Why is the World Evangelical Alliance “Ignoring Christian Oppression in China”?
Just like President Obama’s first state visit to the People’s Republic of China, the mid-November 2009 visit of a delegation of international church leaders to the state-approved church in China began in Shanghai and ended in Beijing. Obama’s visit was heavy on diplomacy, but he did raise some general concerns about human rights and religious freedom. Shockingly, it was the church delegation from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) that remained silent on that subject.
Press releases from the church delegation could have passed for White House/State Department media statements. Written in glowing terms, the WEA’s statements were free of criticism of the Chinese Communist regime’s persecution of religious believers and other human rights abuses. One release noted how the WEA delegation was “warmly received” by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the Communist regime’s ministry for monitoring and controlling churches. Another said that they had developed a “warm and open relationship of dialogue” with the state-approved China Christian Council. What was missing in the delegation’s reports was mention of any meetings with the vast majority of Chinese Christians that worship outside the confines of state-approved churches. In fact, the reports failed to even mention the existence of China’s 80 million or more house church Christians.
It has long been true that the left-leaning World Council of Churches (WCC) ignores vast swaths of the world’s persecuted Christians while “prophetically” defending the “victims” of America and Israel. They have more often seen Christians – particularly evangelical ones who insist embarrassingly on sharing their faith – as the persecutors, not the persecuted. But the WEA delegation, which met with China’s state-approved churches, and only state-approved churches, is part of an international organization created to give “worldwide identity, voice, and platform to more than 420 million evangelical Christians.” Yet eighty million Chinese house church Christians, evangelical Christians, were left without identity, voice, or platform in the WEA’s China report.
While meeting in Shanghai with the national leadership of the China Christian Council and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China (TPSM), the WEA praised the “health and vibrancy” of the Chinese Church. The official church in China has experienced impressive growth in recent years. As many as 20 million attend the official Protestant churches and another 10 million the state-approved Catholic Church. Still, many would question whether or not “healthy and vibrant” accurately describes a church whose members are resigned to existence under strict government control, and in which participation by children under the age of 18 and certain topics for sermons are forbidden.
Bob Fu, a human rights activist and former prisoner of faith in China, was shocked by the one-sided statement from his fellow evangelical Christians. Fu, the founder and president of China Aid, an advocacy and humanitarian relief organization, responded that while “there are true brothers and sisters leading faithful lives who attend the state churches,” the WEA statement’s “failure to mention 80 million faithful Christians who are clearly the majority of Chinese Christian population and meet in house churches and rented offices, has compromised the cause of the suffering church in China.” Fu added that “faithful house church prisoners who number in the thousands are grieved by WEA’s statement.”
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