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基督教徒在中国遭到迫害

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全国老百姓推翻中国共产党(共匪)实用手册:http://www3.blog.epochtimes.com

中国共产党(共匪)独裁暴政.残国害民.罪行随录:http://www5.blog.epochtimes.com

中国大陆之外.全球实用中文网站汇编:http://1912roc1912.blog.epochtimes.com

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基督教徒在中国遭到迫害(转)

Christians come under attack in China

翻译:满仓

时间是凌晨3点,日期是去年9月份的一个星期日。

“睡梦中有人把我摇醒,冲我喊:‘起来,到外边去,快点!’”

他在一家农村地区的基督教会社区——福音鞋厂工作,同时也和其他60个人住在这里。那天晚上,他看到的是一片混乱:大约200多名狂怒的暴徒冲进工厂,手持手电筒、木棒、砖块、锄头和金属棒,砸烂一切拦路的东西,见人就打。工厂的围墙被推倒,大门被砸烂,人们从门口蜂拥而入。这些人后面跟着一台轰鸣的推土机,还有一台挖掘机。

当王还在难以置信地看着这一切时,一根木棍打在他的头上,然后被一只脚踩在地上。他的脸上满是鲜血。一个人扔来一块砖头,砸断了他的胳膊。躺在地上时,他听到一个男人大喊:“给我打,往死里打!所有事情我来负责!”让他和其他目击者吃惊的是,这群暴徒的头头是一个共产党官员,他还带着一队穿制服的警察。显然他们在执行一项任务,但是被殴打的人不清楚这是什么任务。

这实际上是中国正在进行的反基督教徒群体运动的一次暴力事件。根据相关调查,中国的基督教徒群体超过了1亿人,而且还在迅速增加。这种增长趋势让一些政府官员感到担心,甚至警惕,他们把基督教的传播视为对自身权力的威胁。

这里的官员对这种威胁毫不手软,决定采取行动——武力行动。福音鞋厂所有的文件手续齐全,有建筑许可证,营业执照也没有过期。但是,它有一座教堂。

中国宪法赋予人们信仰的自由,但是这里有个暗扣:教堂必须在当地政府部门注册,要受中国共产党的控制。福音鞋厂的教堂没有注册,也就是中国所谓的“家庭教堂”。除了基督教,政府对佛教、道教、伊斯兰教和天主教也有同样的注册要求。每一种宗教都有一个对应的政府部门,在全国范围内监控宗教组织的活动。但是福音鞋厂没有在政府的监控范围内运作,所以它是非法的。

在之后的几个小时里,在共产党官员和当地警察的指挥下,工厂和教堂被暴徒用推土机夷为平地。过程中,他们杀死牲畜、抢走工厂设备,还打伤了30名教会成员,其中7名伤势严重。大部分伤员被拖拉机和私家车送往医院。

40多岁的基督教徒老王穿着长裤和T恤衫说:“我活了这么大,从没见过这么野蛮的行为。”因为害怕报复,他只同意透露自己的姓氏。他说:“我的父亲是一名解放军战士,我从小就接受了尊重官方的教育。可是,发生了这样的事情,我怎么尊重呢?”

星报的记者亲眼看到了20多人的目击笔录印证王的叙述,上面都有签字或者正式的指印。

北京律师李方平说:“这是中国十年来对家庭教堂最粗暴的攻击。”他后来为一名教堂领导人做辩护。李也是一名基督教徒,他说,这是一个信号,表明政府越来越害怕家庭教堂运动——这些教堂在政府控制范围之外,而且数量增长迅速。他说:“政府开始意识到这些教堂不受他们的控制。”

中国一些研究宗教运动的专家赞同这种说法。他们说,中国基督教新教徒数量尤其呈“爆发式”甚至“指数倍”增长,无论是在农村地区还是大城市中。从北方的黑龙江到南方的广东省;从上海和成都到北京和其它城市。当毛泽东在1949年掌控中国的时候,国内只有100万基督教徒。今天,尽管精确的数字难以统计,但很多人估计数字应该已经翻了100倍。与此相比,共产党也只有7000万注册成员。

基督教徒的数量还在不断增长。一些专业研究显示年增长率为5%到7%,很多人认为目前的增长率要更高。著名的社会学家Richard Madsen去年在费城对公众说:“家庭教堂发展得如此迅速,以致政府既不能阻止,也不能忽视。”

