Whilst the government of China is pursuing “harmonious relationships” within the country, they are busy persecuting the one place where such harmony already exists: in the church. Here’s a report from a pastor in Beijing who isn’t attatched to Shouwang, but is seeking to support them. Do pray for his church: New Tree Church, that they will be able to continue preaching the gospel at this time.
Dear chief shepherds and co-workers:
I am the pastor of New Tree Church of Beijing. On May 1, I attended for the second time the outdoor gathering of Shouwang Church (The first time was on April 10). At 8 a.m., I was taken away by DSPS (Domestic Security Protection Squad) agents and was released after 8 a.m. on May 3. The whole process lasted 48 hours and I would like to share this experience of mine with you.
After April 10, my door has also been blocked on weekends. Every week, I had to stay outside ahead of time in order to attend the Sunday activities of New Tree Church. Last week, I went to stay in a hotel well ahead of the weekend so that I could have the opportunity to attend Shouwang Church’s outdoor gathering on May 1.
In Global Times’ editorial on April 26, New Tree Church sensed from the cautious official words the government’s determination to isolate and attack Shouwang Church. New Tree Church supports me in attending the outdoor gatherings of Shouwang Church and our intention is just to give them company, not to confront the government. We are prepared to pay a price for this. However, if this case is not handled well, it would also be a great loss to the government. I hope I can have an opportunity to meet with high-ranking officials of the government and once again tell them in a nice and gentle manner our position in faith and request that the government find a workable way out for the house churches so as to achieve a win-win situation. If not, we would rather stand “guilty” together with Shouwang Church. This is not a threat but the helplessness of our conscience!
I haven’t got an opportunity to meet with the high-ranking officials of the government, so I have to let people pass on my ideas to them, step by step, in the hope that these high-ranking officials can hear my words. I want to make this statement to the government: We are a kind-hearted and peaceful social group and historical problems left in the relationship between church and state have relegated us to this situation. If the government can take this good opportunity and handle this incident well, we as a social group will not only take it as an unfailing kindness from the government but also regard it as a chance of having more ways to contribute our efforts to this nation and society and help carry its burdens. Our hope is that the government will let Shouwang Church use the site it has bought, and this is also the hope of other churches regarding their legal sites of worship. If the government thinks it is still too difficult or too much is required to take this step, we request that they not disperse the gatherings of Shouwang Church.
Employees of the police station said that the instructions they got from their superiors are these: “Even if they think they are kind-hearted, as long as their action is not in line with the state law, they should be considered to be opposing the government. To respect the government, they must join the legal church. All the churches not recognized by the government are illegal gatherings.” Their superiors want to require me to do the following: I should not only avoid joining the outdoor gatherings of Shouwang Church, but I should also break away from Shouwang Church. The original words they uttered were: “Break from them once for all.” A shudder of coldness ran through my body after I heard these words, and I wondered what they would do to Shouwang Church.
After their repeated requests were rejected, they extended their questioning of me on the grounds that I was not cooperating, and the questioning lasted 48 hours. They no longer mentioned Shouwang Church or the outdoor gatherings. They repeatedly asked me about the date of establishment of New Tree Church, who its co-workers are, whether we have registered the church with the government, whether we know that it is illegal and whether our donation is public, etc. Before I was released, they added the reason for questioning me as “suspicion of engaging in illegal gatherings” (This refers to New Tree Church). The reason they gave for summoning me the first time was “suspicion of disrupting the public order.” Though I have not met the people I expected to meet who can solve the problem, I know I have finished our “dialog.” What I wanted to say is that I request that the government find a way out for us. The government’s reply was, “It is very possible that we are going to punish you for the same crime as them.”
In these 48 hours, besides repeated questionings, the rest was spent with security guards. The interrogation room was very basically and crudely equipped and there were only small, cold, hard chairs which were quite a challenge to my old diseases in the neck and back. When I really couldn’t sit still, I asked the security guard whether I could exchange seats with him and sit there for a while so that I could lay my head on the desk to relieve the discomfort. These 48 hours were really very long! I’m not here emphasizing the price I’ve paid in going through this misery, but I just want to ask you to remember the brothers and sisters who have gone through this process many times. I also want to say that such equipment in the interrogation room is not fit for the 48-hour interrogation. If the government needs so much time for the interrogation, we hope they can be more kind to us in improving the equipment.
The questioning is finished for me and I have come back home. The government told me that they will tackle more the matters concerning the illegal gatherings. I hereby ask all of you to pray for Shouwang Church. That is the prospect of all of our house churches. Besides, I also ask you to pray for New Tree Church, which is not as mature as Shouwang Church. Instead, it is a young, frail and inexperienced church. It may be difficult for me to attend the Sunday gatherings at New Tree Church. In the coming trials, we ask God to give us the wisdom and strength to deal with the situations.
New Tree Church of Beijing