BEIJING (Christian Examiner) – Christians in China are experiencing the stiffest persecution they've seen since communist leader Deng Xiaoping softened the state's stance on Christianity in 1979, and the government is getting ready to crack down even more.
The Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) reports the country's Communist Party, now outnumbered by Christians, is planning to arrest Christians who will not profess loyalty to the state.
President Xi Jinping has reportedly told party officials that foreign influence has grown too great in the nation and all religions must become "Chinese." All churches, according to a series of new laws, must be under government control. The decision is a severe setback in the progression toward religious liberty.
Being a Christian in modern China has always been a perilous prospect. Many church members meet in store fronts, in homes and even on city buses traveling across Beijing and other cities.
Some churches, such as the Catholic Church, are already registered and closely monitored. Protestant churches there recently underwent a round of persecution when the government ordered crosses removed from church buildings. They were considered symbols of western influence and disloyalty.
In northern Beijing, an area flooded with transfers from rural areas, Pastor Wang Zeqing is leading a small church. He said he expects persecution to come, but is confident that "a person who truly believes in Jesus Christ will not lose their faith or become weak due to a changing environment."
ABC reports that the new laws passed by the Communist Party will allow the government to control his small, secretive church (if it is discovered). It will also allow them to appoint pastors for the churches from the country's Religious Affairs Bureau, and only those who pledge loyalty to China will be able to lead.
Wang said he will place nothing – not even his country – over Christ.
"Jesus Christ is my only belief; my only loyalty is to Jesus Christ," he said. "God says you should love your enemies, if they are hungry give them food to eat, if they are thirsty give them water to drink, so we will pray for the non-believers."
"Let the spirit of Jesus move them and conquer them," Wang, who has been arrested for his faith before, said.
His congregation knows the risks, as well.
They pray for God's mercy in the face of the new laws and protection from "harassment from the pagans." They have also already seen the persecution in other parts of the county where unregistered church buildings have been bulldozed and followers have been imprisoned.
According to ABC, the church in China now exceeds 100 million, with only one-quarter belonging to officially registered churches. By 2030, if the current rate of growth continues, there will be more Christians in China than any other country.