临汾发生的可以算做是个一次性事件——偏远农村地区的官员鲜有地对本地特色事件采取粗暴的反应方式。但是,媒体报道、人权组织的反馈,以及对全国各地的宗教领袖和信徒们的采访结果,均显示事实不是这样。实际上,临汾事件仅仅是这个国家在过去18个月以来所采取的越来越严厉的监控、骚扰、威胁、恐吓手段中一个比较极端的例子。中国共产党越来越难以忍耐某些人所认为的一个事实:它的宗教政策是失败的。

Madsen教授致力于中国宗教研究超过20年,他说:“就政策本身来说,完全是失败的。”而且有迹象表明中国政府已经意识到这一点。被长期奉行的共产主义理论认为宗教不过是“迷信和愚昧”,随着中国的繁荣和现代化进城,宗教将最终消亡。

但是,并没有发生这样的现象。与此相反,宗教信仰在不断扩大。加利福尼亚大学圣迭戈分校社会学系主任Madsen说,当中国抛弃共产主义,转投市场经济怀抱时,越来越多的人开始信奉宗教,“寻求希望和更好的生活”。

党员也坦承基督教的迅速蔓延已经在党内领导层中引起了关注。一系列内部会议正在北京召开,党内在尝试探索新的回应方式。
当然,这不仅仅是宗教的问题。中国中央政府真正烦恼的并不是信仰问题,而是家庭教堂数量迅速增长的事实,这些组织已经形成了自己的领导层、结构分明的组织体系、独立的财务系统和人数不断增加的忠实追随者。他们担心,这些特征最终会形成与政府对立的信仰组织。Madsen说:“他们当然会担心了。”

回到临汾,当地政府对此极为警惕。而且事情还远未结束。摧毁了福音鞋厂之后,他们并未停止行动。

一名当地知名牧师杨荣丽在教堂原址主持祈祷仪式,同时进行抗议,宣称要让中央政府知道教堂的悲惨命运。随后,她与4名年长的教徒一同被逮捕。杨是大学毕业生,第四代基督教徒,她是临汾金灯堂的负责人。金灯堂是福音鞋厂的上级教会,它被认为是中国最大的家庭教堂,有5万名教众。

2008年,杨和教堂元老从教众中募集了1500美元的捐助,修建了一个8层楼高的金灯教堂。从规模上看,它可以与当地所有的共产党建筑物匹敌。杨于去年9月25日前往北京途中被捕,当时有数百名身穿制服的防暴警察突袭而来,包围了教堂。

一名教堂元老说:“我当时就在里面,总共100多人都跪在地上祈祷。”他现在还在躲避抓捕。“晚上没人敢睡觉,我们非常害怕。”

双方僵持了24小时。第二天下午4点,武装警察进入并控制了教堂,逮捕了很多领导人。

在一天的审理结束之后,杨荣丽和4名教堂领导人被判处3到7年有期徒刑,罪名是私占耕地建设教堂,以及组织示威阻碍交通。还有5名教堂领导人未经审判就被判处在政府开设的劳动集中营中“接受再教育”。

今天的金灯堂依然在政府控制之下,并且将面临拆除的命运。当局的计划如此,就像他们把福音鞋厂区夷为平地一样。官方拆除的命令已经发布,但是尚未确定具体日期。

案件审理中的一名辩护律师张凯曾就拆除命令上诉,但是被驳回。7月,张凯亲身赶赴距北京800公里的临汾,准备直接向庭审官员陈词。但是法警阻止他进入庭审现场。张向他们出示了律师执照——但是没有用。张说:“他们是这么说的:‘你就是张凯,你不能进去,这是我们的命令。’”

当地的基督教徒依然不服气。一名当晚被围困在教堂中的元老说:“即使他们拆除了教堂,也无法摧毁我们的信仰。我们会坚持下去。”


还有一些人也做了同样的表示。一个闷热的星期天上午,在北京北三环中路有一群稀稀落落的行人,他们排列成队伍走进一个小巷,进入了小巷尽头的一家私人俱乐部。俱乐部的大厅中挂满了中国共产党历史性时刻的照片,到处都是毛泽东的笑容。但是从后堂传来越来越大的教堂唱诗声。这是北京最大的一个未注册家庭教堂——守望堂。

