A court in China has sentenced a prominent pastor to nine years in prison on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" and "illegal business operations."
Pastor Wang Yi led the Early Rain Covenant Church, one of the most prominent underground churches in China.
China Aid reported that Wang and 100 other members of his church were taken into custody on Dec. 9, 2018, after his home was raided and ransacked by police.
Their arrests were part of an ongoing Communist crackdown on all unauthorized religious groups in China.
The Chinese government has taken extreme measures like bulldozing churches and mosques, barring Tibetan children from Buddhist studies, and incarcerating more than a million members of Islamic ethnic minorities in what are termed "re-education centers."
Chinese authorities require that Protestants worship only in churches recognized and regulated by the communist party.
CBN News previously reported that Communist Party leader President Xi Jinping has ordered that all religions must "Sinicize" to ensure they are loyal to the officially atheistic party.
Wang had criticized the government for forcing its citizens to engage in "Caesar worship" by treating President Xi Jinping like a god. His arrest may have been triggered by his 7,300 words manifesto titled "Meditations on the Religious War," which he wrote and posted on social media.
In it, Wang condemns China's Communist Party and urges Christians to perform acts of civil disobedience. He wrote that their ideology "is morally incompatible with the Christian faith and all those who uphold freedom of the mind and thought."
The pastor's sentencing came during a secret trial held Dec. 26. Along with his nine year sentence, Wang was denied political rights for three years and was given a fine.
"This is a pure case of unjust religious persecution against a peaceful preacher of a Chinese reformed church," ChinaAid Founder and President Dr. Bob Fu said. "This grave sentence demonstrates Xi's regime is determined to be the enemy of universal values and religious freedom. We call upon the international community to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party and hold this evil regime accountable."
Wang's wife, Jiang Rong, was released from jail on June 11 after serving six months on charges on "inciting to subvert state power."
In a Facebook post, Early Rain Covenant Church shared a message from Pastor Wang.
"I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ."
"Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty."
"Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them."
"Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead."
"Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God's laws."