ChinaAid challenges 'misleading' report

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jan 04, 2010 4:30 PM
WASHINGTON (BP)--The human rights organization ChinaAid is challenging a "misleading assessment about the true situation of the church in China" released by the World Evangelical Alliance, a report that praised the Chinese government and state-sanctioned churches for their cooperation in spreading Christianity in the communist nation.

ChinaAid said they felt compelled to respond after Chinese house church leaders and other Christians in the West expressed concern over the glowing report issued by WEA.

In November, leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance met with leaders of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement church and other state-run national church organizations in Beijing, Nanjing and other provinces. WEA, a global network of 420 million evangelicals in 128 countries, conveyed in two subsequent news releases the Chinese organizations' assessment of the "vibrancy and health" of the state-led church movement in China.

"In this overtly positive assessment, there was no acknowledgement of the existence and current deteriorating condition of the more than 80 million believers in China who have chosen, often with dangerous and uncertain consequences, to worship outside the state-sanctioned religious system," ChinaAid said of the two-part WEA report.

"WEA's issued statement on this visit to China would lead the international community to believe that the Christian church is alive and well -- free to worship under the atheist communist system. This oversimplifies a far more complicated situation for Christians living under communist-rule in China," ChinaAid said Dec. 18.

The failure by WEA to mention the millions of persecuted Christians in China "compromised the cause of the suffering church" and left "faithful house church prisoners who number in the thousands" grieved by WEA's statement, ChinaAid said.

ChinaAid noted that WEA is free to choose to work with the Chinese government-sanctioned organizations and government agencies, and they acknowledged that "there are true brothers and sisters leading faithful lives who attend state churches."

"We are simply calling into question the very misleading signal and discouraging sign sent by what the WEA statement chose not to say in their statement," ChinaAid said. "Believers around the world were misinformed by WEA not mentioning the reality of brutal persecution of house church Christians still pervasive throughout China."

In its statement, ChinaAid urged WEA to speak up on specific examples of persecution, including a recent incident involving 10 leaders of the Linfen House Church who received years-long criminal detention and "re-education" labor camp sentences for their attempts to protest an attack against their facilities.

"We believe the severe 15-year sentence with trumped-up charges against a fellow evangelical Xinjiang Uighur believer, Brother Alimujiang Yimiti, in December should warrant a public protest from the WEA leaders," ChinaAid said. "We believe this silence is regrettable and even unjustifiable."

"We call on our evangelical brothers and sisters around the world to open their eyes and see the true situation for the church in China -- the good and the bad," ChinaAid said. "It is only then that we can truly serve our brothers and sisters with compassion, and fulfill our calling to encourage the body of Christ."

In its first news release Nov. 18, the World Evangelical Alliance reported that its leaders met with the president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Christian Council and the chairperson of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement's national committee in Shanghai.

"Through our conversations, we have understood that they greatly value international partnerships that respect the mission and calling of the national church," Geoff Tunnicliffe, WEA's international director, said. "This reflects WEA's conviction that the Gospel must take root and bear fruit in every national context. I am deeply encouraged by their commitment to proclaiming and living out the Gospel in their fast-changing context."

Another WEA leader referred to a "warm and open relationship of dialogue," with a CCC leader saying that the WEA visit was "a good beginning of our future constructive relationship."

"This visit was the first step in creating a new map in the relationship between WEA and the churches in China," Tunnicliffe said. "At the end of the meetings we realized that we have many common concerns. The CCC warmly encouraged WEA to return for more in-depth discussions. WEA was able to explain the complexities of global evangelicalism and WEA's priorities."

In its second news release Nov. 24, WEA provided more reflections on its first official visit to China. Tunnicliffe said the team was "impressed by the significant Bible printing operation" they observed at the Amity Printing Company, one of the stops on the guided trip.

During a visit to Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, China's largest national seminary, WEA said the team was "deeply encouraged by the vision of the graduate students." In Beijing, WEA representatives met with local church leaders and government officials.

"The WEA delegation was warmly received by leaders of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, who spoke of the government's desire to see Christians contributing more and more to social welfare programs," WEA said. "The WEA leaders were able to explain something of the character and values of global evangelicalism."

The group also was "graciously hosted" by leaders of a regional seminary in Beijing and the Beijing Christian Council and TSPM.

"As Chinese friends said to us several times: 'every journey starts with one small step.' Our long-term commitment in China is to build on these first small steps for the good of the church worldwide," Tunnicliffe said in his summation of the trip.

WEA, as of Jan. 4, had not issued a response to the criticisms waged by ChinaAid.

Meanwhile, members of the Chinese House Church Alliance released a statement Dec. 19 recounting more than a dozen incidents of persecution in 2009, from the harassment and arrest of a respected pastor to the tearing down of a church building. The alliance said that last year "the Chinese government continued its persecution of the House Church Movement more intensively."

"In the past year, as the Chinese House Church Movement continues its revival, the Satanic attacks have increased more intensively with its anti-Christ evil power through Chinese Communist government who never stops their violation of citizen rights and religious freedom," the house church alliance said.

Erin Roach is a Baptist Press staff writer.

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