里面的听众席上有400名基督教信徒,有些人站在走廊上,这仅仅是今天三场礼拜的第一场。背诵圣歌、诵读圣经、宣讲布道。当颂歌响起,每个人都在唱。观众席上主要是年轻人和中年的中产阶级人群,他们身着礼拜盛装。几乎没有老年人。

牧师宋军走上讲经台,宣布开始欢迎新来的人。他说:“女士们先生们,当话筒传到你手里时,请报出你的姓名。”

有18个人站起来。一位英俊的年轻人拿着话筒说:“亲爱的兄弟姐妹,你们好。我叫宋玉斌。我以前一直去海淀基督教堂,但是我从朋友那里听说了守望堂。赵翼姐姐今天带我来到这里,见到大家我很高兴。上帝保佑你们!”

另外一个年轻人接过话筒。他说:“我叫韩嵩,是上帝把我带到这里来的。”观众们友善地笑了。“这是我第一次来守望堂,也是第一次来北京。”

另一个男士接过话筒,他似乎有些紧张,甚至忘了自己的名字。“亲爱的兄弟姐妹,这是我第一次走进教堂。”他停了一下,继续说,“上帝保佑你们,哈利路亚!”

介绍结束之后,唱诗班和教众开始表演“耶稣爱你”。之后人们走出房间,外边还有数百人等待进入。这是一个令人振奋的场景。

中国中央政府从未试图拆除守望堂,但是他们用尽了别的手段。2004年9月,警察突袭教堂建立者的住所,没收了宗教资料,把他拘留了15个小时,警告他停止组织礼拜活动。但是礼拜依然继续。2008年5月,警察在礼拜进行中突袭守望堂,把所有礼拜人员困在房间里。记录下所有人的姓名、身份证号码和工作地点等信息。随后通知单位领导与这些参加礼拜的人“谈话”,还威胁他们如果继续参加礼拜就会被解雇。但是这些人依然继续前来。

2009年11月,就在美国总统奥巴马访问中国之前的几个星期,警方终于成功地威胁教堂的房东停止租赁房屋。于是守望堂在户外的雪地中做礼拜,吸引了大量人群围观。两个星期之后,在奥巴马准备登上空军一号的时候,中国政府出于担心总统访问期间发生公众危机事件,终于放下姿态,准许教堂在室内的活动。他们甚至提供了一个新的场所,原来聚会的那个“私人俱乐部”已经与CCTV——国有广播公司——联网,或许是为了更严密地监控教堂活动。但是内部人士说,教堂的教众曾经受到不少的骚扰。

他们现在准备搬到北京城里一个自己的房子中去,这所房子是他们用教堂捐助款,花了数千万元人民币买下的。这是一个大胆的举动,似乎要和政府一决胜负。但是中国中央政府面临的挑战比守望堂大得多。

很多其它家庭教堂雨后春笋般在北京遍地开花,比如雪松堂、锡安山堂、格雷斯福音堂、福音堂、新树堂、方舟堂等等。他们同样引起了警方的注意,一些领头人,比如中国著名作家知识分子余杰就曾被拘留,并被质问他们的信仰问题。余的事件非同一般,他是方舟堂的元老,也是这个国家献身社会公正的最仗义执言的活动家。

7月份一个星期三的晚上,在一个有成排书架、无数艺术品、实木家具和可以看到令人吃惊的北京风景的公寓里,11个人——艺术家、公司职员、学生——聚在一起,边品茶边听余讲述圣经列王纪。这是一个永恒的故事:拿伯有一块土地,被国王和王后垂涎。最终他们杀死拿伯,霸占了这片土地。

土地在当今的中国是一个危险的话题。余强调,腐败的政府官员经常与房地产开发商合谋,把人们赶出自己的土地,用其来赚钱。他提到了几个月以前四川省发生的一件事情,一名绝望的妇女当众自焚,她宁愿死也不愿意遭受被赶出自己房屋的不公正对待。小个子戴眼镜的余用坚决但是温柔的语调说:“你们看到了,事情很相似,当今的中国社会往往比古代以色列更糟糕。”房间里的人感悟地点点头。

