The statement slams the destruction of churches and crosses, the ban on religious education for children, and the pressures to join Party-controlled bodies. One scholar notes that “Some suggest that because Christians’ allegiance is first and foremost to God and not the Communist Party, there is a conflict of interests that the party believes can potentially hinder the process of unification.”
Beijing (AsiaNews) – A petition signed by 297 Protestant Church leaders from 21 provinces and autonomous regions calls on the government to stop its "violent actions" against Christians and to accept the separation of state and Church. By signing such a statement, the clergymen show courage in denouncing new religious regulations that have recently come into force (1 February), which have put greater pressure on Chinese Churches, leading to acts of violence not seen in decades.
The petition notes that "In September 2017, the State Council issued the new ‘Regulations on the Administration of Religious Affairs’ and began implementing these regulations in February, 2018. Ever since then, Christian churches across China have suffered varying degrees of persecution, contempt, and misunderstanding from government departments during public worship and religious practices, including various administrative measures that attempt to alter and distort the Christian faith. Some of these violent actions are unprecedented since the end of the Cultural Revolution."
Such acts “include demolishing crosses on church buildings, violently removing expressions of faith like crosses and couplets hanging on Christians’ homes, forcing and threatening churches to join religious organizations controlled by the government, forcing churches to hang the national flag or to sing secular songs praising the State and political parties, banning the children of Christians from entering churches and receiving religious education, and depriving churches and believers of the right to gather freely."
All this, the statement says, is not only "unjust" and an "abuse of government power" but also an infringement “on the human freedoms of religion and conscience” and a violation of “the universal rule of law”.
In reality, "Christian churches in China are willing to obey authorities in China whom God has appointed and to respect the government's authority to govern society and human conduct. We believe and are obligated to teach all believers in the church that the authority of the government is from God and that as long as the government does not overstep the boundaries of secular power laid out in the Bible and does not interfere with or violate anything related to faith or the soul, Christians are obligated to respect the authorities, to pray fervently for their benefit, and to pray earnestly for Chinese society. For the sake of the Gospel, we are willing to suffer all external losses brought about by unfair law enforcement. Out of a love for our fellow citizens, we are willing to give up all of our earthly rights."
"For this reason, we believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church. We declare that in matters of external conduct, churches are willing to accept lawful oversight by civil administration or other government departments as other social organizations do.
"But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation. We also will not accept any ‘ban’ or ‘fine’ imposed on our churches due to our faith. For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives.”
The attitude of the authorities, according to Aaron Ma, an Asia-based researcher for Open Doors International, shows that Christians are an enigma for the Chinese Communist Party. "The CCP believes the Church is a de-stabilising force, but not because it is bad; in fact, local communities and authorities tend to believe Christians are good people.
The problem is that for some people “because Christians’ allegiance is first and foremost to God and not the Communist Party, there is a conflict of interests that the party believes can potentially hinder the process of unification. Others are more concerned by what they perceive as potential ‘chaos’ arising from the huge number of Christians.”