I love finding new articles and information about the persecuted church in China. Here’s an excerpt from a Christianity Today article that discusses how Christian lawyers in China are rising up to the challenge of finding legal ways to fight persecution. Very exciting stuff… Also check out www.chinaaid.org for up to date information on current arrests in China and how you can specifically pray for Christians in China, by name. -LM
‘A More Practical Approach’
A fledgling group in China tries a ‘new’ strategy to secure human rights.
Sometimes meetings take place at the White House that are hardly reported on at the time but that, in retrospect, turn out to have great historical significance. One such barely noticed meeting may have occurred last May, when President Bush welcomed three Chinese Christians to what is known as “the Yellow Oval Office,” a reception room in the private quarters of the White House. The writer Yu Jie and two Christian lawyers, Wang Yi of Chengdu University and Li Baiguang, the director of a Beijing research center that seeks to protect the legal rights of Chinese farmers, were in Washington for a Hudson Institute–sponsored conference on religious freedom in China.
President Bush has done more publicly to promote religious freedom in China than any other President or, for that matter, most other senior American political leaders in recent years. In early 2002, during an official visit to China, he made a speech to students at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, extolling the benefits to any society of religious freedom. He has twice welcomed China’s exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, to private meetings at the White House. During his November 2005 China trip, he worshiped publicly in an official Beijing Protestant church, an event which, though barely reported in China’s official press, was the talk of the town for days.
What was different about the May White House meeting was not only the public identification of America’s head of state with representatives of China’s house churches, the unregistered Christian gatherings whose members are often sorely persecuted in various parts of China. It also signaled the changing makeup of China’s house church leaders. Yu Jie, for example, a writer who sold a million copies of his first book of observations on Chinese society, Fire and Ice, was not a Christian when I first met him in 2002. Nor were the lawyers Wang Yi and Li Baiguang.
Yet in the past two years, according to Yu Jie, who appears to have converted to Christianity in 2004, there has been a major movement toward Christianity among Chinese intellectuals—one of the most prominent being the Beijing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, 41, who became a Christian in 2005. What has changed the situation is a new focus on legal rights for ordinary Chinese and especially for Chinese Christians.
As China’s warp-speed economic growth has continued, there have been more and more cases of peasants facing land expropriation at the hands of greedy developers, working hand in glove with local Communist Party bosses. At the same time, under the party leadership of Hu Yaobang, far more of an ideological hardliner than his ukulele-playing predecessor Jiang Zemin, there has been in the past two years a relentless crackdown on many meetings of unregistered house churches.
In response to these developments, China’s fledgling group of human rights lawyers has bravely taken up the cases increasingly filed through public legal channels by peasants and house church leaders. As Yu Jie put it at the conference, “Christians need to change from ‘silent resilience’ to a more practical approach. Christians have to change.” That more practical approach will require a shift in consciousness and terminology—from “underground church” to “family church,” said Yu Jie.
Yu Jie goes further. “We want to bring changes to China through the love and justice of God, and through nonviolent means. God will raise great spiritual men like Martin Luther King and Archbishop Tutu who changed their countries by their faith.”
Changing China “by faith” is indeed a fascinating notion. There are, to be sure, some nasty people who don’t want it to happen. China’s Communist Party leaders are profoundly aware of the role that Christianity played in the downfall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. They are determined to prevent a repetition in China.
The bold “above-ground” approach by lawyers has brought risks. Gao Zhisheng’s family has been intimidated by police, who have followed his daughter to school, and he has also had cars try to force him off the road. After Gao Zhisheng began videotaping the officials watching his family, he was arrested for several days. He has said, “I predict one of three possible outcomes for me: death, prison, or a change that gives me and the population of China the rights we should have.”
Those rights, almost certainly, will come. With the emergence of Yu Jie and dozens of other “Martin Luther Kings” in the country, China’s rule by the Communist Party may not be fixed in eternity. China’s Christian faith, of course, is.
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today.