MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 1st of March, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up today: Christian persecution in China.
Last year, Chinese officials shut down one of the country’s most influential house churches. Officials have harassed Early Rain Covenant Church for years. But in December, they took that persecution to a new level, arresting the pastor, his wife, and other top leaders. Church members continued to meet in small groups, but on Sunday, the government cracked down on those meetings as well.
REICHARD: June Cheng is here now to talk about it. June, can you tell me what happened to these worshipers this past Sunday?
JUNE CHENG, REPORTER: Since the government shut down Early Rain Covenant Church, the members of the church have been meeting inside homes for Sunday service. And this past Sunday two homes were raided by police and the police forced everyone in these house churches—including children—into police vans and carted them off to the local police station. And so in total, 44 people were detained and, according to church updates, there was a couple that was hit in the face by the police. Some of the parishioners weren’t given any food and so most of those people were released the same day. Some at 2 a.m., some the next morning at 6 a.m. And 11 of them are being held in administrative detention, which means that they will have a longer stay—maybe like a week or two.
REICHARD: As we mentioned, the pastor of Early Rain is in prison now, as is his wife. What of the practicalities? Where are his children?
CHENG: Pastor Wang Yi’s mother is now taking care of Pastor Wang Yi’s 12-year-old son as his parents are in prison. And so a day before the renewed raids on these house churches, Pastor Wang Yi’s mother went out to withdraw money and the police officer who was tailing her tried to peek as she was typing in her PIN number on the ATM and so she told him not to look. In response, he viciously insulted her and pulled her hair. And so when a bank security guard tried to stop him, the officer yelled, “I’m enforcing the law!” And the frightened guard walked away. And so that officer also kicked her in the legs while another officer held her back so she couldn’t hit him.
REICHARD: Well what’s the treatment been like for the wives of the imprisoned church leaders?
CHENG: On February 14th, the wives of four of the imprisoned Early Rain members met with representatives of the German consulate in Chengdu and the next day, police detained them and interrogated them to find out exactly what went on in that meeting. And during the interrogation, a national security officer actually said, “Too bad we can’t go back in time 40 years and put dunce hats on them and behead them.” And he even said that they were going to eventually kill them. And so this is really terrifying and they were released afterwards. And, also, Elder Matthew Bingsen Su’s wife and four kids have faced two evictions since the elder was imprisoned in December and the police have both times pressured their landlords into kicking them out. The most recent eviction was on February 11th when their landlord tore up their contract days after signing it. And the family has just faced a lot of upheaval as the government claims that they are illegal residents since Su’s doctoral degree isn’t connected to his registered residence in Chengdu and their kids don’t have hukou, which is China’s household registration.
REICHARD: And, June, how has the church been responding to all these trials and persecutions?
CHENG: We’ve been able to keep up-to-date with what’s been going on with Early Rain because they’ve been able to send out these prayer updates and at the end of a recent update, the church members wrote about the heavenly vision in Revelation of a great multitude in white robes who had experienced great tribulation. And they wrote, “Even though we are struggling with the unbearable weight of harassments, surveillance, threats, and humiliation, as soon as we remember that this is a way of being in prison with those in prison, heavenly joy rises up within us.”
REICHARD: Wow. June Cheng is WORLD’s East Asia reporter. June, thanks for keeping us up-to-date.
CHENG: You’re welcome.