China: Thousands of Christians Form New Blockade As Authorities Return to ‘Reconstruct’ Church
Local Officials Renege on Earlier Agreement Allowing Sanjiang Church to Keep Cross
04/21/2014 China (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that thousands of Christians in Wenzhou, China, have formed a new blockade to prevent government officials from starting demolition of the $4.8 million Sanjiang Christian Church. The news comes just two weeks after a previous standoff ended when authorities signed an agreement with church leaders promising to leave the church untouched. In exchange, church leaders agreed to demolish several floors of a nearby building used by the church as a care facility for the elderly.
On Monday morning, ICC sources close to the situation reported, “The government has decided to remove the cross on the roof and change the first floor of the church to be a public parking lot, the second floor a public library, only leaving the third floor for worship. Currently, police have cordoned off the road to the church with fire engines and ambulances lining up along the street.”
As thousands of Christians began to reassemble overnight in defense of the newly-constructed church, social media sites set up by area Christians were flooded with information and advice for participants in the new blockade. Everything from tips on how to protect oneself from water cannons and pepper spray to recommendations on bringing extra food and water in case of a prolonged standoff were exchanged.
In addition, ICC sources report that several of the churches leaders and their family members have been threatened with the loss of employment by government officials since the confrontation over the church began. Such threats are not uncommon in China when Christians and other religious minorities attempt to resist government pressure.
On April 11th, ChinaAid reported that at least seven other churches in Zhejiang Province, where the Sanjiang Christian Church is located, were facing “demolition or rectification orders.” In 2000, hundreds of churches were demolished across the province in a massive crackdown on religious minorities.
Ryan Morgan, International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager for East Asia, said, “It is critical that the international community not turn its attention away from the showdown taking place today in Wenzhou, China. Thousands of brave men and women are risking their lives and welfare to protect the symbol of their faith from a government that is all too willing to breach every rule of international conduct in its suppression of religious minorities. If the international spotlight is taken away now, then these thousands of bold blockaders will be left alone in the dark as police and bulldozers attempt to turn their place of worship into a parking lot.”
ICC is calling upon concerned individuals to immediately contact Chinese embassies in their home country and express alarm at the Chinese government’s intent to demolish the Sanjiang Church. A partial list of Chinese embassies and their contact information is found below.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 WIBR/WARN Radio