Pastors in China continue to face an increased level of persecution for participating in ministry activities. The crackdown has become so severe, that many church leaders have become fearful for their lives.

Most recently, one of China’s largest Protestant churches was ordered to cease operations after government authorities ruled that its ministry constituted a violation of the country’s strict anti-religion laws. Christians have been dealing with instances of violence, intimidation and imprisonment for years, but the open persecution of faith has been unquestionably ramped up.

Earlier this month, Communist Party officials were caught on camera burning Bibles and crosses:

Aaron Ma from the Chinese arm of Christian persecution organization Open Doors told the Chrisitan Post that in this particularly harrowing incident, the communist authorities “confiscated belongings of the churches (including Bibles) and burnt them all,” without any ramifications whatsoever.

“The situation for Chinese #Christians becomes direr by the day. We are working tirelessly to put maximum pressure on China stop the persecution,” Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel at the American Center for Law & Justice tweeted after the incident. 

Ma admitted that, in light of the recent campaign against the Church, the faith of many of its leaders is “being challenged and tested,” and that pastors are worried that “their believers may not be able to stand strong under this wave of persecution.”

On the whole, however, the Christian population, predicted to be the largest in the world by the year 2030, is standing strong. Indeed, many have said that they’d even be willing to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ.

“We also will not accept any ‘ban’ or ‘fine’ imposed on our churches due to our faith,” Ma concluded. “For the sake of the Gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses — even the loss of our freedom and our lives.” 

While most of the maltreatment is aimed at the “unregistered” house churches and “underground” Protestant congregations, the Catholic Church is seeking after an opportunity to grow and flourish under the government’s authority.

This week, Pope Francis sent a letter to the Chinese faithful and urged a “new chapter” as he attempts to warm the historically frosty relations between the Vatican and Beijing.

China is home to an estimated 12 million Catholics, with half belonging to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, and the other being part of the global Catholic Church under the authority of the Pope. However, many of those who have been battling against the Chinese authorities feel as if the Pope’s actions amount to something of a betrayal after years of loyalty to the Pontiff. 

According to ABC News, the Pope wrote that he wishes to “initiate an unprecedented process” that he hopes “will help to heal the wounds of the past, restore full communion among all Chinese Catholics, and lead to a phase of greater fraternal cooperation.”

Written by: Will Maule
Feature image: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
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