Earlier this month, a coalition of Christian leaders in China drafted and sent a petition to the Chinese government calling for the religious liberty the Chinese Constitution claims to provide. “For the last six decades, the rights to liberty of religious faith granted to our country’s Christians by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China have not been put into practice,” wrote the 19 brave original signatories of the document.
The petition was generated by the growing crackdown on “unofficial” churches in China. As noted in this blog space in April, the Easter crackdown on the Shouwang Church in Beijing is part of a larger, nationwide campaign in which “unofficial” churches — those that meet independent of government sanction — are being targeted for repression, and their leaders for arrest.
Up to 70 million believers are part of the “unofficial” Christian movement in China. According to China scholar Dr. William Jeynes in a lecture last week at FRC, the Chinese government is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the construction of officially-recognized churches and seminaries, but the “unofficial” churches remain targets of the central Communist government. Why? Because, notes Jeynes, the government recognizes that Christianity leads to morality and productivity, but is also grounded in the idea that government’s authority is not final. This makes the Communist leaders in Beijing “nervous,” says Jeynes.