is a result of our efforts to confirm some of the claims of Christian
persecution in China. This is the report from trip to a province southwest of Beijing.
Our person traveled there to meet a Christian couple in a remote village. The
trip was undertaken in an effort to confirm some reports of persecution of
Christians by the Chinese Government and to shed light on their current
1. Please note that we do not provide much detail about the identity of the persons we have contacted, for obvious reasons. They are being monitored by the police. We do not want to bring harm to our friends through our inquiry.
This meeting wouldn't be possible without our friends at CIPRC
(Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China) in New
York1. Their help was invaluable to us. We learned about this and
other cases from their reports. They provided us with the information we
needed in order to get in touch with our new friends.
It took me and my interpreter about one full day to get to the village where we were supposed to meet the Christian couple. We traveled by train to the city of Tianyuan, southwest of Beijing. From there, we took a four-hour train ride to a smaller city east of Tianyuan. We were told that from that city, it is about an hour by bus to get to the village. It really took about two hours on a minibus, through a drab, gray, and dusty mining and other industrial areas.
When we called the couple, letting them know we are in the village, they told us to wait for them at a small store towards the end of the place. It turned out that they live still some distance away from the village. We waited about 1.5 hour for their arrival, while people were peeking in from the outside, elbowing each other, to get a glimpse of probably the first Westerner they've ever seen in real-life.
When the couple arrived, it was the wife who showed up at the store. There was not much talk, greetings, etc. It was more like living a scene from a WWII movie about the underground resistance movement, or a cheap spy movie. The woman came up to me and whispered something in Chinese. When I tried to gesture, and explain that my interpreter is outside the store, she didn't wait, but grabbed my case and hurriedly left the store, waving to follow her. I felt bad about a woman carrying my case, but it was impossible to persuade her out of helping me with the luggage.
My interpreter was frightened. She thought they were robbers, or thieves, trying to take my stuff. She had not been exposed to the reality of the house and underground churches. When she saw the behavior of the woman - practically running away with my suitcase - and the face of the man, worn by harsh life and his experiences in the Chinese prison, she started panicking. The situation was almost tragi-comical. I persuaded her to follow them to a place where we could exchange a few sentences and find out if we can sit down in some quiet place, where we could have some food and talk undisturbed.
After we sat down and prayed for the food, I asked if I could record the conversation. They were very hesitant, and I had to explain to them that the recording is only for my record, and will help me working on the material later. Finally, they agreed. After a while, when we broke the ice, and the couple learned that I come from once Communist country myself, they relaxed, and even let me take their picture.
As we talked, they confirmed the basic story I learned from the ministry that provided the information to me. The man told me that really, there is no story, and one could put it in one sentence. But after asking him and his wife some question, more details came out from our exchange.
The couple has been Christians for about eight years. They became Christians after reading Bible. I failed to ask them how the Scriptures came in their possession, and it would be interesting to know that. The brother was a member of the Communist Party when he was arrested last year. We know that one "cannot serve two masters...". This particular master reminded him that, if he wants to serve God, he would be punished. He was detained for 14 days and, after interrogation, sentenced to one-year re-education by labor prison/camp. I learned that they were poorly fed, about 200g of solid food per day. I asked if he was beaten by the police, or the prison guards, or mistreated in other ways. His answer was negative, but he said that he was beaten by other prisoners. Prisons and camps in China are full of all kinds of lost people, some of them very violent. "There were thieves, robbers, and murderers there", as he put it.
Why was he imprisoned? What was his offence? It was classified in the vague category of being a member of "evil religion". This category was created by the Chinese government in the 90's, and is able to put indeed anybody in this box, as long as the person has any kind of religion, faith, or adheres to some thought system, has strong conviction or belief in an area that the government does not approve of.
The police is watching the couple, since the brother's release from the prison. Their situation is sad in that they don't know any other believers. They told me that they read the Bible and pray, though. I was told that there are many house churches in this region, but it must be hard for these people to find others to have fellowship with since they are under surveillance.
At some point the couple made it clear that they have to leave. During the conversation, they kept looking at the door. Their heads would turn, especially when they heard someone's voice, or a louder sound. I asked them if they need a Bible. They said that they have one, but they eagerly accepted the one I offered them along with some tracts. When the couple were ready to leave, they stuffed the Bible and the tracts under their belts, to conceal them under their clothes.
There's more to the story, but this is the gist of it. I made it this detailed to convey the atmosphere, the aura surrounding this trip. Without it, you would only know the dry facts, but little in a way of having a glimpse on the reality of their existence.
It's hard to tell how many Christians live this way in China, but we read stories of religious persecution in China every week.
1. Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China is located in New York. You can find more information on their work, profile, and location from their web site: http://www.china21.org
|Source: Reserved / Edited by: R-Kiver / Prepared: 08.2003 / Posted: 11. 2003 / Last revisions: 11. 2003|