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In America, we continuously fight to maintain our religious freedoms. The separation of church and state, which is often erroneously invoked by progressives to keep faith out of government, is a necessary component of American liberties. We must do everything we can to keep government out of our religious lives; the 1st Amendment allows us to worship as we please. More importantly, it reaffirms our God-given right to worship as we’re instructed. But in Communist China, worship is restrained by the state’s standards. Chinese people must either worship as the party demands or they must keep their worship hidden. If they do not, they risk imprisonment, as pastor Wang Yi has learned.
Wang has been sentenced to nine years in prison for “subversion” based on some of his activities that ran counter to the prescribed methods of worship. In China, the state determines where, when, and how Christians are allowed to worship. They designate every aspect of faith based on the Communist Party’s official atheistic stance. Anyone who defies the state and goes outside of the strict boundaries they’ve set for Christian worship risks imprisonment.
The People’s Intermediate Court in the southwestern city of Chengdu said Wang Yi was also convicted of illegal business operations, fined and had his personal assets seized.
Wang had led the Early Rain Covenant Church and was arrested a year ago as part of an ongoing crackdown on all unauthorized religious groups in the country. The government requires that Protestants worship only in churches recognized and regulated by the party-led Three-Self Patriotic Movement. A separate body oversees the Catholic church, and China and the Vatican have no formal relations.
Si Weijiang, a lawyer hired by Wang’s mother, said the charge of illegal business operations stemmed from the printing of books about Christian culture.
“It is actually about the freedom of publication and there has been no social harm,” Si said in a phone interview.
The charge of incitement “involves preaching and is an issue of speech, which has also inflicted no social harm,” he said.
Even within the narrow confines it has established, China’s officially atheist ruling party has been seeking to rein in religious expression, including removing crosses from official and unofficial churches.
More widely, the party has demolished places of worship, barred Tibetan children from Buddhist religious studies and incarcerated more than a million members of Islamic ethnic minorities in what are termed “re-education centers.”
Such oppression is unthinkable in the United States. Or is it? The push by the political left, particularly the radical progressives who envision a communist utopia in our near future, has been to quash religious expression in any form outside of home and place of worship. Though their intentions extend to all religions (other than climate change hysteria and the church of Darwinism), they have their sights set squarely on Judeo-Christian faiths. Christians in particular embody a roadblock to the cultural and traditional Marxism hyper-leftists promote. What we see in China today is what extreme leftists favor for America’s future.
In America, we can speak out and educate the masses about our plight. But in China, it is much more challenging. Despite an international outcry against Beijing’s use of “reeducation centers” for ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs, there are still hundreds of thousands or millions being detained. In Tibet, children have been barred from attending Buddhist study sessions. As for Christians, the state controls every aspect of worship, including what can and cannot be preached. Sermons are closely monitored. Anyone who steps outside of what is allowed by the Communist Party risks losing everything.
This is why it’s so important that we pray for Wang, his family, and his congregation. Our fight in the United States to maintain our freedoms is important, but we must not forget our brothers and sisters living in fear for their faith. Across the globe, Christians are persecuted over the love for Christ they have in their hearts. They put their lives and families in danger and are often martyred as a result. It’s easy to dismiss as we fight to keep the faith here, but we must include them in our prayers as well.
We are blessed as a nation to have our religious liberties. In other nations like China, they must fight for their freedom and often their lives in order to serve our Lord and Savior. Pastor Wang Yi needs our spiritual support today.
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