几天之后,余就被带往北京窦各庄警察局,被审问了11个小时。一名姓朱的警官警告他:“不要利用宗教来玩弄政治,会有严重的后果等着你。”余把审讯的笔录贴在网上,一共17页。余说:“每个基督教徒当然有权力参与政治活动,因为他们也是公民。政治是日常生活的一部分,是一种权力分配的方式,不是中国共产党的特权。如果一种政治力量侵犯了我们的自由和信仰,我们有权去批判、反对它。”

7月份,余公开声称,如果中国总理温家宝废除中国为了严密监控不同政见者的活动而设置的庞大国家安全体系,那么就有足够的钱来保障人们的医疗和教育。余在一次接受采访时说:“这个国家的社会关系已经彻底断裂,我们处在道德空虚中,人们除了钱和权力,别的根本不关心。基督教提倡原则和道德,这都是中国当今社会极度缺乏的。”他继续说,人们希望在不受国家监控和干扰的情况下“与上帝直接交流”,这就是为什么越来越多的人从“官方批准的”教堂中转入独立的家庭教堂。


但是,想要加入广州牧师王道的家庭教堂,可能会遇到比想象中大的多的困难,甚至需要一点奇迹。

王牧师在过去两年里把教堂换了30个地方。

他的良人家庭教堂不断遭受当地警方的骚扰。“每次我找到一个新地方,警察就会威胁房东停止出租房屋。”还有更糟糕的事情。王牧师在5月和6月被拘禁了36天。警方在5月8日把他从家里带走,他说,警察告诉他“你是一个假牧师,一个骗人的牧师,一个冒牌预言家。”

×××学生运动之后,王开始信奉上帝。他本名叫王同江,曾经因为在武汉召集学生纪念1989×××而被关押一年多。他说,政治已经与他无关,但是他的布道依然经常被武装警察打断。

最近一个星期天的上午,王在广州南郊的一个酒店的礼堂中做了布道,一大批学生对此很赞赏。21岁的罗荣衡说:“我不明白为什么政府不喜欢基督教,没有任何坏事发生,每个人都相处得很好,很和谐。”23岁的吴雯静说:“我觉得做基督徒挺好,能够加入一个教区也不错。这里有和善、安定的气氛,人们就像一家人一样。我觉得人一生中应当有一些信仰。”

但是,在中国,独立的宗教信仰是需要代价的。遍布全国的政府机构对宗教行为的监控依然严厉:国家宗教事务局(它拒绝了就此文章采访的要求)、各种爱国团体、公安局、国家安全局、国土资源局,各级政府都有一个密集的方阵来阻止独立的宗教行为。

人们和宗教领袖还有一种恐惧的情绪,来源是一些困苦、有时甚至是痛苦的经历。


北京向南150公里处,是河北省的一个村庄。走过一条肮脏的土路,经过玉米地和梨树园,忍住猪粪的强烈臭气和树上挥之不去的蝉鸣,就是乌丘村的圣心天主教堂。

现在是星期一的中午,从这里可以听到儿童玩耍的声音。这里有一个孤儿院,里面有80名儿童,大部分都患有严重的残疾。照顾这些孩子的是一群贫困的修女和一位牧师——贾志国主教。他们没有任何政府支持来源。一位温柔、微笑的50多岁女士张瑞珍说:“人们就把孩子放在我们的门口,如果我们不照顾他们,谁来照顾呢?”

76岁的贾主教身体状况非常不好,他刚刚被无理拘留了15个月。他还有过更恶劣的经历:当他还是一个年轻的门外汉时,他因为邀请一位天主教牧师来到家乡而被判入狱15年。如今贾主教被24小时保护。

他在1980年被梵蒂冈任命为主教,中国政府因此视他为叛徒。中国不承认梵蒂冈的主权。梵蒂冈官方也不承认中国,它与台湾保持着外交关系。

作为妥协,中国当局允许贾每日做弥撒,一些当地人也可以参加。但是他不被允许履行任何主教的职责。

星报记者在7月设法绕开安全监控设备,进入了他的房间。这是一个装饰及其简陋的小屋子,一张床、一张桌子、一个沙发,墙上是耶稣基督和一名法国圣徒John Vianney的艺术主题作品。

他热情地欢迎客人。但是当他得知来人是记者之后,他恢复了老人佝偻的身躯和缓慢的动作,低着头说拒绝接受采访。他不可以出现在镜头里,他不可以被拍照。他轻声说:“我不能接受采访,这样会给你带来麻烦——我向你保证——这会给我带来灾祸。”

宗教信仰在中国以令人吃惊的速度繁荣地发展。但是在中国农村地区,在像临汾和乌丘村,以及无数小城镇的地方,甚至在北京和广州这样的大城市,信仰和恐惧依然结伴而行。

 

原文:

Two women sing hymns at the Liangren Christian house church in the southern city of Guangzhou.

