China sentenced a Christian pastor and human rights activists to nine years in prison for “subverting state power” in connection with his underground church, proving that religious persecution — actual persecution of Christians — is alive and well in some countries.
While many white evangelical Christians in the U.S. complain about getting paid to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, Chinese Christians have to fear for their freedom just for engaging in religious rituals. In this case, Wang Yi, his family, and some followers were arrested because the church apparently wasn’t registered with the government.
This is the most recent development in China’s war on religion, coming after it was revealed that the government banned religion for its members and wanted to rewrite the Bible to conform to Communist standards.
Yi’s congregation isn’t alone in being targeted, according to NPR.
The sentencing is the latest incident in an ongoing crackdown on organized religion in China. Early Rain Covenant Church, which Wang founded in 2008, attracted about 500 followers and was considered one of the most influential “underground churches” in China, operating independently of the state…
Another prominent Protestant congregation with nearly 1,500 followers, Zion Church in Beijing, was raided and shut down last September.
This makes as much sense as getting a prison sentence over a parking ticket. It’s above and beyond any reasonable punishment, and gathering to discuss faith shouldn’t be a crime. The church’s registration here isn’t the real problem; it’s that the government of China, itself a religion, doesn’t want any competition.
Yi himself isn’t some evil villain either. Contrary to what government officials may want people to believe, he’s a positive presence in a repressive nation.
A former human rights lawyer and blogger, Wang Yi converted to Christianity in 2005. His work as an activist earned him an invitation to the White House the following year, where Wang met President George W. Bush as part of a delegation of Chinese figures advocating for greater religious freedoms and civil liberties.
China nominally guarantees freedom of religion. But in the past six years, it has arrested believers, shut down several prominent Christian churches and detained or imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.
China has “freedom of religion” in name, but not in practice. It only appears to be getting worse. For all the problems with religion we have in the U.S., atheists, especially, should be defending religious freedom in other nations where thoughtcrimes really are penalized. We’ve been the victims of that far too many times in other countries. It’s not okay when Christians or Muslims are the victims either.