The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from persecuting Christians in general, and it has not stopped the CCP from oppressing Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in particular. Authorities arrested several of the church’s members as they were participating in an online service on Easter Sunday.
“At that time I was also in the Zoom call, but there was a long period of time where I did not hear a thing,” an ERCC member told International Christian Concern (ICC). “I thought it’s the network connection issue at first, but I soon heard a quarrel erupt. Our coworker Wang Jun was questioning some people, [saying], ‘Who are you to do this [to us]?’”
Early Rain Covenant Church Members Arrested
ERCC is a house church located in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. The church’s pastor, Wang Yi, is currently serving a prison sentence of nine years for charges including “inciting subversion of state power.” The ERCC church member who spoke to ICC said that some of those who were arrested on Easter received phone calls that the police were coming for them, and one of the members had his electricity cut off.
Besides Wang Jun, those arrested included Guo Haigang, Wu Wuqing, Jia Xuewei, Zhang Jianqing, and Zhang Xudong. Police told Zhang Jiangqing, “Don’t participate in already banned [religious] activities anymore! Don’t listen to Pastor [Wang]’s sermons anymore! If you do this again, we will deal with it seriously and take you away!”
According to a report from Radio Free Asia (RFA), police arrested eight Early Rain members, not six. One church member told RFA, “We haven’t met in person since the raid of Dec. 9, 2018, and also because of the epidemic. We have been holding our services online.” The member added, “The brothers and sisters of our church were taken away from their homes. Several people I knew were taken to the police station, where they took statements from them, then released.” RFA says that the officials’ actions were part of “a simultaneous operation targeting church deacons, ministers, volunteers and regular members.”
A post on the Facebook page, Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church, states, “A number of Early Rain Covenant Church members were visited by police at their homes this Easter morning and many of them taken to the police station for interrogation. After being threatened and ordered to stop meeting together, they were released. Pray that God would continue to protect their church and grant them courage and resolve in the face of persecution.” ICC says that members’ electricity has been turned back on.
ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu tweeted about the arrests, asking for prayer.
Breaking news: Easter Sunday a number of leaders of #EarlyRainCovenantChurch were taken away forcefully by PSBs in Chengdu Sichuan province. Easter Sunday worship was attacked! Pls pray. 突发:今天主日秋雨圣约教会多名同工被警察上门强制带走！主日崇拜受到严重冲击！
— Bob Fu傅希秋 (@BobFu4China) April 12, 2020
ERCC was not the only congregation the government targeted on Easter. Fu tweeted that a church in Qinghai province that was over 20 years old was demolished that day.
On Easter Day Donghu TSPM Church at Xining city, capital city of Qinghai province was forcefully demolished. Over 20-yr-old church. https://t.co/rNbCpcJfZN
— Bob Fu傅希秋 (@BobFu4China) April 14, 2020
As ChurchLeaders recently reported, one of the ways the CCP is persecuting Christians during the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns is by shutting down online broadcasts of worship services.
Early Rain Covenant Church Pastor Wang Yi
Pastor Wang Yi has been imprisoned ever since he was arrested along with about 100 members of his church in a raid in December 2018. While many of the members have been released, the CCP has been persistent in its persecution of the church since then. Authorities recently sentenced elder Qin Derfu to four years in prison. At the end of December 2019, officials held a secret trial for Pastor Wang, after which they sentenced him to nine years in prison. The most recent available photo of Wang shows him looking significantly thinner than he does in pictures taken before his arrest.
The Pray for Early Rain Facebook page has posted a video of Wang Yi preaching a sermon in April 2018 a couple weeks after Easter Sunday that year. “I’ve been thinking about the Lord Jesus walking the road to Golgotha,” he said. “There were no flowers or applause along the way.”
“I’ve said before that I’m also willing to walk the road to Golgotha,” said Pastor Wang. “I’m willing to suffer for the Lord. All these years, I’ve always thought I was willing to suffer for the Lord. But I cannot bear a road with no flowers but only spit. I cannot bear a road with no praise but only doubts, betrayal, and slander. But one day, the Lord suddenly said to me, ‘This is the true meaning of Golgotha! What you wanted to walk before was a runway.’”
The pastor went on, “Golgotha is not about a road. Golgotha is about the spit, the doubts, the betrayals, the injuries, and the slander you encounter on that road. This is the road to Golgotha.”