A pastor whose church was demolished by Chinese authorities — who then sent him a bill for related costs — has expressed his unwavering faith in God despite such persecution.
The Guardian reports that in September, authorities demolished Zion Church in Beijing, one of the biggest unofficial congregations in the country. Pastor Jin Mingri, who had preached there every Sunday for decades, was then sent a bill for 1.2m yuan (£133,000) for the related costs.
Jin told the outlet that the demolition of the church was part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s larger crackdown on religion in the country.
“Before, as long as you didn’t meddle in politics the government left you alone,” he said. “But now if you don’t push the Communist party line, if you don’t display your love for the party, you are a target.”
He added, “Of course we’re scared, we’re in China, but we have Jesus.”
According to reports, the 1,500-member congregation was shut down after it refused to install surveillance cameras in its sanctuary or register as an official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church.
“The church decided this was not appropriate,” Jin previously told Reuters. “… Our services are a sacred time.”
Following the church’s refusal, state security officials and police started to harass churchgoers, even contacting their workplaces and asking them to promise not to go to church.
“On Sunday, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and were now ‘legally banned’ and its ‘illegal promotional material’ had been confiscated,” reported the news agency.
Persecution watchdog China Aid reports that Zion “has decided it will not be swayed by the ban and instead hold services outdoors.”
“Churches will continue to develop. Blocking the sites will only intensify conflicts,” said Jin.
Bob Fu, president of advocacy group China Aid, previously said authorities are enforcing rules requiring registration as a TSPM church in order to exercise increased control over ideologies. He said the international community should be “outraged and alarmed” by the ongoing persecution of Christians.
“The massive clampdown against thousands of churches in Henan [Province] and the forced closure and total shutdown of the largest house church in Beijing, Zion Church, represents a significant escalation on President Xi [Jinping]’s crack-down down against religious freedom in China,” Fu said in a statement. “Now that the Chinese Communist Party has started to burn Bibles and coerce millions of believers in the Christian faith and other religious minorities to even sign a written pledge to renounce their basic religious beliefs, the international community should be alarmed and outraged at this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief and demand the Chinese regime stop and remedy this dangerous course.”