Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Protestant Church of Shouwang, yesterday posted an invitation to followers on Google Buzz to ignore government threats and gather together to celebrate Holy Week, although it is likely that the police arrest them.
The Shouwang is one of the largest house churches (not recognized) in the country with over 1000 members. Recently, the police raided a local restaurant in Beijing where they met, as they had previously done on about 20 occasions in recent years. The faithful then gathered in a square of the Zhongguancun area to celebrate the religious service on Sunday. But the last two Sundays, the police force garrisoned in the area for the meeting (announced on the Internet) and arrested hundreds of faithful as they arrived, the previous day Pastor Jin Tianming and several others were arrested and placed under house arrest. Most of those arrested were released after a night in jail.
Now the Church is calling on followers "not to be afraid" to express their faith. "The courage of our sacrifice - writes the Church - becomes the peace between the oppressor and the oppressed. Our only desire is to awaken the consciences of our leaders through our peaceful and holy act of sacrifice. We also hope that this action will dispel hatred among the people .... Only in this way can we truly love our government. "
Beijing demands that all Christians adhere to the Protestant Three-Self Movement (Protestant all controlled by the Communist Party).There are only 20 million Christians in the State Church, compared with more than 50 million members (though other sources say that more than 100 million) of unofficial churches (or house Churches). The Shouwang is one of the most famous and influential domestic churches. It is believed that the current persecution is a result of the crackdown in mid-February to act against democratic and human rights defenders, for fear that a jasmine revolution could break out in China. The Shouwang explains that it has no connection with this movement but it is only "a Church of Jesus Christ" with no relations with foreign groups. But experts point out that faith is still important to bring people together and raise awareness and demands for respect for human rights and that the authorities want to prevent any link between religion and human rights.