A Christian believer reads from a Chinese language Bible in Beijing, where many people are now embracing religion.

It was 3 a.m. one Sunday last September.

“People shook me and told me. ‘Get up. Get outside. Hurry up!’ ”

What he witnessed on the grounds of the Gospel Shoes Factory – a rural Christian community where he lived and worked with 60 others near here – was complete chaos: a raging mob of more than 200 men were pushing their way through the darkness with flashlights, wooden clubs, bricks, hoes and pieces of metal, smashing everything and anyone in their path.

A perimeter wall had been toppled. The main gate was smashed. Men were pouring through it. Behind them came a roaring bulldozer, then an excavator. As Wang stared in disbelief, he was clubbed over the head and trampled to the ground, his face streaming with blood. Then someone hurled a brick at him, fracturing his leg. As he lay there he could hear a man yelling, “Beat them. Beat them as hard as you like. I’ll take responsibility for everything.”

To his amazement, and the amazement of other eyewitnesses, the mob was led by a local Communist Party official backed up by uniformed police. They were clearly on a mission. But what that mission was, wasn’t clear to those under attack.

It was, in fact, one of the more violent flare-ups in China’s ongoing campaign against Christians, a community that – according to researchers – exceeds 100 million and is growing rapidly. That growth has stoked concern and even alarm among some government officials, who see the spread of Christianity as a threat to their authority. Officials here took the threat seriously and decided to act – with force. The Gospel Shoes Factory had all its papers in order. It had a building permit. Its business license was current. But it also had a church.

China’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but it comes with a catch: every church must register with the government and submit to control by the Communist Party of China. The Gospel Shoes church was not registered: it was what is known in China as a “house church.”  The government maintains the same registration requirements for China’s four other “officially approved” religions: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam and Catholicism. Each is assigned a government-appointed body that oversees the group’s activities throughout the country.  But Gospel Shoes was operating without such oversight. As a consequence it was deemed illegal.
So over the course of the next few hours, under the direction of the Communist Party and local police, the mob bulldozed the factory and church into the ground. In the process they killed livestock, looted appliances and wounded 30 members of the community, seven seriously. Most were taken to hospital by tractor and private cars.

“As long as I have lived, I have never seen brutality like this, “ says Old Wang, a Christian man in his 40s dressed in trousers and a t-shirt, who asks that his first name not be used for fear of reprisals. “My father was a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army,” he says. “I was raised to respect authority. But how can I, after this?”

The Star also viewed copies of more than 20 other individual, eyewitness accounts signed or stamped with official thumbprints corroborating Wang’s account. “This was the most violent attack on a house church in China in a decade,” says Li Fangping, a Beijing lawyer who later defended one of the church leaders.

It was also a sign, says Li, who is also a Christian, that the government has grown frightened of the house church movement – those churches outside the government’s grip that are growing with increasing speed. “The government is beginning to realize that they’re beyond their control,” he says. Some academics who study religious movements in China agree.

Protestant Christianity especially, they say, is experiencing “explosive” and even “exponential” growth in China, both in the countryside as well as in major cities: from Heilongjiang province in the north to Guangdong province in the south – from cities like Shanghai and Chengdu, to Beijing and beyond.

When Mao Zedong first took control of the country in 1949, there were just 1 million Christians in China. Today, while it is difficult to calculate a precise number, many now estimate that number to have grown by a hundred-fold. By comparison, the Communist Party itself has just 70 million registered members. And the numbers of Christians are growing. Some academic studies place that growth at 5 to 7 per cent annually. But most feel that pace has now accelerated.

“The house churches have been growing so fast,” eminent American sociologist Richard Madsen told an audience in Philadelphia last year, “that the government can neither stop them, nor ignore them.”

