A group of Protestant congregations writes a courageous appeal to the government: “You consider us a threat, an error to be corrected. But wrong, we want to contribute to the well-being of the nation like everyone else.” The capital orders a catalog of unregistered places of worship. Among the churches affected, one is Catholic.
Chinese Christians “are not a force in disagreement, an error to be managed or rectified, the chosen objective of veiled or direct attacks. Thinking this way is wrong, it’s a fundamental mistake. The Christian churches, even the domestic ones, are animated by the desire for dialogue to achieve the best possible relations with the government of this new era, to achieve socialism with Chinese characteristics “of which President Xi Jinping speaks. This is the courageous appeal launched by dozens of domestic Protestant churches, struck by yet another round of restrictions on their religious freedom.
The text, signed by 34 unofficial churches, underlines how recent revisions to religious regulations adopted by the government have broken the rights of the faithful: “The normal life of a believer has been violated and hindered, and this has caused enormous emotional damage. The sense of patriotism that animates Christians has also been affected, opening the possibility to social conflicts. The situation seems to worsen day by day.”
To overcome this impasse, Christian leaders write, “the authorities must respect the religious freedom protected by the Constitution of China. That text contains many rights that in reality the single-party state does not respect. The churches have a real desire for dialogue.”
The Chinese State Council approved in 2016 a new package of regulations on religious activity termed as “draconian.” The declared aim is to eliminate the unregistered Christian cult, that of the so-called “domestic churches.” The new rules came into force on 7 October 2016, effectively prohibiting religious preaching or Christian events online or in schools.