August 7, 2010

Christians being attacked in China

POLITICS/RELIGION - A religious war is brewing in China and its not between the usualy suspects. Christianity is growing rapidly in China and now is estimated to have approx. 100 million Christians, which is more members than the Communist Party in China. The sheer size has resulted in tension and rivalry between the two Chinese factions.

On September 13th 2009, at approx. 3 AM in the morning, over four hundred local police, government officials, and hired thugs attacked the Fushan House Church (churches have to be registered in China and operating one illegally is considered dangerous), demolished it and also damaged a shoe factory next door.

20 members of the church were severely beaten, tortured and hospitalized. 17 other buildings nearby were ransacked and then destroyed.

The Fushan House Church was owned by the 50,000 members of the local Linfen Church (which is registered). When the members demanded an apology and the buildings be rebuilt the local government responded by cutting off their electricty, water, telephone service and garbage pickup. They then arrested all the leaders of the Linfen Church. They were eventually found guilty of "unlawfully occupying agricultural land" with sentences varying between 3 and 7 years depending on how defiant they were. Some were given reduced sentences in exchange for fines (essentially bribes) paid to the Communist Party.

This is hardly the first incident of attacks against Christians in China. It is a growing phenomenon which is unchecked because the attacks go unpunished and are instead encouraged by local government officials.

Christian churches in Asia have a tendency to be highly social groups, meeting constantly (not just on Sunday) to have bible readings, dinners, fundraisers, etc. The members have a strong tendency to become fanatically loyal to their group (and frankly who isn't loyal to their closest friends?) and this begins to take on a cult-like appearance.

Cults are strictly forbidden in China and the Chinese government persecutes anyone who so much as appears to be in a cult. The daily meetings of church members with their friends is completely understandable (like the cast of Seinfeld meeting at the coffee shop every day), but such routine behaviour and the setting up of extra buildings to hold meetings in makes the Communist Party very jealous and nervous.

Support for the Communist Party in China is still pretty strong, although it has waned in recent years, it still maintains a strong grip on Chinese society by controlling the flow of information. Websites and search engines are closely monitored, dissidents are rounded up and arrested, and rival political parties are harrassed and intimidated.

During times of political unrest it will be increasingly difficult for the Chinese government to hold their members in check. People look for scapegoats and Christian groups are likely targets.

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