What happened in Linfen could be seen as a one-off – a rare and violent reaction by local officials in the far-off countryside responding to a unique local circumstance. But evidence from media reports, rights organizations and interviews with religious leaders and believers across the country, suggest it is not. Instead, what happened in Linfen is only the most egregious example of a pattern of state surveillance, harassment, intimidation and threat that has increased over the past 18 months, as the Communist Party of China struggles to come to terms with what some say is a difficult truth: its policy on religion is failing.

”The policy is, on its own terms, a complete failure,” according to Prof. Madsen, who has studied religion in China for more than 20 years. And there are signs, he says, that the Chinese government is realizing it. Communist theory has long held that religion is nothing more than “superstition and foolishness,” and that as China prospers and becomes more modern, religion will fade away. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, religious belief is growing.

In an age when China has abandoned Communism in favour of market principles, more and more people are turning to religion, “looking for hope, and a better life,” says Madsen, head of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.  Party members also confide that Christianity’s rapid rise has raised concern within the Communist leadership itself: a new set of closed-door conferences is being held in Beijing and the Party is commissioning new research on how to respond.

This isn’t purely about religion, of course. What troubles China’s central government isn’t belief – but the fact that the house churches are growing into a potentially formidable force with leadership, organizational structures, independent financing and a loyal and growing following. It is these kinds of characteristics, they fear, that could build into an alternative belief system in opposition to the government. “Of course that’s why they’re wary,” says Madsen.

Back in Linfen, the local authorities were very wary – and far from finished. After crushing the Gospel Shoes factory, they didn’t stop there. When a well-known, local preacher, Yang Rongli, dared to mount a day of prayer and protest at the site and threaten to take the church’s grievances all the way to the central government in Beijing, she was arrested with four other church elders. Yang, a university graduate and fourth generation Christian, was leader of Linfen’s Golden Lamp Church – the mother church of Gospel Shoes – believed to be the biggest house church in all of China, boasting 50,000 followers.

In 2008, Yang and church elders had raised the equivalent of $1.5 million in donations from church followers to build the towering, eight-storey, Golden Lamp Church. In size, it rivaled all local Communist Party buildings . As Yang was being arrested on her way to Beijing on Sept. 25 last year, hundreds of armed, uniformed and riot police swooped down and surrounded the Golden Lamp.
“I was inside,” says one church elder who has still managed to elude arrest. “There were about 100 of us in there. And we all knelt to pray.” “No one slept that night,” he adds. “We were just too nervous.” The standoff lasted 24 hours. At 4 p.m. the next day, armed police moved in, took control of the church and arrested more leaders.

Following a one-day trial, Yang Rongli and four other church officials were sentenced to three to seven years in prison for constructing a church on agricultural land and for mounting a protest that had blocked traffic. Five other church officials were also sentenced – without trial – to two years of “re-education” in a government-run labour camp. Today the Golden Lamp Church, still under state control, faces a demolition order. Just as they crushed the Gospel Shoes complex, authorities intend to reduce the Golden Lamp to rubble. Official papers have been issued, but no date has been set.

Zhang Kai, one of the defence lawyers at the trial, has appealed the demolition order but the appeal was rejected. In July, Zhang traveled to Linfen, some 800 km. southwest of Beijing, to address court officials directly. But police at the courthouse blocked him from entering. Zhang showed them his lawyer’s license – but that was useless. “They said, ‘You’re Zhang Kai. You’re not allowed in here. Those are our orders,’” says Zhang.

Still, Christian believers here remain defiant.

“Even if they do destroy the church, it won’t destroy our faith,” says the elder who was trapped inside the church the night of its siege. “We believe in what we believe,” he says.

And so do others: On a steamy Sunday morning in Beijing’s college district a disproportionate number of pedestrians make their way along Bei Sanhuan Zhong Lu, coalesce into lines and disappear down an alley. At the bottom of the alley they file into a private club. The lobby is filled with great photographic moments of Chinese Communist Party history. Mao Zedong’s smiling face is everywhere. But from a back auditorium, comes the ascending sound of a church choir. This is Beijing’s biggest, unregistered house church, known as Shouwang, in English: The Lookout. Inside, the auditorium overflows with 400 Christian faithful – people are standing in the aisles—and this is just the first of three services to be held today. Psalms are recited. Scripture is read. A sermon is preached. And when the hymns are sung – everyone joins in.

