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    » 04/07/2014, 00.00

    CHINA

    Wenzhou, Christians challenge government to prevent the demolition of their church



    For days, about 3 thousand faithful of the official Protestant Ou Bei community have held a sit-in in front of the newly rebuilt place of worship Sanjiang , which the authorities want to demolish for "security reasons". Government’s decision hides attempt to target congregation of thousands which meets every Sunday and their church which is considered "too high".

    Wenzhou (AsiaNews ) - Thousands of Christians in the eastern province of Zhejiang have been engaged in a peaceful sit-in for days in front of the church of Sanjiang, in the town of Ou Bei (near Wenzhou), so that the building will not be demolished by the authorities. The Protestant congregation that built the church is part of the Three-Self Movement, and is therefore recognized by the government, which also approved the construction of a place of worship.

    The protest began on March 25, 2014, when the authorities defined the church as "illegal" because they claimed it violated the building code. On April 3, the local authorities sent a formal notice to the Protestant congregation to warn of the demolition "within 15 days", since the structure "presents security risks". The same day the government sent thousands of police officers to "convince" the Christians to leave the building and keep them at bay during the demolition. Since then, about 3 thousand people have peacefully occupied the church, in shifts, inside and outside to prevent the bulldozers from going ahead with the demolition.

    Two days ago (Saturday, April 5), the Protestant pastors led a march that ended in front of the building, a prayer vigil was held that lasted all night. One of the faithful explains: ""We are not seeking a violent confrontation.We are holding a peaceful sit-in, praying to God for help". But "chai" ideograms have appeared on the walls of the building, which indicate a "place to be demolished".

    According to the faithful and pastors of Sanjiang the decision to demolish the church hide two specific political motivations: on the one hand, there is controversy over the cross (red) positioned on the roof and which the Communist provincial secretary of Xia Baolong claims is "too high" after a visit to the area. The other is the fact that the entire structure is more than 1000 square meters and is therefore one of the largest buildings in the area. The real intention of the government would be to weaken the Christian presence in Wenzhou, once described as "the Jerusalem of the East" because of the large number of Christians and still one of the cornerstones of faith in China.

    Timothy Liao, one of the local pastors says: "They said the holy cross was built too high and violated the building code. But why only target churches when many buildings violate height limits? Clearly, this is a pretext to tear down churches". Before the new building was erected about 1,800 faithful met in the church every Sunday now, thanks to its expansion, its capacity has increased to 4,000.

    The Three-Self Movement of Protestant Churches is an umbrella group for all of the "official" communities and was created by Mao Zedong in the early years of his government. Only officially registered religious groups are permitted in China. But there are more unofficial Protestant Christians (about 80 million) than members of the movement (about 20 million). Fearing that they could loose control of the situation, for almost five years the Party has waged a campaign to eliminate the underground communities or merge them into the official community. The case of Sanjiang shows that this campaign has widened to structures close to the government.

    (John Ai collaborated)

     

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    See also

    23/06/2014 CHINA
    Wenzhou, police threaten Christians who want to protect churches and crosses
    Scheduled for today a silent demonstration outside the offices of the Government of Pingyang County: leaders of all 135 Christian churches of Pingyang (all members of the officially sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement) had confirmed their presence at the event. The authorities have "warned" of the problems that may arise. A Christian leader: "We will take the cross down from the top of our church when the Communist Party takes down its party flag."

    20/06/2014 CHINA
    More Zhejiang churches to be torn down in demolition campaign, christian "ready to fight to the end"
    A Pingyang county pastor said worshippers from at least three of the county's churches had vowed to fight the demolition to the end. In the province, about 360 churches or buildings with crosses affixed on them have been forcibly torn down in the "Three Rectifications and One Demolition" campaign since January.

    30/07/2015 CHINA
    Unofficial catholic community of Wenzhou speak out against forced demolition of Crosses, whole diocese fasting
    After 90-year-old Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang of Wenzhou led 26 priests of the open Church community to protest against the government’s act to demolish Crosses, Coadjutor Bishop James Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou also led his priests to issue an open statement “Strongly demand a halt to demolish Crosses on all churches.

    06/06/2011 CHINA
    Arrest of Shouwang Christians and other believers relentless
    Yesterday, 20 more members of the Church of Shouwang were arrested, some of their leaders are under house arrest for over two months. Beijing wants to suppress any religious activity outside the control of the Communist Party.

    07/08/2014 CHINA
    Growth of Protestants in China: the frustrations of Wang Zuoan
    At a seminar on " The Sinicization of Christianity in Shanghai," the Director of the Office of Religious Affairs claims he wants to support the Protestant communities and their development. In reality, the number of Protestants belonging to communities not under government control is on the rise. A campaign to demolish crosses and churches and arrest faithful.



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