Gathered on the ruins of their church, believers pray and ask the state to respect religious freedom. Not many can dare even such small acts of defiance in China.
by Lin Yijiang
As the CCP is stepping up its efforts to suppress Christianity, multiple house church venues across the country have been crushed for refusing to join the state-run Three-Self Church. One such venue was destroyed in late October in Gaoqiang village in Lin’an county, administered by Hangzhou city in the eastern province of Zhejiang. The demolition of the building, which could accommodate up to 200 believers, was carried out without prior warning and was devastating for the congregation.
According to an eyewitness, at 4 a.m. on October 20, the local government deployed over 200 special police officers to enforce the demolition. Half a dozen excavators and bulldozers were brought in for the job, and the building was razed to the ground before dawn. At about 7 a.m., members of the congregation who came to their venue found a pile of rubble left behind from the destroyed three-story building. To prevent any protests, officials threatened to handcuff and take away anyone who tried to voice their grievances about the demolition.
One of the believers revealed to Bitter Winter that before the demolition, local government officials had repeatedly pressured the person in charge of the venue to sign an agreement to join the Three-Self Church and accept government-appointed preachers.
“The government aims at eliminating Christianity at its root,” the believer said. He explained that house church Christians are reluctant to join the state-run church because they don’t want the government to control their religious beliefs.
Left with no place to worship, the congregation gathered on the ruins of the demolished venue. To express their frustration with the CCP’s brutal crackdown, they held two banners in their hands that read, “The government abdicates its responsibilities” and “Give back our gathering venue.”
Considering the regime’s brutal, oppressive methods when dealing with insubordinate believers, even such small acts of defiance are becoming rare in China. The demolition of meeting venues doesn’t mean that believers are left in peace, so the majority of the suppressed congregations opt for quiet resistance, proceeding to practice their faith in secret, evading the government’s surveillance.
Believers worshiping on the ruins of the demolished gathering venue:
The preacher quoted from the order issued by the Wenling city’s Religious Affairs Bureau: “All house churches are illegal and must be banned. All religious gatherings at night, with no exception, are prohibited. If a building is identified to be a place for worship, it will be demolished.”