The audience looks mainly young to middle-aged, middle-class people dressed in their Sunday best. Very few are old. Then Pastor Song Jun steps to the lectern and announces that the time has arrived to welcome newcomers. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he says, “when the microphone is passed to you, please announce your name.”

Eighteen people rise. “Dear brothers and sisters how are you?” says a handsome young man taking the microphone. “My name is Song Yubin. I’ve always gone to Haidian Christian Church, but I heard about Shouwang from friends. Sister Zhao Yi brought me here today and I’m very glad to meet you. God bless you all!”

Another young man is handed the microphone. “My name is Han Song,” he says. “And it was God who brought me here!” The audience laughs appreciatively. “This is the very first time I’ve come to Beijing, so it’s my first time to Shouwang.”

Then another man nervously takes the microphone and, in doing so, seems to forget his name. “Dear brothers and sisters,” he says, “this is my first day inside a church.” He pauses then. “God be with you,” he says. “Hallelujah!”

When the introductions are complete the choir and community burst into a rendition of “Jesus Loves You,” before spilling out into the street where hundreds of others are preparing to get in. It’s a spirited scene.

China’s central government has never tried to bulldoze Shouwang. But it has tried everything else. In Sept. 2004, state police raided the church founder’s home, seized religious materials, detained him for 15 hours and warned him to stop the services. But the services continued. In May 2008, state police raided Shouwang in the middle of a service, sealed the congregants inside, took down all names, i.d. numbers and work place details – and ordered workplace bosses to “have a chat” with the churchgoers and threaten them with firing if they continued to attend. But the congregants kept coming.

In Nov. 2009 – just weeks before a state visit to China by U.S. President Barack Obama – state police finally succeeded in threatening the church’s landlords to terminate the church’s lease. Shouwang then held its services outdoors in the snow, attracting wide public attention. Finally, after two weeks and with President Obama preparing to board Air Force One, Chinese government authorities – fearing a public relations disaster during the president’s visit – relented and allowed the church back indoors. They even provided it with new premises – the “private club” where the church now meets is associated with CCTV, the state broadcaster – presumably so it can keep a closer eye on church activities.

But insiders say the church and its followers have had enough interference. They are now preparing to move into their own property in downtown Beijing, recently bought with tens of millions of Chinese yuan in church donations. It is a bold move, and certain to spark a showdown.

But the challenge for China’s central government is bigger than Shouwang. Many other house churches have sprung up across the capital, with names like, The Cedar, Mt. Zion, Grace Evangelical, The Gospel, The New Tree, The Ark and others. They too have attracted police attention and some leaders, like prominent Chinese writer and intellectual Yu Jie, have been detained and questioned about their faith. In Yu’s case, it’s strong: he is an elder at The Ark and one of the country’s most outspoken advocates for social justice.

It’s a Wednesday evening in July, in a book-lined, art-filled apartment with solid furniture and stunning views of Beijing. Eleven people – artists, office workers, students – have gathered to sip tea and hear Yu lead a discussion on a Bible reading from Kings: 21. It’s the timeless story of Naboth, a man with a piece of property that the king and his wife want, and get, by having Naboth killed.
Land is a combustible issue in today’s China. Corrupt government officials are regularly colluding with real estate developers and pushing people off land to make profit, a point Yu stresses. He refers to a case months ago when a desperate woman in Sichuan province, publicly set herself on fire and died rather than suffer the injustice of being hurled from her home. “So you can see,” says Yu, a slight man with glasses and a firm but gentle manner, “there are similarities here…you can see that the current society in China is often worse than that of ancient Israel.” There are knowing nods across the room.

Just days before Yu had been brought to Beijing’s Dougezhuang police station for 11 hours of interrogation. There, an officer named Zhu warned him, “not to use religion to play politics. Such deeds will reap severe consequences.” Yu posted a transcript of the interrogation online – all 17 pages. “Every Christian certainly has the right to take part in political activities since Christians are citizens too,” Yu replied. “Politics is part of public life, a way to distribute power, and it’s not patented by the Chinese Communist Party.” “When a political power violates our freedom of belief, we have a right to criticize and oppose it,” he said.

In July, Yu said publicly that if Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao dismantled China’s monolithic state security system that watches over every detail of dissidents’ lives, there would be more than enough money for health care and education for all. “The social contract in this country is broken,” Yu says later in an interview. “We are now in a period of moral nihilism, where people seem to care only about money and power.” “Christianity,” he says, “provides principles and morality. Both are sorely lacking in today’s China.” People want “a direct relationship with God,” he adds, without state oversight or interference. That’s why more and more people are turning away from “officially approved” churches and finding their way to independent house churches, he says.

