China detained evangelical Pastor Wang Yi as part of raids on his congregation that began Sunday evening. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Early Rain Covenant Church leader and over 100 of the church’s congregants were detained in the latest crackdown by government officials.
“Officials have threatened to close the Early Rain Covenant Church in the central city of Chengdu by the end of the year in keeping with new religious-management regulations,” several of the Church’s congregants told the Journal.
Attacks against Christian families in the region are ongoing, according to the U.S.-based advocacy group ChinaAid.
They report that Pastor Wang Yi’s wife, Jiang Rong, was arrested alongside him.
"The massive overnight attack against members of the independent, renowned Early Rain Covenant Church represents a major escalation of religious persecution in China," Dr. Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid and a friend of Pastor Wang, said in a statement. "Ironically this largest scale of arrests and clamp down on the international Human Rights Day shows Xi’s regime deliberately making itself the enemy of universal values, such as religious freedom for all."
"ChinaAid calls upon the international community to condemn these arbitrary arrests of innocent religious believers and urges the Chinese regime for their immediate release," he concluded.
In February, Early Rain organized a petition to condemn the Chinese government’s crackdown on unregistered churches which are independent from the state’s religious authorities. Pastor Wang signed that document first.
Rev. Hong Yujie, another friend of Pastor Wang, told the Journal that he is “the bravest pastor in China today.”
The Journal reports that the pastor wrote a defiant social media post Saturday accusing the Chinese government of attempting to institute “Caesar worship” by elevating president Xi Jinping.
He wrote that the government's elevation of the Chinese president was “morally incompatible with the Christian faith and with all those who uphold freedom of the mind and thought.”