At least 20 Christians were arrested Sunday, June 5 during Shouwang's ninth straight week of defying the government by attempting to worship outdoors in a Beijing public square. Eighteen of the Christians were Shouwang members, and two were members of other churches, although one of the members of the other churches apparently was arrested by mistake as he walked past the site. Sixteen of the Christians were released by midnight and the other four released at noon the next day. The congregation is trying to meet outdoors because the government pressured it out of its indoor facility.
It is not the first week that members of other churches have supported Shouwang's bold stance that has seen hundreds of Shouwang members arrested. Members of other churches have appeared at the site in recent weeks. The arrests begin before the service even starts.
Many more Shouwang members likely would have been arrested Sunday had police not placed most of the members under house arrest since Friday, preventing them from even leaving their house. The church has nearly 1,000 members. All the church's leaders have been under house arrest for weeks, and some members have lost their jobs and been forced from their homes as the government pressures employers and landlords. There were only a "few dozen" members who were not under house arrest Sunday morning, the church reported.
Shouwang's stance has served to inspire Christians worldwide.
"We want to thank our Lord once again for bringing peace to so many brothers and sisters of ours in the past week while the police made endless calls, knocked on their doors, talked with them and took them away," Shouwang said in a statement posted at ChinaAid.org. "He let us experience and testify about the heavenly peace and joy that He bestows us in this period full of tension and devoid of peace."
Shouwang is not a legal, registered church. In China, only churches registered with the government who are members of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement are considered legal. But registration brings heavy restrictions, including prohibitions on evangelism, Sunday School and baptizing children and teens, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid, which has been covering Shouwang's stance.
In its statement, the church said it will continue to try and meet as long as God leads them.
"Though we often beg God in our prayers to open up a road for us as soon as possible so that we can worship together at an indoor site, in awe we give the road ahead into the hand of God," the church said. "It is our belief that if He wants us to run further distances in this race than what we have predicted, He must have a beautiful intention in this and He will bestow enough grace on us so that we have enough endurance and strength to experience the eventual triumph with Him."
More than 160 were arrested the first week Shouwang tried to meet outdoors, about 50 were arrested the second week, approximately 40 on the third week, about 30 on the fourth week, 13 the fifth week, 20 the sixth week, 25 the seventh week and at least 20 the eighth week.
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net