But finding your way to Pastor Wang Dao’s house church in the southern city of Guangzhou might prove more difficult than one might imagine – and may even take a miracle. Pastor Wang has had to move his church 30 times in the past two years. His Liangren house church has been hounded by state police. “Every time we find a new location, police threaten the landlords and our premises are padlocked and the lease terminated.”

But that’s not all. Pastor Wang was detained for 36 days in May and June. State police took him from his home on May 8 telling him, he says, “You’re a fake pastor. A bullshit pastor. A fake prophet.”

Wang came to believe in God in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square student movement. He was born Wang Tongjiang and jailed for more than a year after calling on students in the city of Wuhan to remember the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989. Politics are no longer his business today, he says. Still, his services have been broken up by armed police. And yet on a recent Sunday morning following a service in a hotel auditorium in Guangzhou’s southern suburbs, a new generation of students praise his church.

“I don’t really understand why the government doesn’t like it,” says 21-year-old Lou Rong Heng. “Nothing bad happens. Everyone gets along. There’s harmony here.” Says 23-year-old Wu Wenjing, “I find it good to be a Christian, to be part of a community. There’s something about the kindness here, the peacefulness, the way people treat each other like family,” she says. “I think it’s important to believe in something in your life.”

But independent religious belief in China comes with a cost.

All across the country the state’s bureaucracies for religious surveillance remain firmly in place: the State Administration for Religious Affairs—which declined an interview request for this article—the various patriotic associations which oversee religious activity, the public security police, the state security office, and the land resources bureaus among others. There is a phalanx of forces at every level of government to deter independent religious activity. And there remains, too, a measure of fear among the people and religious leaders, born of hard and sometimes harsh experience.

Down a dirt road in Hebei province about 150 km. south of Beijing, past fields of corn and pear orchards and vineyards, through air thick with the stink of pig manure, beneath the haunting, screaming sound of cicacadas perched in trees above the baking earth, lies the Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Wuqui Village.

It is Monday noon and upon its grounds one can hear the sound of children playing. There is an orphanage here that is home to 80 children, many suffering from severe disabilities. They are looked after by an impoverished group of nuns and a single cleric, Bishop Jia Zhiguo, without any state support. “People just leave them on our doorstep,” explains Sr. Zhang Ruizhen, a gentle, smiling woman in her 50s. “If we don’t care for them, who will?”

Bishop Jia is 76-years-old, in frail health and has just been released from 15 months of arbitrary detention. But he has endured worse: as a young layman he served 15 years in prison for inviting a Catholic priest to his hometown. Today Bishop Jia is under 24 hr. guard. Appointed a bishop by the Vatican in 1980, the Chinese Communist government regards him as a renegade.

China doesn’t acknowledge the authority of the Vatican. The Vatican doesn’t officially recognize China and instead maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan. But as a concession, Chinese authorities allow Jia to say daily mass and some locals are allowed to attend. But he is officially prevented from carrying out any of his bishop’s duties.

The Star managed to elude his security detail in July and reach his room: a sparsely decorated chamber with a bed, a desk, a chesterfield, and on the wall, artists’ renderings of Jesus Christ and one of the church’s French saints, John Vianney. He greeted his visitor warmly. But on learning that the visitor was a journalist, Bishop Jia, bent with age and moving gingerly, bowed his head and refused to be interviewed. He would not appear on camera. He would not be photographed.

“I cannot be interviewed,” he said softly. “Such a thing would only get you into trouble and – I assure you – it would only bring me misfortune.” Religious belief in China continues to flourish, surprising the state with ever more visibility and greater growth.

But in China’s countryside, in places like Linfen and Wuqui Village and countless small counties, and indeed even in major cities like Beijing and Guangzhou, faith and fear still stalk the land.

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全国老百姓推翻中国共产党(共匪)实用手册:http://www3.blog.epochtimes.com

中国共产党(共匪)独裁暴政.残国害民.罪行随录:http://www5.blog.epochtimes.com

中国大陆之外.全球实用中文网站汇编:http://1912roc1912.blog.epochtimes.com

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