The LanternChurch and State

Increased Persecution? Do Numbers Tell the Whole Story?


Justin Long, a missionary researcher, wrote, "a new article alleging an organized attempt by Beijing to eradicate the house churches from China is making the rounds. I've read the articles, but I'm not fully convinced. Over the past several years, much of the reports about persecution in China are originating from a single sourceChina Aidand highlight Shouwang church. Of course, there are arguments about why this might be. I'm still hunting additional analysis and evidence." (See The Long View)

We agree that the situation is not that simple and the numbers and incidents being reported need to be seen in the context that is today's China. In response to the many media reports, Brent Fulton wrote,

According to the latest statistics from China Aid 13.8% more Christians in China were persecuted last year as compared with 2011, continuing a trend of increasing persecution that goes back to at least 2007.

On their face these numbers appear to be cause for serious alarm, and the China Aid report has in fact spawned headlines decrying the beginning of the end of the house church in China. However, upon closer examination these statistics do not support China Aid's assertion of a nationwide government-sponsored campaign against Christianity in China.

Without a doubt, Christians in China face many obstacles as they live out their faith in an often hostile environment. But Christians are not persecuted simply for being Christians, nor are house churches targeted for attack simply for being house churches. If this were the case one would expect to see hundreds of house churches being closed down each week. (Beijing, which had the highest number of persecution cases in 2012, reportedly has more than 3,000 house churches, yet the China Aid report mentions only two cases involving Beijing house churches for the entire year.)

there are certain triggers that prompt authorities in China to take action against Christian activities. These include directly opposing the Communist Party (especially in a public manner, which embarrasses government officials and is bound to provoke a response); engaging in political activity, openly championing human rights, or being identified with a group that does so; and having foreign involvement. With China's rapid urbanization, property disputes are often another factor, with Christians being forced out of their churches (whether registered or unregistered) at the hands of greedy developers collaborating with corrupt local officials. A related factor is simply local abuse of power, especially in regions where there is a history of tension between Christians and officials, or in ethnic minority areas, where Christians may be seen as a threat by the dominant religious majority.

Of the nearly 5,000 Christians reported by China Aid to have suffered persecution in 2012, more than two-thirds were involved in cases where one or more of the above triggers were present.

To read the rest of Brent's response go to "Is China Persecuting More Christians for their Faith?"

And then join us in prayer for the church in China as they follow the Lord, serving Him and effectively impacting their communities.

ChinaSource Team

Written by members of the ChinaSource staff.  View Full Bio


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