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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pot; Kettle; Black!

Those were the words that immediately came to mind when I heard the news, earlier today, that China's Middle East envoy had called on the Syrian government to speed up the reforms it has promised in response to popular demands, saying the situation was dangerous and the bloodshed - well reported by the international media - could not continue.

Now, like any sane person, I am happy that additional pressure is being put on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to end the bloody, seven-month crackdown on protesters demanding political reforms.  It is encouraging that China has made its position clear.  It is to be hoped that Russia will add its voice to the condemnation of the activities of this despot and his supporters.

However, I would also hope that China would "take the log out of its own eye, before attempting to take the speck out of Syria's eye"! (see Matt.7:5).     It is in China that Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was recently sentenced to two years "re-education through labour" for organizing illegal meetings, trial observers said. It is in China that Gao Zhisheng a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Christian human rights lawyer who has published several reports and open letters detailing the human rights restrictions in China, including on religious freedom, has not been seen since April, 2010, in spite of repeated requests from his family (now in the U.S.of A.) and others , for news of his whereabouts, and his physical condition. Fan Yafeng, a house church leader and expert in constitutional law, has been held under house arrest at his home in Beijing since December last year.

Organisations such as Release International, Open Doors, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), for which links are available further down this page, have a catalogue of instances in which individual disciples of Jesus are being persecuted, in China, for their faith.  The Chinese government constantly denies human rights abuses, saying Christians are free to worship within the official denominations!  However, many of China's up to 130 million Christians prefer to worship in house churches, outside the control of the country's Communist government.

Leaders of the independent Shouwang Church in Beijing remain under house arrest. This congregation has tried to meet outdoors every Sunday since April 11, after government officials repeatedly denied them access to a permanent worship place which, according to all reports, is the legal property of the congregation!  Over 600 Shouwang Church Christians have reportedly been detained since April, including 15 on August 28 and 12 arrests on September 4. Police often detain believers, some of whom have travelled for hours, before the service starts  - and typically free them within 24 hours!

As many of us pray about the ongoing situation in Syria, and other parts of the Middle East, let us not forget those who, in China (and some fifty other countries in the modern world), are bearing in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus (see Gal.6:17).  They are paying a price that many in the "west", who bear the Name, might be unwilling to pay!

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