In the latest of many injustices that authorities have committed against the members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, 44 people were arrested and detained by police on Sunday, February 24.
“Today, brothers and sisters are still being taken from their homes. New situations are developing at the time of the writing of this letter. Multiple families are being threatened and their homes searched,” wrote the church in an update on February 25. You can read that update here, as well as detailed accounts of the persecution church members have been experiencing since the beginning of December.
When members of the church gathered in different homes to worship last Sunday, police arrested people at two of the homes, confiscating their phones. Those arrested included pregnant women and the elderly, as well as 11 children, one as young as two months old. At the station, a police officer hit one couple in the face, and some of the people, including children, slept on the floor and had nothing to eat. While some of the church members were released that day or early the next morning, officials placed 11 people in administrative detention.
Increasing Religious Persecution
Early Rain is one of the few Protestant churches that have remained unregistered with the government while still meeting openly instead of underground. Even though China’s constitution supposedly protects religious rights, religious persecution in China has recently been increasing, according to human rights organization China Aid. Three thousand Christians were arrested in China in 2017, and that number surpassed 10,000 in 2018.
In September of 2018, officials warned Early Rain that the church needed to register with the government. On December 9, 2018, authorities arrested around 100 church members, including the church’s pastor, Wang Yi. Some members were released soon afterward, but others, including Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain imprisoned at this time. And just because church members are not in prison does not mean they are escaping suffering.
Pastor Wang’s mother, who is in her 70s, was recently beaten by police while trying to withdraw money from an ATM. When a bank security guard tried to protect her, the police threatened him, and the officers continued beating her. In one of their updates, the church writes, “In [the authorities’] eyes, laws are clearly just decorations they can play around with.” The wife and children of elder Su Bingsen are undergoing a different kind of harassment: being repeatedly forced out of whatever residence they are currently living in.
These are just some of the numerous persecutions church members have been experiencing over the past months. Some members are even having heart attacks and anxiety attacks due to the stress they are under.
Through it all, the church has been steadfast in praising God, praying for their persecutors, and praying for strength in the face of these trials. As the church gives updates on the latest abuse the members are facing, these accounts are interspersed with various scriptures that encourage and strengthen the afflicted believers. The church writes,
“Even though we are struggling with the unbearable weight of harassments, surveillance, threats and humiliation, as soon as we remember that this is a way of being imprisoned with those in prison, heavenly joy rises up within us.”