By Aaron Earls
As part of an increased government crackdown on Christianity, Chinese police destroyed several church buildings earlier this year, including one where 50,000 Christians worshipped.
The New York Times reported the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi Province was one of at least two churches torn down by authorizes at that time.
“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, an American group monitoring religious freedom in China.
In a news release, ChinaAid said several leaders have been imprisoned for serving at the church. The Times reported government officials also confiscated Bibles during that time.
A government official told Global Times, a state-owned newspaper, the church did not have the necessary approval and construction on the building had been stopped in 2009.
“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” the anonymous official said.
ChinaAid says the government came to the construction site in 2009 and beat church members who were sleeping there.
Yang Xuan, a pastor at Golden Lampstand, was arrested and spent more than three years in the prison. His wife Yang Caizhen spent two years in a re-education camp and was beaten while incarcerated. Other family members were jailed and fined thousands of dollars.
“Although Christians are growing more numerous, the wiggle room allowed them is shrinking,” said a recent piece in The Economist.
After the destruction of Golden Lampstand in January, the Chinese government passed new religious regulations in February that explicitly outlaws unregistered religious gatherings, The Economist reported.
China ranked as the 43rd worst nation for Christians on Open Door’s 2018 World Watch List.
Despite government-enforced persecution, China’s Christian population is expected to continue to grow.
In 2010, Pew Research found the communist nation had the seventh highest Christian population. By 2020, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity projects China will climb to third.
At that point, China will have as many Christians as Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom combined.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.