Saturday, January 13, 2018

Matt 24 watch, 305: Chinese authorities blow up Golden Lampstand Church, a Christian mega-church

The destroyed Golden Lampstand Church building in China
. . . in a grim reminder of the realities of our day.
According to Independent:
Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People's Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province. 
ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions. 
The church had faced "repeated persecution" by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.
Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media . . .
Guardian adds: "A Catholic church in the neighbouring province of Shaanxi was also reportedly demolished last month, 20 years after it originally opened," then goes on to observe:
China guarantees freedom of religion on paper, but in practice authorities heavily regulate many aspects of religious life. Churches must be officially sanctioned and pastors must adhere to a host of rules imposed by the government.
The restrictive policies have given rise to “house” churches, independent places of worship that exist outside official channels. Authorities periodically arrest pastors or demolish buildings used by unsanctioned congregations.
But authorities have taken a harder line since 2013 against towering crosses and large cathedrals. Officials launched a sweeping crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200 crosses have been removed, according to activists.
In an annual report on freedom of religion, the US state department found that “the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices”.
The story then continues, citing a pastor of a nearby church who requested anonymity for very understandable fear of retaliation:
"My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own,” he said. “This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”
Where, of course, people who are raising that sort of sum and are building that sort of scale of structure, are obviously going to comply with reasonable permit and regulatory processes. The unreasonable reaction of the authorities is therefore quite revealing.

Japan Times gives some useful additional information:
Authorities in northern China’s coal country this week demolished a well-known Christian mega-church, underscoring long-standing tensions between religious groups and the officially atheistic Communist Party

Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province.
ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building . . . .
An official at the local religious affairs bureau denied Thursday that the demolition took place, but pictures distributed by ChinaAid showed the church’s steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble.
(FAIR COMMENT: China is a leading nation, and the Christian faith is the most persecuted in the world. The implications of this attack should by rights have received the sort of wall to wall coverage that major media now routinely give to items they think are significant. The relatively muted coverage of this issue speaks for itself.)

It is noteworthy that Independent goes on to give an estimate of the number of Christians in China as 60 millions, which is likely to be a very "conservative" estimate. The same number appears in other sources, which is likely to make it appear as a consensus number. The reader is cautioned that in such an environment as we are seeing, numbers like that are not likely to be accurate, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the real figure is twice or maybe even approaching three times that value.

So now, let us understand the signs of our times and let us be as wise as snakes but as harmless as doves. END

PS: Last year was a very inactive year for this blog, DV I hope to do a lot better this year.