The Chinese government's efforts to tighten its controls over religious matters in the communist country continues.
Since the official "Regulations on Religious Affairs" went into effect earlier this year, it has only helped encourage government departments in charge of religion to clamp down on Christianity and other faiths with attacks on religious meetings, destruction of places of worship, and the arrests of several pastors.
According to the St. Charles Institute, a group of 344 pastors (with the list growing every day) have signed a public joint statement which they titled "A Declaration of the Christian Faith."
The statement begins with the pastors declaring that they are Chinese Christians and what they believe.
"We are a group of Chinese Christians, chosen by the Most High God to be His humble servants, serving as pastors for Christian churches throughout various towns and cities," the letter reads.
"We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the one true and living Triune God is the Creator of the universe, of the world, and of all people. All men should worship God and not any man or thing. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that all men, from national leaders to beggars and prisoners, have sinned. They will die once and then be judged in righteousness. Apart from the grace and redemption of God, all men would eternally perish. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the crucified and risen Jesus is the only Head of the global church, the sole Savior of all mankind, and the everlasting Ruler and supreme Judge of the universe. To all who repent and believe in Him, God will give eternal life and an eternal Kingdom."
The statement also makes four points aimed directly at the Chinese government.
- Christian churches in China believe unconditionally that the Bible is the Word and Revelation of God.
- Christian churches in China are eager and determined to walk the path of the cross of Christ and are more than willing to imitate the older generation of saints who suffered and were martyred for their faith.
- Christian churches in China are willing to obey authorities in China whom God has appointed and to respect the government's authority to govern society and human conduct.
- For this reason, we believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church.
The statement also reveals the pastors whose names are attached to the document, know what may happen to them.
"We also will not accept any "ban" or "fine" imposed on our churches due to our faith. For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives."
The increased persecution of Christians and other faiths by the Chinese government now has Washington's attention.
US Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, has set the date of Thursday, Sept. 27 to hear more about recent Chinese government activities against pastors, their churches, and individual Christians.
"Burning Bibles, destroying churches, and jailing Muslims by the million is only part of the Chinese Communist Party's audaciously repressive assault on conscience and religion. Taking a hammer and sickle to the cross is a good way to create bipartisan consensus for a tougher U.S. stance towards China," Smith said in a press release.
"Nevertheless, a strong U.S. response and leadership is needed to confront this evil because Beijing's external aggression emanates from its internal repression," he continued. "This hearing will look at Xi Jinping's efforts to sinicize religion in China and delve deeper into increasing pressure on the fast-growing Protestant 'house church' movement and the announced agreement between the Holy See and Beijing."