To fight the persecution
Christian churches in China are facing, leading Chinese house church
pastors started a petition on May 11.
According to BBC News, about 50 million
of China’s 70 million Christians worship with unregistered groups
known as “house churches.”
The first-ever petition to the national
legislature demands a special investigation into the events that led
Beijing’s Shouwang Church to a battle against authorities over its
efforts to hold outdoor worship services. It also calls for legal
protections for the house churches, which operate outside of China’s
religious system, run by the government. This
step represents a further empowering of the house church movement,
the New York Times
Chinese pastors in the United States
and Canada have also shown their support by initiating a worldwide
“Help Shouwang” signature campaign.
“Our appeal expresses the views of
and is endorsed by churches and individual Christians from around the
world,” the appeal said. “It is entirely without any political
agenda and free from any government involvement.
“It is simply a voice of conscience,
a call to respect human dignity and to recognize the inalienable
rights accorded to every human being, particularly, in this case, to
the leaders and members of Shouwang Church in Beijing,” the appeal,
entitled “Solidarity with Shouwang Church in Beijing,” continued.
In early April the church’s landlord
canceled its lease under pressure from authorities, leaving the
church and its 1,000 members with no place to worship. Since losing
the building, some members have tried meeting outdoors to pray on
Sundays, but the government has been adamantly trying to stop
them—even going so far as to prevent some from leaving their homes.
Carsten Vala, an expert on Chinese
Christianity at Loyola University Maryland, told the New York
Times that the petition
increased pressure on the ruling Communist Party while it was
becoming progressively nervous about people challenging its
authority. “This shows there is national attention to what’s
happening to Shouwang and that there is connection among urban house
churches across the country,” he said.