Ethics & Religion
October 4, 2018
China Persecutes & Collaborates With Christians
By Mike McManus
China and the Vatican have signed an unprecedented agreement - after
70 years of icy relations - that allows the Chinese government to name
seven Catholic bishops who will be recognized by the Pope. Rome lifted
an order excommunicating them.
At the same time, China is persecuting Protestants. Chinese authorities
in central China's Henan province are ratcheting up pressure on
unregistered churches, with at least four churches in Nanyang city being
raided at the break of dawn. The largest Protestant church in Beijing
was burned to the ground.
Galen Carey, Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals,
told me, "Pastors are being jailed and tortured for extended periods.
This persecution is deep and broadly widespread. It also involves
Muslims, Protestant house churches and Catholics. I met with churches
being closed down."
He said that in the churches which are remaining open, cameras are being
installed by the Chinese government, with "the capacity to photograph
with the capability of facial recognition," so that individual church
attenders can be identified and prosecuted.
He added that "Pastors are being jailed and tortured for extended
periods. This pattern is deep and broad, and seriously widespread."
Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador At large for International Religious
Freedom, conducted a conference in August with participation by
delegations from 87 countries who are concerned about Chinese
persecution of Christians and people of other faiths.
What's odd is the rapprochement of the Chinese government with the
Vatican. It is opposed by "many Chinese Catholics and anti-pope
conservatives," according to the national Catholic News Service.
China's 10 to 12 million Catholics are divided between two communities:
One that, for decades, remained underground because it did not accept
compromises and political control after the Chinese Communist takeover
in the 1950s. The other faction accepted some compromises and political
control in order to continue its existence. Both factions were faithful
to the Pope and both have faced persecution.
The recent negotiations were conducted under the supervision of Cardinal
Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and the #2 man in the
Vatican, trusted by Pope Francis. The negotiations have taken five years
to bear any fruit. The agreement was leaked last month to The Wall
Street Journal, and then announced Sept. 22.
The Chinese have named specific priests who will serve as bishops, and
the Vatican has recognized their authority. It has been criticized by
some, such as retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 86, who was born in
Shanghai. "They're giving the flock into the mouths of wolves. It is an
incredible betrayal," he told the British news agency Reuters.
Pope Francis urged Chinese Christians last week to trust in his decision
to unify the Roman and state-run churches, assuring his often persecuted
flock that he appreciates their sacrifices but that China represented a
"land of great opportunities" for the church.
The Pope acknowledged "certain confusion" about his agreement but did
not divulge any new details. Instead, invoking his title as the
successor of Peter, he asked Chinese Catholics to "place your trust more
firmly in the Lord of history and in the church's discernment of his
He said that in bringing the seven excommunicated bishops back into full
communion with Rome, "I ask them to express with concrete and visible
gestures their restored unity" with the church and "to remain faithful
despite any difficulties."
By contrast, the Chinese government in Henan province in ratcheting up
pressure on unregistered Protestant churches with the intent of shutting
down on at least two-thirds of Christian churches there. There are 50 to
60 million Chinese Protestants - five times the number of Catholics.
Most attend house or family churches - hundreds of which have been shut
down. "This may be a central policy from Xi Jinping (the Chinese
President) to stop the growth of Christianity in mainland China," says
Fuk Tsang Ying, director of a divinity school in Hong Kong, which is
outside of China.
One target of the crackdown in Zhejiang, a province with many
Protestants. However, in that province, the Chinese government only
removed the crosses of the churches on rooftops, unlike the crackdown in
Henan where hundreds of churches were shut down.
More than a million Muslims are believed to have been detained in
massive "re-education camps."
Last week nearly 30 Protestant pastors of family churches across China
issued a joint statement urging Chinese authorities to stop ruthless
suppression, saying "such acts of brutality have not been seen since the
We American Christians, who are blessed with total religious liberty,
should pray for persecuted Chinese Christians.
Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and
a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to
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