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Shouwang Church in Beijing, has been shut down after government officials raided Bible classes at two different locations, demanding congregants vow never to worship as a congregation again according to the Chinese persecution watchdog China Aid.  Shouwang Church is one among thousands of unregistered house churches in the city and is said to be attended by over 1,000 people.  The congregation has suffered years of challenges at the hands of the government for refusing to join the state sanctioned church.  The church had previously submitted an application for registration but was rejected because founding Pastor Jin Tianming was not officially ordained by the state.

Christians attending the Bible classes were taken by police to a nearby school where they were held for hours and told that the church had been shut down.  Another group affiliated with the church were detained at another location and also taken to the school.  Officials switched locks at both raid locations.  The number of Christians detained by police was between 20 and 30, reports China Aid.  Officials demanded those detained sign a letter vowing that they will no longer attend the church.  However, the detainees  refused. Authorities also demanded that the Pastor sign a document admitting that the church conducted activities without registering with the government.

The closing of Shouwang Church comes after authorities also banned Beijing’s largest house church, Zion Church, and confiscated “illegal promotional materials.”  Zion Church had previously rejected requests from government authorities to install closed-circuit cameras.  Officials in Beijing claimed the church had held events without registering.  Shouwang Church in the past has been forced to meet outdoors as government pressure made it difficult to secure rented or purchased space.  The church’s pastor was placed under house arrest in 2011 and many church members were arrested after the church began worshiping outdoors after its eviction from a building.

Last July, at least 34 house churches in Beijing signed a joint statement to China’s Communist Party officials decrying what they called an ongoing crackdown against believers.  “The lives of believers have been violated, causing serious emotional harm and damage to their sense of patriotism, as well as causing social conflict,” the statement read.  Beijing churches are not alone in facing persecution as dozens of members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu have been arrested for worshiping after government officials closed the church last December.  Following new regulations on religion in China, persecution of believers is now “much harsher across the country.”

U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, said he believes the Chinese government “is at war with faith.”  Brownback declared “The Chinese Government must hear the cry of its people for religious freedom.”  Christians can no longer worship without fearing of harassment, detention, or even imprisonment.  China Aid has warned that religious freedom in China has reached the “worst level that has not been seen since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.”  He warned of a 5 year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism by “rewriting” the Bible to “reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism.”

Source: The Christian Post