have been blamed for the deterioration of the nation from the once prosperous “breadbasket” of Africa into a torn country struggling against economic ruination and tyranny.
Please continue to pray for the persecuted Church around the world. These church families in China and Zimbabwe are still suffering tonight, with loved ones arrested and held in unknown locations. They are still shaken and uncertain about what awaits them next. In the darkness, however, the light of God shines brightest. The Chinese church members have already declared that they will continue to meet, despite the crackdown. May the God of Comfort soothe their hearts and give them courage and confidence in His power in their lives, as well as in their cities and countries.
• Chinese Police Detain Members Of Unregistered Church – Los Angeles Times
• Police Violently Suppress Prayer For Peace – Kubatana.net
• Protesters Clash With Police In Zimbabwe – CNN
• Chinese Christians Arrested For Trying To Hold Open-Air Service – The Guardian
• Church Of England Offers A Prayer For Prince William And Kate Middleton – CBS News
• Chinese Shouwang Church Vows to Hold More Services – BBC News