Ever been invited out for a tea/coffee and a chat? It’s pretty usual for us to catch up with friends over a drink, but what about the police? For many pastors in China, an invitation for tea and a chat at the police station isn’t about a friendly catch up.
Pastor Timothy* knows well what these involve. On one particular occasion when he was invited for a so-called ‘tea chat’, he knew what to expect – namely, questioning and instructions about church activities. This time, however, was different: the authorities locked him up for 13 hours.
Image: Young Chinese Christians praying
In protest, Timothy – who is in his sixties – refused, instead declaring that he would be suing the police for holding him without reason for 13 hours. “In your eagerness to enforce the law, you’ve actually broken the law,” he told them. “You are obviously unaware that it is illegal to detain someone over 60 years of age, without reason, for more than six hours.”
The police were shocked. Not only was this ‘peasant’ Christian pastor fearless, but he also knew something about the law. They had no alternative but to release him.
During his 13-hour imprisonment, Pastor Timothy got to know a young man who was being held for stealing, and who had not eaten anything since the previous day. The pastor gave him his lunch and dinner and said, “The Bible says anyone who steals should stop doing so and work with his hands instead. Then he will always have more than enough. I hope you can find it in your heart to repent and turn to Jesus.”
When the young man got a terrible headache, Pastor Timothy knelt next to him and prayed for him – until the guards spotted him. “Stop that!” they said. “You can’t pray in the Detention Centre!”
“Don’t you see that me praying for him is helping you?” replied the pastor. “If his headache gets worse you will have to take him to hospital. I’m saving you a lot of trouble.” When Pastor Timothy later resumed praying for the young man, the headache subsided.
On another occasion, representatives from several departments came to investigate Pastor Timothy, and asked him to hand over a contact list of all the believers in their church. “Sorry, I have no legal right to disclose other people’s private details,” he told them. “But I can give you a list of our church leaders. Please contact us with anything you’d like to discuss. We are always happy to take responsibility for church matters. Anyway, when the others are in trouble, will you go to help them? Will you visit them when they are sick? If there is a death in the family, will you take them clothes and help with the funeral?”
Whatever was thrown at him, Pastor Timothy responded with remarkable boldness, wisdom and grace.
“We must be polite,” the pastor shares, reflecting his passion for Christians to act in ways that give the church a good reputation, whilst not being afraid to make a stand for Jesus. “If anyone comes to us, we will serve them the best we can, but we will never compromise our message or deny our brothers and sisters just to protect ourselves.”
“God is always with us, so we are not afraid of anything,” he continues. “Besides, believing in Jesus is not a crime. We go about our work quietly, serving others with all our hearts. But if we are opposed in some way, we will never be afraid. That is when we are bold, strong and courageous!”
Image: A Chinese church
As China’s economic prowess and influence has grown, so has Chinese nationalism: religion – seen by President Xi Jinping as a potential destabiliser and incompatible with socialist ideology – must be ‘directed’ rather than given free rein. Consequently, the persecution of Christians is intensifying. The country is number 17 on the World Watch List, rising 26 places in just four years.
In February 2018, the country’s religious regulations were revised, including a ban on under 18s attending church. The laws, extended again in 2020, are being implemented with relentless determination. With surveillance becoming more sophisticated and suffocating, the impact on religious freedom is stifling. This has been exacerbated by Covid-19 and last year’s 100th Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.
Despite growing persecution, together with the impact of the pandemic, Open Doors local partners have continued to serve the Chinese church whilst adapting to different needs. This year, areas of focus include youth ministry, church leader training and engagement with believers from Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds.
As the Winter Olympics play out over the next couple of weeks, please use it as prompt to pray for Christians in China. Your prayers make a huge a difference – and they mean so much to our Chinese family.
We want to help you pray to bring light into the darkness, so we’ve created an awesome new map with stories, actions and prayer points. It also glows in the dark and comes with a glow-in-the-dark tattoo which will help to remind you to keep praying for God’s light to shine in the darkest places. We’ve also got a youth session outline for leaders to use alongside the map too.
*Name changed for security reasons
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.